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.

Bryce Harper defeats Kyle Schwarber 19-18 to win the 2018 Home Run Derby

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Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.

Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.

Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.

As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.