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USATSI

Coming into Wednesday's series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cincinnati Reds' offense led the NL in runs scored and on the young season boasted a slash line of .314/.396/.560. Yes, as a team. Remove the pitchers' offensive numbers from the mix, and the team had a line of .325/.411/.589. Stated another way, Cincy's lineup as a collective has hit like a leading MVP candidate. 

Then they went out and noshed on the Pittsburghers by a score of 11-4. That gives the Reds an updated total of 57 runs scored and 14 home runs through six games. Now for some relevant color television footage: 

Central to all of this has been left fielder Nick Castellanos. He already has four home runs on the season, and he's batting a stratospheric .435/.480/1.130. That's in addition to lodging solidly in the craw of the division rival St. Louis Cardinals. Anyhow, yeah, scoring better than one run per hour is a good recipe for winning baseball games. Speaking of which, Wednesday's win means the Reds are now 5-1 and atop the NL Central standings. It's easy enough to dismiss wins over the broadly miserable 2021 Pirates, but the Reds' docket to date also includes taking two of three from the Cardinals. 

In the abbreviated 2020 season, the Reds managed a winning record and thanks in part to the expanded postseason returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Given the free agent loss of NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer, however, expectations were somewhat low coming into 2021. That said, the Reds have good frontline talent on the roster, especially if Tyler Mahle has indeed taken the next step and Sonny Gray is able to get and stay healthy. The Central also figures to be a winnable, if balanced, division. The money's still against the Reds, but this hot start build on hot bats has nudged the odds favorably in their direction just a bit.