The Cincinnati Reds are in first place

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Reds win.jpgConventional wisdom holds that one does not get too excited about anything going on in the standings before Memorial Day, and that’s still two weeks from now.  Still, how can you now get a kick out of the Cincinnati Reds sitting in first place?

Especially that first place came as the result of taking two of three from a St. Louis Cardinals team that everyone — myself included — figured would have an easier path to a division title than anyone in baseball.  Sure, I and a lot of others tabbed the Reds as their trendy little “they might surprise” pick, but we figured that a surprise from the Reds might be that they come within five games of the Cardinals. Not that they’d pass them up.

But like I said: it’s early. The current surge has had a lot to do with facing cold teams like the Pirates and a suddenly-skidding Cardinals squad. They’ve gotten great starting pitching — three complete games last week — and sparkling defense as of late that, while obviously indicative of talent, has been so good that even the most optimistic Reds backers can’t expect it to be sustainable.

But of course all good teams go through stretches like this. The key to staying in contention all year is avoiding skids, which is something the Reds — usually a respectable team on paper, but subject to swoons — haven’t been able to avoid in recent years.

But at the risk of reading too much into a good week, I’m going to say they can avoid it this year.  Defense isn’t as streaky as hitting can be and Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey —  two guys who have been beat up a bit in the early going — are starting to pitch to their potential.

The Cardinals will go back to winning soon, but I don’t see the Reds returning to losing.  There are just too many bad teams in their division to feast on, and I think the Reds will play continue to play good baseball and, at the very least, remain in the wild card hunt all season.

Aaron Judge homers off of Max Scherzer, American League takes a 1-0 lead

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Despite the earlier rain, the All-Star Game got underway on time and following the usual pregame festivities Max Scherzer took the hill to face the American League.

Scherzer did great in the first inning, striking out Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve and then, following a walk to Mike Trout and giving up a single to J.D. Matinez, retired Jose Ramirez on a weak popup. Scherzer was cooing with gas: the reigning Cy Young winner had not thrown a pitch as fast as 98 m.p.h. all season, but he threw three of those during his scoreless first.

Chris Sale‘s work in the bottom half was more about nasty stuff than mere heat. Following a leadoff single allowed to Javier Baez he got Nolan Arenado to fly out to left, struck out Paul Goldschmidt on a nasty slider and then got Freddie Freeman out via a fly to left.

Aaron Judge led off the second. The same Aaron Judge someone wrote today could be trade bait if the Yankees felt so inclined. Which, um, OK, that was dumb anyway, but it looked even dumber when Judge muscled Scherzer’s second pitch — a letter-high fastball — out to left field with many, many feet to spare for a homer.

Scherzer got the rest of the A.L. side, but the damage had been done. The American League leads 1-0 after an inning and a half.