Jay Bruce slugs three home runs in win over Cubs

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Figures as soon as Jay Bruce gets moved to the leadoff spot, he starts hitting like the middle-of-the-order presence we’ve all been waiting for.

Bruce homered in three straight at-bats and tied a career-high with five RBI in a 7-1 win over the Cubs on Friday night. None of them were cheapies, either. All three traveled over 400 feet.

Bruce is actually the second member of the Reds to hit three home runs in a game this season. Drew Stubbs hit three back on July 4, also against the Cubs.

The 23-year-old outfielder is now batting .270 with 16 homers, 55 RBI and a 790 OPS this season. The power has been largely absent this season, leading some to label him as a mild disappointment, but if there’s one thing to really be encouraged about, it’s the progress he has made against left-handed pitching.

Bruce is batting .257/.331/.479 with eight homers, 20 RBI and an 810 OPS against southpaws this season. All three homers on Friday night game off left-handers — two off Tom Gorzelanny, one off Scott Maine. Bruce told Jeff Wallner of MLB.com that he strives to be a complete player.

“I’m determined to prove that I can hit against left-handers,” Bruce
said. “I want to see my name in the lineup every day. I have a lot of
improving to do. I feel like I’m supposed to be a really, really
productive player.”

Bruce did most of the heavy lifting on Friday night, but Johnny Cueto was brilliant in his own right, tossing eight innings of one-run ball while striking out eight and walking none. The Cardinals ended a three-game losing streak with a win over the Nationals on Friday night, so the Reds remain four games in front in the National League Central. 

Report: Orioles interested in Alex Cobb

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MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.

Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.

It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.