"We're playing better baseball. That was one of the goals coming out of the [first] half," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We had a downer series in Miami and we recognized the pitching is getting better and we're starting to see that. We're capable of playing better. These guys have answered the bell on that goal."
While a homestand vs. three sub-.500 clubs like Brewers, Braves and D-backs certainly doesn't hurt, the Reds have also helped themselves with some nice all-around series together.
The lineup has supported the pitching with 37 runs over the last eight games. It's an average of 4.6 runs per game but the Reds have scored six runs in each of the last three games. Joey Votto is batting .538 (14-for-26) with three home runs since the break; Brandon Phillips is riding an 11-game hitting streak -- including a first-inning RBI single on Saturday for a three-run lead. Jay Bruce has two homers on the home stand, including his three-run shot in the second inning that opened the five-run lead. Billy Hamilton, who returned to leading off on Friday, has a six-game hit streak, nine steals and nine runs scored while driving opponents nuts.
The rotation, which entered the night with a league-worst 5.20 ERA, is 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA since the break. Anthony DeSclafani has had two exceptional starts, including one for eight innings. Dan Straily has two quality starts. And on Saturday, Keyvius Sampson came over the bullpen and allowed one run over 4 1/3 innings.
"Certainly, you get to the point where there is some cohesiveness from a pitching standpoint," Price said. "Now we need a step-up performance from a guy like Keyvius and he pitches us into the fifth when he hasn't been a starter in weeks. It's been a series of good competitive starts in the games. We're not down three or four runs early."
Meanwhile, the Reds bullpen that came in with a 5.45 ERA that also ranks 30th out of 30 clubs, has figured it out. Including 4 2/3 scoreless innings to follow Sampson on Saturday, it has a 1.35 ERA in the last eight games with five earned runs allowed over 33 1/3 innings.
"We started off in the bullpen not doing too good and the starters not going too far into games," Sampson said. "But I think we're starting to see what guys are really capable of. We've got younger guys coming up and stepping up. I'm excited for the second half."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.