CINCINNATI — It was little more than a week ago, seven or eight days away from the trade deadline, when Cincinnati Reds fans wanted Drew Stubbs out of sight and out of mind — trade him for a sack of sweat socks, a moldy rosin bag and a sticky pine tar rag.
Stubbs was so close to the Mendoza Line (below .200) that if he twitched his toes he’d be on it. And he was striking out at warp speed.
Then came a six-game trip the past week to Houston and Colorado, a six-game sweep of the trip and the leader of the pack was Drew Stubbs.
He had 10 hits in the six games, three home runs, drove in 10 runs and scored two runs in each of the last two games.
And when they wrung it all out, Stubbs was co-National League Player of the Week. Fans who wanted him quartered and frozen and deep-sixed are eerily quiet this week.
What changed? What major adjustments did he make? What swami did he consult?
“I haven’t done a single thing differently,” he said. “That’ the thing in this game. You have a lot of ups and downs. I worked just as hard when I was struggling as I have recently. This just comes from sticking with your routine, knowing what works best for you, and letting things play out.”
There is an amazing statistic attached to his name that is inexplicable. When Stubbs scores a run in a game the Reds are 37-2.
“That’s probably just a coincidence that can’t be explained,” he said. “You don’t try to explain it, you just ride with it.”
The 27-year-old center fielder from Atlanta, Tex., the team’s No. 1 draft pick, in 2006, is mostly proud that he helped the team construct a 10-game winning streak and, amazingly, helped them go 11-2 after their best player, Joey Votto, underwent knee surgery and landed on the disabled list.
“When one of the best players in the game goes down, like Joey, when you are faced with adversity, it leaves it up to other guys to step up and fill that void,” he said. “And you can see that up and down our lineup and with our pitching staff how that has been the case. It has translated into a lot of wins.”
Since Votto went down, Stubbs, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier all have hit above .300 And during the 10-game winning streak, the Reds’ starting pitchers won eight times with the bullpen winning twice.
“The main part is that we’ve played well as a team and it is getting to the crucial part of the season,” said Stubbs. “Every win is extremely important and just to be a contributor to that is extremely import.”
Last Tuesday in Houston Stubbs hit a two-run game-winning home run in the ninth inning. The next night he cut the hit in half, but it produced the same result, a two-run game-winning double in the ninth.
“When things are going good, it is a lot easier to step out there and enjoy yourself and the game,” he said. “Regardless of how you are going, if the team is playing well and winning games, it makes it enjoyable when times are tough,” he said.
And times were tough. Very rough. Very rugged. It started out to be the worst year of Stubbs’ professional life, but what a difference a fortnight makes.
“I’ve been part of a team struggle, too, when the team doesn’t play well and that’s real tough to deal with,” he said. “But being able to have a week like I just had and have the team win every game is pretty special.”
With the trade deadline just hours away and Stubbs ostensibly being dangled not long ago, Stubbs was asked about the fear factor of changing uniforms.
“I haven’t noticed any difference from anybody in our clubhouse and the bottom line is that you can’t control any of that,” he said. “It is best to try not to worry about it, enjoy the success we’re having. Whatever is going to happen will happen and we’ll move forward from there.”
Most players in the Reds clubhouse prefer the status quo, no trades, no moves. Keep the current chemical balance.
“You look at how we’ve done this year so far and it is hard to argue with the success we’ve had,” he said. “My biggest thing is that I don’t think a move will be necessary unless you make a significant improvement on th team. If you try to make a move just to make a move it is no always beneficial. So many people at this time of year, when you are in a playoff race, think they should make a move just to make a move and I don’t think that’s necessary for us with the chemistry we have and the way we’ve been playing lately.”
Of the winning streak and the team’s surge to the top of the National League Central, Stubbs said, “It is a matter of walking onto the field every day and knowing that you are going to win. But the big thing is getting a lot of the lucky breaks. You look at any team that wins championships and it’s a combination of good, solid, fundamental baseball and getting some lucky bounces. Over the past two weeks we’ve had a combination of both.”