Top 10 Reds highlights at the All-Star break

From left to right: Devin Mesoraco, Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapaman have been major players in the Reds first half.

10) Reds top .500 for first time — It took them more than 13 weeks to get there but the Reds finally pushed their record across the .500 mark on June 23 at Chicago with a 6-1 win against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Devin Mesoraco’s grand slam highlighted a 5-run ninth inning as the Reds improved to 38-37. They had been as many as six games under .500 previously and had three previous chances at being on the plus side of the win-loss margin before getting it done on attempt No. 4.

9) Eight Men Out — Part of the reason for the slow start to the season was the number of players who weren’t available to play when the team left spring training in Arizona. Pitchers Jonathan Broxton, Aroldis Chapman, Mat Latos, Brett Marshall and Sean Marshall as well as infielder Jack Hannahan, utility man Skip Schumaker and catcher Devin Mesoraco were all on the DL Opening Day. The Reds have had a total of 13 players spend time on the DL this season, including first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips currently.

8) Joey Votto walk-off home run vs. Colorado — In a season that has been as challenging as any in Votto’s career, one big bright spot was his solo home run on May 9 leading off the ninth inning against Rockies’ reliever Boone Logan that gave the Reds a 4-3 win at GABP. Colorado had tied the game with two outs in its half of the ninth but Votto ended the game with a blast to straight-away center field that hit high off the batter’s eye.

7) Mike Leake’s 8-inning gem vs. Toronto on June 21 — One night after the Reds had blown an 8-0 lead and lost 14-9 to the Blue Jays, Leake allowed just one run on four hits in an 11-1 win for the Reds. Leake faced 30 batters and threw 113 pitches in his eight innings before turning things over to Carlos Contreras. Leake’s performance allowed manager Bryan Price to rest a bullpen that had been extended the previous night as well as in a 12-inning game at Pittsburgh two days prior. It began their current streak of 16 wins in 23 games.

6) Devin Mesoraco hits home runs in five straight games — The Reds catcher equaled a franchise record with homers in each game he played in from June 19-24. Mesoraco started the streak in Pittsburgh, carried it over to two games against Toronto and then did it for two more games in Chicago against the Cubs. He joined Ted Klusewski, George Crowe, Johnny Bench, Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn in the franchise record book. The streak was part of a 16-homer, 45-RBI first half that earned Mesoraco his first All-Star appearance.

5) Billy Hamilton scores on sac fly to short right field at St. Louis, April 9 — For most humans playing baseball, pop up fly balls that marginally make it to right field won’t allow them to tag and score from third base. Hamilton isn’t your normal human. He tagged up on a short fly by Jay Bruce in the top of the fifth inning with the Reds leading 2-0 and made it 3-0 by somehow beating the throw of John Jay and the tag of Yadier Molina. It was the first of many eye-popping plays the rookie center fielder has made offensively and defensively this season as he positions himself to run away (pun intended) with the NL Rookie of the Year award.

4) Johnny Cueto back-to-back complete games vs. Pirates — In the span of six days in April, Johnny Beisbol dominated the team that had ended the Reds’ 2013 season with 18 innings of 1-run, 6-hit pitching. Last October, Pittsburgh fans were serenading Cueto’s name as he went through one of the worst starts of his career in the NL wild card game loss but this time around only a solo home run in the ninth inning of the second game at PNC Park by reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen denied Cueto from becoming the first Cincinnati pitcher to toss consecutive shutouts since Tom Seaver in 1977.

3) Dugout congratulations for Alfredo Simon — Starting pitcher Alfredo Simon wasn’t on the NL All-Star team when it was originally announced but he got the word early in the game against Pittsburgh on July 13 that he would be replacing teammate Johnny Cueto in the Mid-Summer Classic. His teammates mobbed him in the dugout with congratulatory hugs and smiles as he became the fifth Reds player to make the team. Simon began the season as a rotation fill-in while Mat Latos got healthy but now is tied for the NL lead with 12 wins and is among the league leaders in numerous categories, including his 2.70 ERA.

2) Todd Frazier emerges as all-around leader — Frazier is in just his third season in the big leagues but he’s going to his first All-Star game after collecting 105 hits, including 19 home runs, and driving in 53 runs, all tops for the Reds, while playing a Gold Glove-caliber third base. His fielding percentage of .972 is third among NL third basemen and his 3.6 WAR rating is No. 9 among all position players in the NL.

1) Return of The Cuban Missile — A line drive in spring training fractured the skull of Reds’ All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman and required surgery to insert a titanium plate but when the bullpen door swung open at GABP on May 11 out strode Chapman to face the Colorado Rockies. He walked the first batter he faced, Troy Tulowitzki, but then struck out Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado and Justin Morneau in succession to record the first of his 21 saves ahead of the All-Star break. Of the 21 pitches Chapman threw that day, 15 were clocked at 100 mph or better.