Reds surge to 4.5 games up; Bailey looks great

And the Reds keep on rolling.

What a tremendous streak they are on and it couldn’t come at a better time.

After being embarrassed in a three-game sweep at the hands of their only contender for the National League Central championship – the St. Louis Cardinals – and falling briefly out of first place, the Reds have ripped off seven straight victories to take a shocking 4.5-game lead over the Cards.

On Friday night, the Reds knocked off the Dodgers 3-1. Not only was it a big W considering the team is in the thick of the pennant race, but the Reds were 0-12 at Dodger Stadium over the last four years.

That dubious streak was snapped in large part due to the razor-sharp pitching of 24-year-old Homer Bailey. (Yes, he really is still that young.) Bailey moved to 3-2 on the season with his strong performance against LA (7 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, earned, 2 walks, six strikeouts).

I didn’t want to get too excited after Bailey’s strong start against the Marlins in his return from shoulder inflammation earlier in the week, but I’m quickly seeing a theme developing here and it looks like it’s time for Reds fans to get excited about him. He didn’t walk anyone against the Marlins (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 Ks), was really doing a good job of painting the black against the Dodgers and is now 2-0 since his return.

Remember how good Bailey was down the stretch of the 2009 season? Well, no one expects him to be quite that dominant (there is a bit more pressure on when you’re in a playoff race and not playing meaningless games) but he’s certainly proved he’s a force to be reckoned with at times. Right now, he has good command with all of his pitches and I like the way he’s coming over the top with authority and is keeping his fastball down. Bailey is a power pitcher who is learning how to be a complete hurler right before our eyes.

But the real story of the night is that your Cincinnati Reds are 4.5 freakin’ games up in first place on Aug. 21. They’re also 20 games over .500 at 71-51. Just let that sink in for a moment. Their in the midst of a West Coast roadie – you know, the kind of trip that usually does them in – and they’ve started out 4-0. Granted, three of those wins came against the lowly Diamondbacks, but they all count the same.

It will only get tougher from here as the Reds have two more games at Chavez Ravine and will then travel to San Francisco to play the Giants (who knocked off the Cardinals 6-3 on Friday, giving those “bitches” as Brandon Phillips would say their season-high fifth-straight loss). The good news is that the Reds will miss seeing Tim Lincecum when they face the Giants. Lincecum – the two-time defending Cy Young award winner – is having a down year for his standards, but I’m sure the Reds’ batters are just fine with missing his turn in the rotation.