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What they said…

Before this road trip, I wrote on here that a 7-3 road trip could get the Reds away from any lingering thoughts of being Trade Deadline sellers. They are now only one away from win No. 7 after a 4-0 victory over the Giants that provided them with a four-game series sweep. It’s a 6-1 road trip thus far with three games remaining against a Padres team very deep in struggles right now. This team feels as hot as it did when it was racking up wins while Joey Votto was injured in 2012. The vibe is different. There is a greater expectation to win, even when things go wrong like it did on Saturday in the ninth inning before a win in extras.

There is still a long way to go. At 43-38 at the halfway point, the Reds are on pace for 86 wins. That won’t be enough, especially with the Brewers in control with a 6 1/2 game lead in the NL Central. The Reds are now percentage points ahead of the Cardinals to be alone in second place for the first time this season.

I wrote two stories after the game today. Read all about the win and sweep on MLB.com/Reds.com, but here are some quotes that weren’t all used in my work:

“A couple of years ago we were labeled on some West Coast swing as a downfall, I think the last couple of years we’ve kind of shut people up about it. We’re not out of it, as you can see by the way we’re playing and the way we’ve been playing the last five, six series. We’re definitely in it, there’s a lot of hope in the way we’re playing and just slowly trying to gain ground. Unfortunately the other teams are winning, too. We’ll get a chance at some of them when we get back.” — Reds pitcher Homer Bailey, who threw his fourth career shutout.

“I saw him executing good quality pitches with a really strong mix. He used all of his pitches. He had a good slider, threw the curveball for strikes and the split. He had very good fastball location. I thought he and Brayan had a nice little back and forth going, a good communication going and a good flow. When the outs come quickly, it’s not necessarily like Homer to go out there and go into the ninth of a game with 93 pitches. That tells you a lot about his pitch efficiency. He tends to strike guys out which gets his pitch count up a little bit higher. He was extremely efficient and executing good pitches and guys played great defense in some tough conditions with the sun and the wind today.” — Reds manager Bryan Price on Bailey.

“He threw two [no-hitters] already, he’s got that feeling, he knows what it takes. In my case, I was very excited about it, but at the same time I wasn’t thinking about it, I had a job to do, I had a game to call and that’s exactly what I was doing, trying to get him deep in the baseball game and he threw a complete game. That one was very, very happy for all of us.” — Reds catcher Brayan Pena on Bailey.

“This series was indicative of what we need to do to be successful. We can’t always turn a one-run game over to the bullpen or ask a starter to not make any mistakes at all. The ability to create separation completely changes what the opposing team and manager can do. You can’t be as aggressive. You can but you‘ll be restricted on what you do on the bases and how you utilize the talent on your club, takes away the bunt and other things. It’s been great to see. It’s been a lot of fun.” — Price on the offense getting add-on runs late.

“We got them at the right time, I think. That’s a really good team. It’s still a playoff team in my opinion. They’re far from over, over there. They have too good of a team. I’m just happy to get out of here while they were struggling a little bit. Our pitching has been so good. We feel good about ourselves.” — Reds LF Skip Schumaker on the Giants, who have lost 15 of 19 while the Reds have won a season-high five straight, eight of nine and 14 of 18.

Postscript to Saturday night

As the Reds rallied in the top of the 11th inning and before they scored, manager Bryan Price had Logan Ondrusek and Jumbo Diaz warming up in the bullpen. Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Broxton had already been used. Had the Reds stopped scoring after Zack Cozart’s two-run single in what became a 7-3 win, it would have been a save situation.

I was curious if Price planned all along to use Diaz for a save, and use Ondrusek if the game had went to a 12th inning. It would have been Diaz for the save.

“Just because it’s what he does,” Price said of Diaz on Sunday. “He did it in Triple-A and there’s a newness to him. If we didn’t have him, I would have been satisfied with having Logan in that situation as well. Considering it’s what Jumbo has done for a long time, it seemed to make sense to put him back in that environment.”

Diaz had 18 saves in 19 chances with Louisville this season. Once the Reds scored five runs and it wasn’t a save situation, he still pitched and ended the game. He allowed a leadoff walk and two-out RBI single before locking it down.

Game 81: Reds at Giants

Hamilton 8
Frazier 5
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Pena 2
Schumaker 7
Cozart 6
Bailey 1

Votto backs Frazier for ASG

Reds first baseman Joey Votto remembered when he was having a great year in 2010 and wasn’t voted to the National League All-Star team — by fans, players or the league. He wasn’t happy about and was ejected from the game at Chicago after his first at-bat after the rosters were announced. Votto earned a spot via the MLB.com Final Vote online, however.

I was asking Votto on Saturday about third baseman Todd Frazier’s improvement as a hitter and player, and Votto made it a point to support Frazier for the All-Star Game.

“First of all, I’d like to say publicly that Todd 100 percent needs to get into that All-Star Game,” Votto said. “It would be a crying shame if he’s not in the All-Star Game. I was in a very similar position to him in 2010. I wasn’t getting a lot of momentum voting wise. My guess is he’ll get voted in by the players. He’s played fantastic. He’s been the best player on our team this year. He has carried us over stretches and come up with big hits. He’s played excellent defensively at third base. He’s been a steady presence in our lineup all year.

Entering tonight batting .290/.356./.519 with 17 home runs and 46 RBIs, Frazier leads NL third basemen in home runs, slugging, stolen bases and extra base hits. He’s well ahead of last year’s pace in most offensive stats after he batted .234/.314/.407 with 19 homers and 73 RBIs for 2013.

