Cincinnati Reds: The Road to the Division Starts With the Cardinals

Mike Leake

The Cincinnati Reds have been without their ace starting pitcher for most of the year. The Reds are also a team that saw right field locked down by two different third string players following Ryan Ludwick’s injury on opening day. Did I mention that Ryan Hanigan has battled wrist trouble for much of the second half?

Under these circumstances, we probably shouldn’t be discussing a team making a push for the postseason as we near the end of August. In fact, time and time again, we’ve seen that it only takes one or two key injuries to derail a team’s season. That applies to any sport.

However, we’re not talking about just any team.

When Johnny Cueto was injured and shut down, Reds fans feared the worst for the season. Cueto was a pitcher that Cincinnati could constantly count on during the 2012 season, as he repeatedly turned in quality starts and shutouts.

Cue entrance for Tony Cingrani.

The young southpaw was called up to serve as the best replacement for Cueto as the Reds could manage. Faced with the idea of filling the shoes of the staff ace, Cingrani toed the rubber for Cincinnati, and delivered.

Hopefully, Cingrani’s stint on the DL will be a short one.

The Reds have battled the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals all year long, staying just within striking distance, but always missing the chance to do anything else.

That all changes tonight, at 7:05 EST.

For 7:05 marks the start of a three game set on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals, who currently share the division lead with Pittsburgh.

Down just 2.5 games, the Reds have to treat this series as a chance to tip the ship in the NL Central.

Mike Leake will get the call for game No. 1 tonight.  Following an up-and-down year in 2012, some fans weren’t sure if the Reds would place Leake in a starting role or move him to the bullpen. Many worried they would see the same inconsistency of the previous season.

I think it’s fair to say that Mike Leake has politely removed those concerns from our collective subconscious. He has responded with a career year, posting an 11-5 record in games with a decision, and a solid 3.12 ERA heading his start tonight. In addition, the fact that Leake has a 2.66 ERA on the road will hopefully help him feel right at home in St. Louis, despite the fact that he has run into trouble against them in his career.

The Reds are certainly hoping that this is the case. However, regardless of tonight’s outcome, each other big three in the NL Central control their respective destinies as they enter the final stretch of the regular season.  In the next ten games, Cincinnati will face St. Louis seven times.

Let us know what you think!