Reds back in the ‘thick of things’ after four-game sweep of Cardinals

Winker, Castellanos keeping Reds in contention one third of the way through the season

Eight days after hitting rock bottom in the 2021 season — six games under .500, seven games back in the National League Central Division and losers of nine of their last 12 games — the Cincinnati Reds climbed another rung on the road back to respectability.

An 8-7 victory Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals completed a four-game sweep and put the Reds (28-29) on the edge of the playoff picture just over a third of the way through the season.

“No matter what team you play, if you win four in a row against one team, that’s a tough task,” Reds pitcher Wade Miley said, “and it says a lot about our team. We’re here. We’re not out of this thing. Coming in here, we were (6½) games out, and now we’re right back in the thick of things. But it’s still early. We’ve just got to keep putting games like this together and keep trying to win games.”

The Reds have won six of their last seven games since falling to 22-28 on May 29 with a 10-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs. The four-game sweep in St. Louis followed a 17-3 loss on June 1 to the Philadelphia Phillies. There was no indication the Reds had any chance of sweeping the Cardinals, but here are four reasons they did.

1. Jesse Winker: The Reds outfielder went 8-for-20 with four home runs and eight RBIs in the four games. He hit three home runs Sunday — his second three-home run game of the season — and is tied for the National League lead with Ronald Acuña, of the Atlanta Braves, and Fernando Tatis Jr., of the San Diego Padres, with 17 home runs.

“He is something special,” Miley said. “He’s fun to watch. He gets his A swing off a lot and does a lot of damage and talks a lot every time he hits home runs and comes in the dugout. I think he might talk more than I do in the dugout, but man he sure is fun to be around.”

2. Nick Castellanos: Any mention of Winker has to come with a mention of Castellanos. They are putting together two of the most impressive individual performances in Reds history.

Castellanos had two hits in each of the first three games against the Cardinals but saw his 21-game hitting streak — the longest by a Red since a 22-game streak by Brandon Phillips in 2007 — end Sunday. He hit .463 (38-for-82) with 10 doubles, three home runs and 13 runs scored during that span.

Castellanos leads the league with a .359 batting average. Winker ranks second (.350).

3. Luis Castillo: The most important performance of the weekend was turned in by Castillo, who still owns the worst record (2-8) and ERA (6.63) among the Reds starters.

Castillo allowed one run on three hits in six innings Friday as the Reds beat the Cardinals 6-4. It was Castillo’s first victory since his second start of the season on April 7. He earned the loss in his last seven starts.

“It was time,” Castillo said. “What more can I say? I’m glad we were able to break the ice today and finally get that W. I definitely felt different today, especially when I got into the rhythm of the day. I was able to make the right adjustments and felt pretty good as the game went on, too.”


Brewers at Reds, 7:10 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410

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