“To see him go from last year, which was clearly a frustrating year for him, to in all likelihood get to be an All-Star this year is exactly the type of story you want to tell yourself at the end of the year,” said Votto, a four-time All-Star. “It’s the type of turnaround you work hard for in the off-season. To see the fruits of his labor is fantastic. I’m very happy for him.”

Game 80: Reds at Giants

Hamilton 8
Frazier 5
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Mesoraco 2
Ludwick 7
Cozart 6
Simon 1

Game 79: Reds at Giants

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Iglesias signed

The Reds have signed Cuban right-handed pitcher Rasiel Iglesias to a seven-year contract through the 2020 season.

UPDATED: According to industry sources, the contract is worth $27 million and came with a $5 million signing bonus. It is a Major League contract and Iglesias will join the organization after working out issues with his visa.

“This was really a team effort in getting this deal done because it was a lengthy process,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. “There were a lot of people involved and a lot of clubs involved.”

Iglesias, a 24-year-old reliever that is listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, threw for the big league scouts, including the Reds, last month in Haiti. Reds scouts that included Tony Arias, Mark Snipp and Miguel Machado returned to Haiti a second time to see him pitch again.

Although he is a reliever, the Reds believe he can be a starter.

“They felt he had four quality pitches,” Jocketty said. “They felt he could be a starter and be a starter very soon. They’ve seen him pitch several times three innings of relief and when we get him to the United States and a little bit stronger, we feel he’ll be a starter in the next year or so, hopefully.”

Iglesias defected from Cuba in November after a failed attempt in September.

More to come on MLB.com.

Leake racked up the K’s

Plenty about Mike Leake to come in my game story on MLB.com after a 3-1 Reds over the Giants. It was an impressive eight innings highlighted by 12 strikeouts, a career high that buried his previous high of eight (done five times).

Leake is 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA lifetime in four starts at AT&T Park.

Manager Bryan Price was impressed by Leake’s velocity, tonight and this season.

“His stuff has gotten better,” Price said. “He’s pitching with the best velocity of his career, as a long as we’ve had him. He’s pretty consistent when he wants to go out there and get 93-94 on a fastball. That’s not a fastball you have to apologize for from a velocity standpoint. And his command has been so good and he’s working so well with Devin and he’s utilizing his defense. Even though it was 12 strikeouts today, he really does depend on that defense to pick him up. He challenges guys in the strike zone. He’s fun to play defense behind.”

Giants CF Gregor Blanco saw a good mix of stuff from Leake.

“He had a little bit of ‘whip’ to his cutter,” Blanco said. “He mixed with his four-seam fastball. He was getting everybody out of their timing.”

Here’s some extra stuff from Leake:

“I don’t know, I guess I just like to attack hitters here, I guess the ball not flying too well here, or not as well as most places, is kind of helpful,” Leake said.

“Each year I’ve gotten stronger. My first year, I didn’t know what the heck to do, but each year I’ve progressed with trying to do heavier weight and get stronger for each season. I just probably attribute it to to gaining a little bit of weight and strength each year.”

The Reds have won five of their last six games and eight of 11 and improved to 40-38 to go two games above a .500 record for the first time this season. Why are things clicking so well lately? Leake had some thoughts.

“I think we were kind of down when Joey [Votto] went down and when he came back it helped lift us a little bit because our offense has been struggling, so we felt him coming back was definitely going to help us,” Leake said. “I think it definitely has, obviously. Their confidence is coming back and that’s what we needed.”

Game 78: Reds at Giants

Hamilton 8
Frazier 5
Votto 3
Mesoraco 2
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Ludwick 7
Cozart 6
Leake 1

Headed to SF

As I wait at my gate for a flight pondering why I can’t get direct service from CVG to San Francisco (it’s not like SF is a tiny burg or anything), I’m pondering what this in-progress road trip could mean for the Reds.

Right now, the Reds are one of the hottest teams in baseball. They are 5-0-1 over their last six series and over .500 again at 39-38 heading into the four-game stop at the Giants. A 7-3 or 6-4 road trip could definitively get the thoughts of the team “selling” before the Trade Deadline out of people’s minds.

The last time the Reds faced a team that had a pitcher throw a no-hitter the day before (the Dodgers and Josh Beckett), the next guy (Hyun-Jun Ryu) took a perfect game into the eighth inning. That was last month. This seems to be an offensively motoring team compared to what we saw in Chavez Ravine and Arizona.

The Giants have also lost 11 of their last 15 games, even with Tim Lincecum’s second no-hitter yesterday. I’m eager to see how this series turns out. A split is a reasonable expectation at AT&T Park, but getting more would obviously be another confidence boost that further puts the .500 mark in the rear view.

The All-Star balloting is ongoing at MLB.com. When the team is announced next weekend, I’m expecting the Reds to have only two All-Stars. Usually fans and those who follow the team are prone to naming all the deserving guys only to see the selections be two less than expected. I’m just going to save some time.

The Reds’ All-Star locks in my mind are Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman. Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco certainly have the numbers that make them worthy. Mesoraco, in particular, is foiled by a deep pool of quality NL catchers — Yadier Molina is certain to start. But there is also Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy and Evan Gattis that could named by the league or earn player votes.

When I asked Frazier on Sunday if he wanted to go, I liked that he said yes and why. Often players try to be conservative with their comments on stuff like that. The man wants to go, why not say so?

I guess we’ll see soon who is in and who is out. This was going to be a longer entry, but it’s already time to board. Catch you later this evening.

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