Breaking Down the 2010 Cincinnati Reds, Month By Month

Michael HammonsCorrespondent IOctober 3, 2010

Breaking Down the 2010 Cincinnati Reds, Month By Month

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    Over the course of 162 games, we, as fans, experience a whirlwind of emotions.

    The lows were pretty low, such as the huge leads blown in Atlanta and Philadelphia.  In addition, the Reds appeared to be in big trouble after their mid-August sweep at the hands of the Cardinals.

    However, this team, with their veteran leadership, pitching depth, and young supestars, overcame all obstacles in winning their first NL Central title since 1995.

    Key moments included stellar play on long road trips, late inning comebacks, and young pitchers that rose to the surface.

    Without further ado, here is a look at the team month-by-month in the 2010 regular season.

April

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    Hope always spring eternal, and many people simply hoped that the Reds could build off their late season success from 2009.

    The season didn't start off in good fashion, as the Cardinals, a team that always give the Reds fits, came into Great American Ballpark and took two of the first three games of the season.

    The Reds added new pieces, and were counting on youngsters to step up, but the more things change, the more they stay the same, right?

    The club responded nicely that weekend against a Cubs team that many thought would be in the thick of things, taking two out of three.

    A respectable 3-3 record was turned on its head when the team had a brutal seven game stretch in Florida and Pittsburgh, of all places.

    To me, that represented one of the low points of the season, as they limped out with a 5-8 record.  

    To get swept by the Pirates is inexcusable, and in particular, the bullpen was struggling, as Massett and Cordero suffered losses in the first two games of that series.

    They came back home, took two out of three from the Dodgers, and lost two out of three to the Padres.

    Sitting with an 8-11 record, I think that Sunday win against the Padres was the first turning point of the season, although at the time, we probably just viewed it as a win that salvaged the series.

    Ramon Hernandez hit a go-ahead RBI single that afternoon to put the Reds ahead in the 8th inning.  In the grand scheme of things, this will be forgotten after all is said and done as people review the season, but it probably shouldn't be.

    With that win, plus four more to close the month at Houston and St. Louis, the Reds ended April with a five game winning streak, and a respectable 12-11 record.

    Not a single regular on the team hit over .300 during the month, but Mike Leake stepped onto the scene and was the best starting pitcher for the team, compiling a 3.25 ERA in four April starts.

May

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    The month started with two losses to St. Louis to bring the overall record to 12-13, but when New York came into town, two of their three wins in that series were courtesy of walkoff home runs by Laynce Nix and Orlando Cabrera, putting them above .500 again at 14-13.

    They would not fall below .500 for the rest of the season.

    The next 11 games in a row were against NL Central foes (Chicago, @Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Milwaukee), and the Reds finished the stretch with a 9-2 record.

    In that mix were two dominating pitching performances from Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey, and a spectacular play at the plate during the Civil Rights game where the relay throw from Orlando Cabrera nailed down Skip Schumaker at the plate, preventing the Cardinals from tying the game.

    Without a doubt, one of the top five Reds plays from the year.

    People were really starting to get excited about the team, and a sweep of the brief two game series against the Brewers kept the gravy train rolling.

    23-16, are you kidding me?

    What followed next, though, was one of the worst moments of the year for the Reds.  After losing game one of the two game series to Atlanta, they blew a huge league in the second game courtesy of a walkoff grand slam.

    Exposed?

    Not exactly, as the Reds finished the month strong, going 7-3 against the likes of the Indians, Pirates, and Astros.

    The loss in the series finale to Houston, and in the last game of the month to St. Louis did little to dampen the mood, as they were 18-11 for the month of May (30-22 overall).

    Offensively, Jonny Gomes ripped the cover off the baseball, batting .364 in the month.  Joey Votto topped out at .344, and a pair of other starters (Ramon Hernandez and Brandon Phillips) finished the month with batting averages over .300.

    In terms of pitching, Leake once again was the best pitcher on the staff, and Cueto delivered as well.

    Both men posted ERA's under 2.00.

    Arthur Rhodes continued his excellent bullpen work as well, in leading what was otherwise a disappointing unit.

June

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    If May was considered to be the highlight month of the first half of the season, June was a time where the Reds simply treaded water.

    To lose the St. Louis series to begin the month was disappointing, but they bounced back to capture the weekend series from the Nationals.

    Included in that was a homeplate collision where Phillips bowled over Nationals catcher Wil Nieves, which was another top highlight play of the year.

    The Reds needed a fear factor and swagger, and Phillips was the man to provide that.

    The homestand that followed was pretty disappointing, though.  

    It started off well, when the Reds took two out of three from the Giants, but when mediocre Kansas City came into town, the Reds looked bad, losing two out of three.

    It was a case of when the offense clicked, the pitching faltered.  And vice versa.

    Against the Dodgers, the team lost that series as well, so the ten game homestand ended with just four wins, a disappointing feat for a team that people in Cincinnati were trying to get excited about for the first time in years.

    Not only that, but next came the dreaded west coast trip, something that badly hurt past Reds teams.

    It started terribly, with the Reds getting swept by Seattle.

    The offense was completely lifeless, only scoring one run the entire series, and once upon a time, the Reds were 33-20, but after the sweep, sat at just four games over .500 (37-33).

    What followed was a huge series sweep over the A's, as they displayed their resiliency.

    They then went back to the friendly confines, and captured series' from the Tribe and Phillies to end the month on a positive note.

    In the Phillies series, Jay Bruce hit a big two-run home run off Roy Halladay in a game in which they were trailing.

    It was their 25th comeback win of the year at that point.

