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Andrew Abbott Stops the Bleeding

Photo Credit: Minda Haas Kuhlmann from Omaha, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Thank goodness for Andrew Abbott. Seriously. If it wasn’t for the rookie lefthander’s six innings of scoreless, one-hit baseball, it seemed like there was a non-zero chance that the city of Cincinnati was about to riot. After going on a five-game win-streak that included a sweep of the division-rival Chicago Cubs to end the month of May, the Reds went winless in the early aughts of June. The Milwaukee Brewers were in town and hungry for a sweep of their own. Abbott had other plans.

It was a remarkable effort from the Reds 24-year-old starter, who celebrated his birthday just five days earlier. Entering the season, Abbott was still all the way down in AA Chattanooga. In three starts in AA, Abbott dominated, striking out a truly unbelievable 20.7 batters per nine innings. He was quickly moved to AAA Louisville, where he continued to generate high strikeout totals and a low ERA. And once he got to the majors, it was deja vu all over again.

Mixing a mid-90s fastball with a sweeping slider, Abbott kept the Brewers off-balance all game, finishing with six strikeouts on the day. He challenged hitters up in the zone. He located his pitches. He missed the zone a fair amount too (4 BB), but he was, as baseball people like to say, “effectively wild.” It was a masterful performance. And with closer Alexis Diaz slamming the door shut by striking out the side in order for the fourth time this season, the Reds had finally ended their tough four-game losing-streak.

It was the kind of outing the Reds really, really had to have. You see, after the Reds embarked on that mini-win streak at the end of May, Cincinnati was, kinda…feeling itself a little bit. People were starting to talk about the Reds winning the division, as if earning a wild card spot wasn't too crazy an idea to begin with. Was this perhaps a tad aggressive? Yes. Did that stop anyone? Hell no.

And to be fair, I got caught up in the excitement too. How could I not? It’s been a while since the Reds were in playoff contention, why not get drunk off the Kool-Aid? Why couldn’t this team go on a 1990-like run?

Well, because they aren’t that good (that good). Sorry, but facts are facts. Luke Weaver and Ben Lively make up two-fifths of the Reds starting rotation. This is a team that could still use, nay, still needs production out of washed-up vets like Wil Myers and Kevin Newman. Manager David Bell still throws Ian Gibaut out there in high-leverage situations. A five-game winning-streak wasn’t a sign that the Reds were nearing the promised land, it was a mirage.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons to get excited. I mean, six innings of one-hit baseball from a rookie making his first big-league start doesn’t happen every day, or even since 1893. In fact, Abbott joined only Johnny Cueto as Redlegs with such impressive starts in their debuts. That's some mighty fine company Abbott just joined – and that’s only the beginning.

In an even more exciting turn of events, the Reds called up mega-prospect Elly De La Cruz to the big-league club today, ending what had been a painfully long waiting period to see the MLB’s most exciting young star. De La Cruz is a rare, true five-tool player (he can hit for average, hit for power, run, field his position, and has excellent arm strength). He’s widely considered one of the best prospects in baseball, and he slots in perfectly with a Reds batting order that’s starved for a real, genuine power bat in the lineup.

So no, I don’t expect the Reds to win the division. This past weekend’s series versus the Brewers is a reminder of how far the Reds still need to go. Their pitching, as a whole, is just not there yet. There isn’t enough power in the lineup to make up for the nights where the hits aren’t coming in bunches. But the proverbial cupboard is full of players who can fill those roles. From De La Cruz and Abbott to Hunter Greene and Jonathan India, the pieces of a contender are starting to take shape. The Reds might not have everything in place right now, but the blueprint is unfolding before our very eyes.

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