What is a dark horse? No it’s not the mammal the old west cowboys ride in on. A dark horse is much more exciting than even that. In the sports world, there are plenty of dark horses every single year. A dark horse, by definition, is a “competitor or candidate whom is little known, but wins unexpectedly or succeeds.” In the year 2021, the Cincinnati Reds are that dark horse. Here’s why they might surprise you this season.
Cincinnati Reds: MLB’s Dark Horse
The Cincinnati Reds are an exciting team. Even dating back to before the 2020 season, they were picked to be a surprise team in the National League. However, that was largely based on their pitching staff. Unfortunately for the Reds though, even the eventual Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer couldn’t help them and their offensive woes. Many experts pegged the Reds as the team to watch. Even though they started out slow, they eventually came around. However, they failed to score any runs in the NL Wild Card Series versus the Atlanta Braves.
To start the 2021 season, many of those same experts were quiet when asked if they’d double down on the Reds for this season. Of course, the Reds lost Bauer and traded away Raisel Iglesias, but now those same experts may wind up kicking themselves. Don’t look now, but the Reds are 5-1, carrying a five-game winning streak, and they are hitting the absolute tar out of the baseball. In just six games, the team has scored 57 runs and gathered 65 hits. This means they’ve eclipsed the start of one of the best teams in baseball history, their own team, from 1976.
How Can They Pull it Off?
Hear me out: The Reds are not a better team than the Los Angeles Dodgers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t beat them. This isn’t an unfamiliar position for the Redlegs. Remember the Oakland Athletics teams of the late ’80s and early ’90s, and how good they were? Who did they play in the 1990 World Series as they looked to win their second title in three years? That’s absolutely correct, the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds went wire-to-wire that season, never leaving first place, but were massive underdogs in the Fall Classic despite that. The end result was a four-game sweep and a World Series title being celebrated in the Queen City. This 2021 team is very similar to that 1990 team.
First and foremost, the pitching needs to keep doing its job. The 1990 team was phenomenal, and with the “Nasty Boys” Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton, and Randy Myers lurking in the back of the bullpen, opponents didn’t score often after the sixth inning. This Reds team is similar in that nature. Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray man the front half of games, then Lucas Sims, Sean Doolittle, and Amir Garrett slam the door late. This team needs to have a “you’re not gonna score on me” attitude and carry it on their backs all year.
Can’t Forget the Offense
Remember how the Reds offensive attack was almost non-existent last year? That isn’t true so far this year. Everyone is hitting the ball hard, from the top of the lineup to Rick Stowe (the clubhouse manager), just about everyone on this team has a hit this year. They’re averaging 9.7 runs per game, a crazy stat that won’t last, but hopefully, they can keep it in the five to six-run range. Nicholas Castellanos is leading the offensive charge, hitting homers, and getting the dugout hyped with his post-homer antics. He’s even keeping the team on its toes with his aggressive and passionate play, and we saw this come to fruition when he “incited” a benches-clearing altercation on Saturday afternoon against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The 1990 team hit the ball well and had a solid lineup top to bottom; from Eric Davis up top; to Barry Larkin and Paul O’Neill in the middle; to even Joe Oliver at the bottom. When the Reds came to town, you knew it, and you knew you’d better score runs early, or else you were toast once they handed it over to the bullpen. This years’ team is super similar, with a good mix of young and old, speed and power, the 2021 Reds can get it done and shock a lot of people.
The Wrap Up
The 2021 Cincinnati Reds are hot out of the gate, and it has been fun to watch. When they’re firing on all cylinders, they’re one of the most dangerous teams in baseball. This means that even the small-market Reds can hang with the large-market Dodgers. Experts may have soured on the Reds in the past year, but Reds Country has not. They are making their presence felt in Great American Ballpark once again this year. This team has a really genuine chance to surprise a lot of people with the way that they’re playing. The Reds are one of the biggest dark horses in all of baseball this year, if not the biggest, and they’re ready to make some noise. The Reds will be around come October. It will just be a matter of how far they’ll go in their quest for their sixth World Series title.
Trevor Bauer, Raisel Iglesias, Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton, Randy Myers, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Lucas Sims, Sean Doolittle, Amir Garrett, Nicholas Castellanos, Eric Davis, Barry Larkin, Paul O’Neill, Joe Oliver