    For the month, Brandon Phillips led the team with a .373 average, as he was red hot for a long stretch.

    On the mound, the Reds were paced by Bronson Arroyo's 3.60 ERA for the month, and the bullpen started to really get itself in gear, as Rhodes continued to do his thing and got help from Nick Masset and Logan Ondrusek, in particular. 

July

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    Half the season was over, as the Reds entered the month with a 43-35 record.

    Clearly, they were one of the most surprising teams in the first half of the season, and though they still couldn't get back that May form, continued to hold serve, not falling off like many people were expecting them to.

    A 10-game road trip to Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia awaited them at the start of the month.

    It was another one of those tests to see if this team was for real or not, as the Mets were playing well (up to that point) and the Phillies are always tough.

    The trip started great, with series victories in Chicago and New York.

    That put them at 5-2 heading into Philly, but they got swept in a four game series in which all the losses were bitter pills to swallow.

    The loss on July 9th was shades of the Braves game from a few months back, as the Reds blew a huge ninth inning lead, and ended up losing in extras.

    The next day, they lost 1-0 to finish getting swept, and the first half of the season, ending a 5-6 road trip.

    Another big test awaited at home at they welcomed the Rockies.

    Arthur Rhodes, in that Friday night series opener, pitched out of a major jam to help preserve the win.

    He found himself in a bases loaded, no one out situation, but escaped with no damage done.

    If this didn't show their toughness as a team, then I'm not sure what did, as they won that night, and the series.

    The middle of the month, and trending towards the end, featured games against some bad teams.

    The four game split against the Nationals was disappointing, but they rebounded to grab series wins from the Brewers and Astros on the road.

    In the Braves series that closed the month, the Reds lost the Friday night game, but won Saturday night to finish July with a 13-12 record (58-47 overall).

    Joey Votto hit .362 for the month, and Miguel Cairo was a surprise performer, as the utility man hit .326.

    Travis Wood helped pace the pitching staff (2.87 ERA), as he was yet another phenom rookie for the club.

    Arroyo pitched well, as did Cueto, and the bullpen, outside of the Philly debacles, could do little wrong in July.

August

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    No major moves were made at the deadline, as the Reds liked the team they had going forward the rest of the way.

    This was a month that Reds fans will never forget, for many reasons that started off bad, but turned out to be good.

    It was easy sledding at first, they won the Braves series, toppled the Pirates and the Cubs to bring a four game winning streak into the pivotal Cardinals series.

    In what was one of the most anticipated series in Cincinnati in a long time, the first place team fell flat on their faces.

    Not only that, but comments made by Brandon Phillips completely backfired, and the team appeared to awaken a sleeping giant, as the Cardinals regained their first place lead.

    Their response to this whole situation, though, is probably the biggest reason of all why they made it into October.

    Josh Johnson followed that Friday night, as the Marlins were in town.

    It was no secret that the Reds struggled against great pitchers, but they got to him that night, won the game, and swept the series as they prepared to head out west.

    In 2006, a similar trip buried this team, but the Reds swept the D-Backs, took two out of three from the Dodgers, and lost the Giants series, but the back and forth battle in the finale, capped by the go-ahead RBI hit by Votto, was as big as anything that had happened up to that point in the year.

    In conclusion, that 6-3 trip propelled their overall record to 73-54, proving they were completely over what had happened at home against the Cardinals.

    To close the month, struggling NL Central foes Chicago and Milwaukee came into Great American Ballpark, and the Reds won four out of five to end the month with a 77-55 record.

    Additionally, the Cardinals were not the same confident team that had supposedly regained footing in the division, so it was appearing as if what had started as a faint dream was turning into a quick reality.

    That is the Reds,Yes, the Reds, playing October baseball.

     Ramon Hernandez batted .357 to pace the club, Votto had another big month (.333) and Bruce had that same average, finally putting together some consistent play.

September/ Early October

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    People were curious to see how the Reds would handle the stretch run, and while September wasn't a total bed of roses, it contained some spectacular moments.

    After starting the month with a win against Milwaukee, the Reds had a chance to really slam the door shut on the Cards, but failed to do so, losing two out of three.

    What followed was a four game sweep out in Colorado at the hands of the Rockies, but the Cardinals weren't taking advantage, so the Reds weren't in a total panic mode.

    The bullpen meltdowns in that series were concerning, though.

    A return home to face the Diamondbacks and Pirates finished with them going 4-3

    Against the Pirates, Joey Votto hit his first-ever walkoff home run.

    What followed was a nine game road trip to Houston, Milwaukee, and San Diego, and the Reds didn't flourish, going 4-5, but by this point, they were so far ahead in the NL Central, that it didn't matter.

    In the San Diego finale, a clutch Joey Votto blast prevented the sweep, and may be looked at as being a play that helps give him the MVP.

    The final week of the season featured visits from Houston and Milwaukee.

    In the Houston series opener, Jay Bruce hit a walkoff home run to capture the NL Central title for the Reds, and in a regular season of many joyous moments, there was no doubt that this was the biggest one.

    A month and a half ago, the Reds were getting crushed by the Cards, but since then, the team had made a total 180 degree turn.

    The Reds closed out the regular season by taking two out of three from the Brewers, bringing their final record to 91-71.

    Only a handful of people in the national media predicted that the Reds would make the playoffs this year.  In essence, they were one of, if not the biggest, surprise team in all of baseball.

    Upon the conclusion of the regular season on Sunday, 22 teams went home.  For the first time in 15 years, the Reds aren't one of those teams, and Reds nation is thrilled to death about the next step.

    Regardless of what happens next, this has been a wildly successful season.