With their 6-0 blanking of the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers in front of a sold-out Great American BallPark crowd on Saturday, the Cincinnati Reds clinched the 2012 NL Central Division championship.
It marked the second time in three years that the five-time world champs have accomplished the feat, but this year’s team is so much stronger than the 2010 outfit. Also, this club is getting healthy at just the right time. The only problem is that manager Dusty Baker couldn’t join in the festivities on Saturday as he continues to recover from an irregular heartbeat. Baker is a polarizing figure in Reds Country, but there’s no doubt that overall he’s been a good manager for the team. And the celebration following the win over the Dodgers just didn’t feel right without him.
However, if you’d ask Baker, I’m sure he’d say he plans on being around for even more meaningful celebrations later this season.
As for the health report on Cincinnati’s players, Zack Cozart returned from a 14-game absence (oblique strain) on Friday, and flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman returned on Saturday after taking a week off due to shoulder fatigue. Chapman was hitting 99 MPH on the gun which was a great sign.
It was also good to see Mat Latos go eight scoreless innings en route to his 13th win on the season. Many wondered who would get the better end of the blockbuster trade that saw the Reds send four players to San Diego in exchange for Latos. And while we won’t know for sure who “won” the trade for a few years, Latos has pieced together a fine season with his 13-4 record and 3.60 ERA. He and Johnny Cueto ake quite the tandem at the top of Cincinnati’s rotation and they will be heavily counted on during the playoffs.