We’ve been telling you for a few weeks that it is time to pay attention to the Cincinnati Reds.
Certainly the fact that the Reds are winning again — they entered Friday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves 1.5 games up in the NL Central and riding an 11-game winning streak — is a big help. But more than anything else, the Reds are fun. Joey Votto is back, having announced his return from a shoulder injury in incredible fashion before belting a homer and a go-ahead hit in his first game back.
Another reason you should be paying attention? Their youth. They have the 2021 NL Rookie of the Year in Jonathan India, a young closer in Alexis Diaz, and yes, they have Elly De La Cruz, the power-hitting, lightning-fast phenom we have also told you about.
De La Cruz made his debut back on June 6, hit his first home run the very next night, and has been must-watch since getting called up. And on Friday night, De La Cruz became the youngest player in over 50 years to accomplish one of baseball’s rarest feats.
Hitting for the cycle.
De La Cruz first came to the plate in the bottom of the second, with the Reds already trailing 5-0. But he got the inning started doing what he does so well: Hitting the ball extremely hard and using his speed to his advantage:
Jake Fraley, the next hitter to come to the plate, homered to cut Atlanta’s lead to 5-2.
De La Cruz would come to the plate the following inning, with a runner on and two outs. Cincinnati was still trailing 5-2.
But not for long:
The rookie jumped on a first-pitch breaking ball, and deposited it in the right-field bleachers for a two-run shot, his third of the season. Suddenly it was a one-run game.
De La Cruz singled in the bottom of the fifth, scoring a run to make it 7-6 Atlanta. When he came to the plate next, in the bottom of the sixth inning, India was one base and the Reds were in the lead.
And he needed a triple to complete his cycle, and with his speed, he was thinking three the second he made contact:
As noted by ESPN De La Cruz became the youngest player to hit for the cycle since 1972. He is also the third-youngest player in MLB history to accomplish the feat:
Earliest career cycles, AL/NL since 1901
Cliff Heathcote, 1918, 6th career game
Gary Ward, 1980, 14th career game
Elly De La Cruz, 2023, 15th career game https://t.co/Xol9ncFE6X
— Adam Darowski (@baseballtwit) June 24, 2023
Adding to his cycle is this:
Elly De La Cruz is the first player in the World Series Era (since 1903) to record 20 hits, 5 stolen bases and 3 HR in a player’s first 15 career games. pic.twitter.com/YbqXULaXsW
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 23, 2023
Cincinnati currently leads Atlanta 11-7 in the top of the 8th, and there is a chance that the Braves come back and win this game. Although, with the way Diaz has held things down in the closer’s role this year, odds are that the Reds do go on to win.
But regardless of tonight’s result, the Reds are winning, they are fun, and they have a history-making phenom in De La Cruz.
Note: The Reds did hold on for the win, 11-10, as Diaz recorded his 21st save of the season. Also note that it’s Friday night, I counted wrong, and this was his 15th game, not his 14th. Apologies everyone. Doesn’t change the fact that it’s still insanely quick in his career.