Jay Bruce carries the Reds to latest victory

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Jay Bruce’s burden is about to get lighter with Joey Votto expected to rejoin Cincinnati’s lineup Wednesday. Not that it’s bothered him so far.

Bruce hit a two-run homer that gave the Reds’ their only runs Tuesday in a 2-1 win over the Phillies.

It was Bruce’s third straight game with a homer. He’s hit .345 with 10 homers and 24 RBI in 22 games since Aug. 12, with the Votto-less Reds going 14-8 in that span.

Bruce is hardly a realistic MVP candidate with his .261 average and .340 OBP, but he’s been a consistent force in the middle of the Reds lineup for the first time this year. Last season, he busted out by hitting .342 with 12 homers and 33 RBI in May, but he didn’t hit better than .256 or post an OPS over .825 in any other month. This year, his worst OPS in a month is .755.

Barring an injury, Bruce will establish new career highs in both homers and RBI in a fourth straight season this year. He’s currently at 31 homers and 91 RBI after finishing last year with 32 homers and 97 RBI.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.