The Reds began June in last place.
They ended June in last place, too, but it was a month we might some day look back on and say a corner was turned in the franchise’s rebuilding effort.
Let’s take a closer look at what happened during the month…
That’s right, Cincinnati’s baseball team had a winning record over the course of a whole month!
Did you think that was possible?
Well, probably not after the 7-22 mark in March and April.
May (13-15) was nice, but June actually — dare we say it? — exceeded expectations.
How did that happen?
To take an old Joe Nuxhall saying and make it even more obvious, if you score some runs, you’re dangerous.
The Reds averaged 5.6 runs per game in June, an improvement of 1.5 over the previous month.
Six of the regular starting nine (still counting four outfielders) had good months at the plate — Scooter Gennett (.309 average, 3 HRs, 16 RBIs), Jose Peraza (.309, 2 HRs, 11 RBIs, 5 steals), Scott Schebler (.330, 4 HRs, 11 RBIs), Eugenio Suarez (.307, 6 HRs, 17 RBIs), Joey Votto (.300, 2 HRs 18 RBIs) and Jesse Winker (.308, 5 HRs, 20 RBIs).
Outside the group, Tucker Barnhart put up a very solid .282 average with 13 RBIs. Adam Duvall still wasn’t exactly an all-star, but his slash line of .263/.325/.395 slash line is still a marked improvement from the beginning of the season.
(Yes, that leaves Billy Hamilton, who hit .231 and stole six bases while striking out 19 times.)
The bump was not quite as pronounced, but it was enough to make a difference.
The Reds allowed 4.57 runs per game in June, down almost half a run from May (5.0).
The bullpen continued to carry the most freight as Raisel Iglesias, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez and Michael Lorenzen all had strong months.
The only starter to put up pretty good numbers was Tyler Mahle, who was 3-0 with a 2.18 ERA. He struck out a team-high 37 but also walked a team-high 17.
Anthony DeSclafani (4.45 ERA), Matt Harvey (4.71) and Sal Romano (3.90) all had decent months in the rotation while Luis Castillo (6.75) regressed following a pretty good May.
At least from a wins and losses standpoint.
They made up 4 games in the standings but are still 12.5 games out in a competitive division that might have three good teams if no great ones.
They’d have to go on an incredible run to truly get back into contention, but fourth place is well within reach.
The Pirates are just four games ahead of the Reds entering play Monday.
The Reds are on pace to win about 69 games.
That would be one game more than last season, a modest improvement to say the least but one that looks much better than the pace earlier in the season.
It is 30 more than they were on pace to win at the end of April and still 13 more than they were on pace to win at the end of May.
The final number doesn’t really matter anyway.
If they end up winning 70-some games, it will likely mean they identified some players who can help them in the future and moved others who won’t.
That was the main thing they needed to get out of this season from the start.
(They as well win while they’re at it, though.)