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NOTE: This column was published prior to the Reds game at the Angels at 10:07 p.m. on Tuesday night. 

If you remember my last column on the Cincinnati Reds that was published back at the beginning of May then you recall my optimism on the outlook for the rest of the 2019 season, despite the club boasting a 13-18 record at the time, sitting seven games out of first place in the NL Central and owning the worst team batting average in the National League at a measly .210.

Fast forward nearly a month and a half as we approach the halfway point of the season and even though the Reds still sit four games below .500 at 36-40, they have gained ground in the competitive NL Central and sit only 5.5 games out of first place and 3.5 games out of the final NL Wildcard spot.

The Cincinnati pitching staff deserves a gold medal for their performance however through the first three months of the season as they trail only the L.A. Dodgers in the NL for earned run average as of Monday night.

New pitching coach Derek Johnson and ace Luis Castillo has helped guide the Reds staff to a 3.61 team ERA through the first 76 games and 732 strikeouts, which is also second best in the NL.

The Redleg offense has shown improvements over the course of the past two months but continue to struggle from time to time to produce runs as they still have the second lowest batting average in the National League at .232.

That is a far cry from the .210 average they put forth through the first month of the season but the team still needs to continue improving in that department if they want to keep afloat in the NL Central.

They will be getting some help in the coming weeks as they will be welcoming back the services of two former all-stars who have been rehabbing injuries since Spring Training and missed every game this season.

First, they will welcome back second baseman Scooter Gennett who is in the final stages of his rehab assignment for a torn groin that he suffered fielding a ground ball in late March.

He hit .310 in the 2018 season and had 30 doubles, 23 home runs, and 92 RBIs. He was an emotional leader on the field and had numerous huge hits in several games last season.

Gennett will be a huge spark to the Cincinnati offense once they get him back. No date has been set for his return but he is expected to be able to join the club this weekend in an important series against the NL Central leading Chicago Cubs.

A few weeks after welcoming the return of Gennett the club will welcome back another former all-star in left-handed pitcher Alex Wood.

Wood, who was acquired from the Reds via trade with the Dodgers in the offseason that also netted them Yasiel Puig and Kyle Farmer, has yet to pitch in a game with his new club after injuring his back early in Spring Training.

After suffering a couple of setbacks, it appears that Wood is on the verge of starting a rehab assignment of his own as he has now faced live batters two times and worked his pitch count up to 40 pitches with no lingering issues.

Wood posted a 9-7 record for the Dodgers a season ago and a 3.68 ERA. In 2017, he had the best year of his career when he went 16-3 in 27 games with a sparking 2.72 ERA.

The Reds have played in 28 one run games which is tied for the most in the league and they are also tied for the most losses in one run games as they boast a 12-16 record in those games.

A simple look at the MLB standings will show you all you need to see about the Reds as they boast one of the best plus/minuses in the NL with a +41.

For comparison, the Milwaukee Brewers, who own the top spot in the NL Wildcard with a 42-36 record, has a plus/minus of -1. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the same record as the Redlegs at 36-40 and has a plus/minus of -72.

The additions of Gennett and Wood will be like a midseason trade for a team that is right on the brink of contending for a playoff spot and will hopefully give David Bell's club the boost they need to get over the hump and start winning these close games.

If they do, look out. It might just be a Red October in Cincinnati.

UPDATE: The Reds announced before their 10:07 p.m. eastern time game on Tuesday at the L.A. Angels that lefty Alex Wood suffered another setback after he experienced soreness following his bullpen session on Saturday. 

Wood was scheduled to throw another bullpen session on Tuesday and then make a rehab start on Thursday for Louisville but those plans have obviously changed. No timetable on when he will start to throw again.  

Jarrid McCormick is a sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.

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