07/13/12 7:35 PM ET
Rotation is a strong point for Reds in first half
By Mark Clements / MLB.com
Recent seasons have shown signs of improvement, but the Reds haven't seen the kind of production the 2012 rotation is providing in decades.
The Reds are one of only two clubs, along with the Marlins, to use just five starting pitchers all season -- a modern franchise record.
All five starters have also recorded at least one complete game prior to the All-Star break for the first time since 1985.
"People are always expecting things to stop instead of just letting them be," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "They're going to stop on their own sooner or later. That might be next year or the year after that or next week, so we just accept it while it's here."
On the Reds' 11-game road trip to close the first half of the season, Cincinnati starters posted a 1.90 ERA with a season-high 10 consecutive quality starts in each of the first 10 games.
The Reds' team ERA of 3.39 at the All-Star break is the lowest since 1990, the last time the club won a World Series title.
"I'm a firm believer that pitching wins championships," said Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick. "I think historically, when you look at World Series winners over the past five decades or so, you look at the starting rotations and the bullpen, usually teams with good pitching and good defense win championships."
Reds aim to get more consistent on offense
CINCINNATI -- After finishing each of the past two seasons ranked in the top 10 in runs scored in the Majors, the Reds didn't think crossing the plate would be much of an issue heading into the 2012 campaign.
They quickly faced reality after ranking No. 19 and No. 20 in runs scored for the months of April and May, respectively, to start the year.
The Reds revved it up slightly in June, scoring the 11th most runs in the Majors.
But despite playing in one of the best hitters' parks in baseball, the Reds have crossed the plate 358 times in 85 games this season entering Friday, which is the 17th most in the Majors.
The Reds entered Friday -- the first game since the All-Star break -- on a three-game winning streak, but faced a familiar stint of low-scoring games right before the break.
After an 8-2 win against the Dodgers on July 2, the Reds hit a three-game skid of scoring just one run per night before their three-game streak to end the first half.
As Cincinnati begins the second half one game behind the Pirates in the National League Central, Reds outfielder Chris Heisey said more consistency at the plate will equate to more wins.
"I think, especially offensively, we've had streaks where we hit really well and score a lot of runs, and then we've had streaks where we've kind of not showed up and scoring one or two runs a game," Heisey said. "I think if we can be consistent and just score three, four, five runs a night, we're going to have a great chance with the way our starting pitching has been going."
Entering Friday's game with the Cardinals, the Reds have scored three runs or fewer in 35 games this season, 29 of which have resulted in losses. Cincinnati has scored four or more runs 50 times, accounting for 41 wins.
Reds manager Dusty Baker counted several things the club can improve on heading into the second half of the season, but specified getting better on offense.
"There's always some things to improve on," Baker said. "Better pitch selection sometimes, especially hitting with runners in scoring position. If you improve on those things, then, naturally, we'll improve on our one-run record, which has really hurt us."
The Reds are 14-16 in one-run games this season, the 10th worst record in the Majors.
"We've played some good ballgames" Baker said. "Some of those games we've had to come back on and fell short. Some of those they took us and we didn't have a chance to come back."
Rolen out of the lineup on Friday
CINCINNATI -- Despite returning to action in the Reds' first-half closer at San Diego and a four-day rest during the All-Star break, third baseman Scott Rolen was out of Friday night's lineup against the Cardinals.
Rolen, 37, missed a week of action nursing back spasms, but played a complete game on Sunday.
"He hadn't played for four days," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Part of it is matchup, part of it is giving him another day to get some reps and get some swings in. We've got a plan."
Rolen has struggled at the plate this season, hitting .178 with 23 hits and 16 RBIs in 129 at-bats.
Rookie backup Todd Frazier has had plenty of success filling in for the 17-year veteran, batting .278 with 50 hits and 29 RBIs entering Friday's game.
Reds pitching coach Bryan Price is set to return to the team this weekend, after missing time while going through what manager Dusty Baker called "tough family times."
Reds right fielder Ryan Ludwick and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina celebrated their birthdays on Friday.
Mark Clements is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.