Cincinnati Reds a streaky team in first month of 2019

The Reds’ Eugenio Suarez hits a solo home run during the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park April 21, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

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The Reds’ Eugenio Suarez hits a solo home run during the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park April 21, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

Reds return home Tuesday for three-game series against Braves

The Cincinnati Reds have succeeded in one respect in the first month of the season. They are better than last season — five victories better, to be exact.

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That’s still not quite good enough to contend in the National League Central Division, at least at this point, but they’re a long way from where they were a season ago at this time. Manager Bryan Price lost his job after a 3-15 start. Jim Riggleman then lost his first three games as interim manager before righting the ship and steering the team away from the worst season in franchise history.

After a 1-8 start in the first season for manager David Bell, the Reds have played respectable baseball, improving their record to 8-13 with a 4-5 road trip that included stops in Monterrey, Mexico, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Here are five things we’ve learned about this team after 21 games:

1. Luis Castillo is the ace: The third-year big leaguer has compiled all-star numbers, if not Cy Young numbers, in his first five starts. He's 2-1 and ranks third in baseball with a 1.47 ERA. He ranks fifth with 41 strikeouts.

Castillo’s dominance started late last season. Since Sept. 1, 2018, he leads all starting pitchers in ERA (1.27). He’s 5-2 in 10 starts since then with 75 strikeouts.

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2. The pitching has been good enough to win: The Reds rank last in baseball with a .197 team batting average. That has translated to 72 runs, the fifth-worst total. The offense has wasted a 3.22 ERA by the pitching staff. That's the fourth-best number in the big leagues.

3. Big names don't guarantee quick results: Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, the high-profile outfielders the Reds acquired from the Dodgers, have gotten off to slow starts.

Puig’s hitting .164 in 19 games. This isn’t unusual for him. He’s a career .232 hitter in April. It’s his worst month. He hits .267 or better in every other month, so Reds fans have reason to hope for more from Puig. Last year, he hit .193 in April and .283 in May.

Kemp has hit .200 in 20 games, and he’s typically at his best in the first month when he’s a .309 career hitter.

4. This is a streaky group: The Reds lost eight in a row after Opening Day and then won four straight, lost four straight and won three straight before a 4-3 loss to the Padres on Sunday.

It all adds up to a familiar position: last place in the division, where they’ve finished four years in a row. The Pirates (12-7), Cardinals (12-9), Brewers (13-10) and Cubs (10-10) are all .500 or better.

5. Joey Votto is human: The veteran first baseman is hitting .227. He's one of six starters hitting below .250. To put in perspective just how great Votto has been throughout his 13-year career and how out of the ordinary his season-opening slump is, he popped out to the first baseman Wednesday in Los Angeles for the first time in his career. The pop-up came on his 2,828th career plate appearance.


TUESDAY’S GAME

Braves at Reds, 6:40 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410

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