In a win that clinched their first post-season appearance since a one-game playoff against the New York Mets in 1999, the Cincinnati Reds received a lift from an unlikely source.
Henry Rodriguez, a 22-year-old second baseman who spent most of the year between Double-A and Triple-A, belted a two-run double off reliever Manny Corpas in a five-run seventh inning as the Reds defeated the Cubs, 5-3, on Thursday afternoon.
Now 91-59, the Reds are comfortably perched atop the National League Central with an 11-game lead over second place St. Louis. Cincinnati is battling with Washington (90-58) for the best record in the National League.
All season long, the Reds have been bolstered by contributions from multiple players beyond their standouts. Joey Votto, who is back after missing a stretch because of knee problems, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce have been productive, yet the club has received significant help from National League Rookie of the Year candidate Todd Frazier, shortstop Zack Cozart and veteran outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
On Thursday, staff ace Johnny Cueto tossed six shutout innings and improved to 18-9 with a 2.84 ERA. He is a leading National League Cy Young Award contender. With Cueto and Mat Latos anchoring the rotation, Aroldis Chapman as a hard-throwing closer and a lineup that seems to get production from even the most anonymous role player, the Reds are a threat to play deep into October.