Reds 1.5 games up after sweep of Cards

Last season, one of the few things that went wrong for the Cincinnati Reds during the regular season was their performance against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Reds won the NL Central championship last year, but were just 6-12 against the second-place Cardinals.

With Cincinnati and St. Louis once again looking like the favorites this season – along with the Milwaukee Brewers who are fresh off a sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates – it’s important for the Reds to prove last year’s record against the Cards was a fluke. And after this weekend, they are well on their way.

The Reds (23-17) swept a three-game series against the visiting Cardinals and now stand 1.5 games up on St. Louis for first place in the Central.

The Reds are 4-2 against the Cardinals thus far this season and are a robust 18-10 against Central foes overall. Needless to say, if Cincinnati continues to take care of business against its divisional opponents, there will be a repeat champion in the Central.

Interestingly, Sunday’s 9-7 win by the Reds ended with a screaming match involving usually-mild-mannered Reds closer Francisco Cordero.

Cordero plunked Albert Pujols on the wrist on a 0-2 count on a fastball and there was a lot of chirping coming from St. Louis’ dugout. Yeah, like Cordero was trying to hit Pujols there. That would have put the tying run on base and would have brought the go-ahead run to the plate in Matt Holliday.

Cordero kept his cool while the game was still being played and never said a word back to the Cards’ dugout. However, as soon as recording the final out on a strikeout of Lance Berkman, Cordero began barking at Cardinals backup catcher Gerald Laird and pitching coach Dave Duncan who were apparently the ones giving Cordero the business during the final two at-bats of the game.

Yes, the newfound rivalry between the Reds and Cardinals continues to heat up. And this year, the Reds have already proven they aren’t going to be dominated by the Cardinals this season. In fact, it might be the exact opposite. St. Louis has a very good club, but do have some glaring holes.

Examples: Not having a real closer, Pujols looking like a shell of his usual self (batting .266 with 7 HRs and 24 RBIs … very solid numbers for most players … but not the video-game stats people are used to from Albert), not having a real third baseman after the injury to David Freese, having terrible overall team defense, and the struggles of “ace” pitcher Chris Carpenter, who fell to 1-3 on the season with a 4.95 ERA after giving up seven runs in 6.1 innings on Sunday.

I still think the Brewers will be in the race until the end, although they have issues of their own. The bottom line is that it should be a good three-team race and nearing the quarter-mark of the season, the Reds have the early advantage.

As for the wildness of Aroldis Chapman, I know he looks like a lost cause right now, but I think the team needs to stick with him. He’s the type of pitcher that’s fine if he gets the first batter out, but if he walks the first batter, look out. No question his control has been beyond atrocious lately, but I’m not sure sending him back to the minors would be the best thing for his development at this point. Allow him to work out of the Reds’ pen and give him a chance to find his groove again. He looked great in April, so it’s not like he’s pitched terrible all season. But man he’s been ugly lately, so I certainly understand those that think he should be sent back to the minors.

The good news is the Reds called up Jose Arredondo who is going to be a big help to the bullpen in my opinion. He made his Reds debut on Sunday and hurled a perfect inning. Arredondo had a great rookie season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the State of California in the Country of the United States, but arm injuries shelved him for most of 2009 and all of 2010. He isn’t able to reach 95 MPH on the gun like he used to, but was clocked at 92 on Sunday.