23 Jun

there’s a sizzle in cincy

The Atlanta Braves are coming to town this weekend, and Cincinnati — if not all of baseball — is abuzz with anticipation. “You can’t get a ticket, I’ll tell you that,” Reds broadcaster Jeff Brantley, the former Mississippi State star, said in a phone interview. “That’s how maddening it is.”
The fresh-faced Reds, picked to finish at the bottom of the National League’s Central Division, enter the weekend series at Great American Ballpark in first place. They’ve won 11 games in a row, one win shy of a record set in 1957. Atlanta, which has the best record in the league, has won eight straight.
“The Braves are the ultimate test,” said Brantley, who brings a keen perspective to what is happening in the Queen City, one of baseball’s great towns, home of a venerable franchise that has won five World Series and featured the legendary Big Red Machine in the early 1970s.
Brantley pitched for the Reds in the mid-1990s and was on the ’95 club that reached the NL Championship Series, losing to the Braves. He has been on the broadcast team since 2007, covering a club that reached the postseason in 2010, ’12 and ’13. He has also seen the team — and the city — endure seven losing seasons in the past nine, including a 62-100 pratfall last year that followed a roster purge.
“I’ve been here a long time,” Brantley said. “I’ve seen the ups followed by the downs, and it gets old. Fans get frustrated.”
But the ’23 Reds have rekindled their enthusiasm — and not just by winning but by how they are winning. “We’ve got a bunch of young kids playing like bandits, playing with their hair on fire,” Brantley said. “That’s attractive to this city. Cincinnati is the birthplace of Pete Rose. Fans see guys playing like he did, they’ll come out in droves.”
Brantley said the feeling around the team in spring training was that they’d be improved from last year’s disaster, but the lead would come from young starting pitchers Graham Ashcraft, Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene. “That hasn’t happened,” Brantley said. “They’re all on the injured list. And yet, all these kids, position players, have taken off.”
The influx of young talent includes T.J. Friedl and Spencer Steer and Elly De La Cruz, who was just called up at age 21 and has generated a lot of chatter around the game with his jaw-dropping power and speed. “But the kid that’s been the firestarter lately is Matt McLain, the No. 1 pick from UCLA a couple years ago,” Brantley said. “He’s about my size, five-eight. The way he plays the game is incredible to watch. He flies around like he has nothing to lose.”
The team’s chemistry is evident in the clubhouse, Brantley said, with many of the young players taking their cue from second baseman Jonathan India, NL rookie of the year in 2021. “He hasn’t been here long, but longer than most of them. They look to him,” Brantley said.
He believes this run is sustainable, though the true tell will come in late August. “The young guys haven’t played that duration of baseball,” he said. Solidifying the starting rotation, sort of a patchwork of late, also will be key.
For now, the Reds are just riding the wave, and it’s a massive one.
Brantley said the atmosphere reminds him a little of the mid-’90s, when the team of Larkin and Gant and Sanders was creating roars at Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field. “We had a bunch of veterans on that team, and we were pretty good,” he said. “But we didn’t win 11 in a row.”

One thought on “there’s a sizzle in cincy

  1. Yes, so far so good, like when Pete Rose came to Geneva NY to start his professional career and said, I’m your second baseman for the Geneva Redlegs!

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