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Those Were Two Great Days To Root For The Reds

4:35 PM EDT on June 8, 2023

Elly De La Cruz watches his home run
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Calling up a vaunted prospect is reason alone to celebrate, if you're stuck with the Reds as your favorite baseball team, at the mercy of an(other) cheap, antagonistic owner, amid almost three decades without a playoff series win. But Elly De La Cruz making his Major League debut was only the beginning of an extremely fun couple of days to watch baseball in Cincinnati.

De La Cruz played a huge role throughout as he lived up to sky-high expectations. The imposing 6-foot-5, 21-year-old infielder climbed to the top of minor-league rankings since his 2018 signing with a captivating combination of speed and power. Across Single- and Double-A last season, De La Cruz hit 28 homers and stole 47 bases in 121 games, and though a hamstring strain messed him up in spring training, he recovered enough to post a 1.031 OPS in Triple-A Louisville in his first 38 appearances this year.

Batting fourth in the lineup against the Dodgers on Tuesday, De La Cruz's first plate appearance was a mere walk, one of two he'd draw in the game. But in the third inning, he wowed everyone in baseball by absolutely booming a double on a pitch that should have been way too high to boom.

The game itself was equally thrilling. The Reds chipped away at an 8–3 deficit with small ball in the fifth, sixth, and seventh, until they entered the bottom of the ninth down two. Dodgers reliever Caleb Ferguson's internal GPS malfunctioned as he delivered three walks and a hit-by-pitch in addition to a single. And his replacement, Shelby Miller, had no chance to get comfortable before Matt McLain put on his cape and got heroic.

The win put the Reds at 28-33 and would have been enough to spiritually sustain their fans though a whole series with an opponent as imposing as L.A. But De La Cruz and his teammates one-upped themselves on Wednesday night. Playing shortstop this time instead of third, De La Cruz capitalized on Noah Syndergaard's troubled season in his first two times at the plate. He opened with an explosive dinger on another pitch that looked unusually high to crush.

Then in the third, his legs got a lot of love for a no-doubter triple.

A bunch of other hitters got in on the act, too. After five combined home runs across just the first three innings, the exhausted scoreboard read 6–6. And though the bullpens eventually calmed the storm, Will Benson, when he came up in the ninth, decided this moment was a good time to hit the first dong of his career. The flight of the ball to the right-field seats was impressive, but I like this angle more:

Look at how much fun that is! The Reds may have turned off the gas in a 6-0 loss to Clayton Kershaw on Thursday afternoon, but that setback is of little consequence compared to the emotional highs already reached this week. With some talented young hitters and some extremely iffy pitching, Cincinnati projects to be a shaky team the rest of the way. But after a 2022 season that was basically nothing but downs, the height of the ups this year should be something to cheer for.

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