There are three things that any given ball club can do in order to give it a fighting chance at making the playoffs: score more runs than you allow, have a defense that is not inept, and beat the teams in your division.

Scoring more runs than you allow obviously gives you a game-winning formula night in and night out. It is a simple and obvious concept, but it is hard to execute.

Having a defense that will help you more than hinder you is a bit harder.  You will eventually have to weigh the pros of having a weak defender who is a good hitter, especially in the National League with no DH to bail you out.

Beating the teams within your division gives you a leg up on the competition and makes it so you don’t have to hope that someone else beats your rivals to regain games in the L column.

Do those three things and chances are you will be in the playoff hunt come August and September.

The 2010 version of the Cincinnati Reds are doing all of these things, giving the people of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky optimism for a competitive ball club.

First, the new and improved Redlegs have a knack for scoring runs.  They are 10th in the majors with 188 runs plated through 39 games this season, which is good for fifth in the National League. 

They have allowed 185 runs so far this year, and while it is not much of a difference, it is at least a positive difference.  Last year they scored 673 runs while allowing 723.

Being in the top ten in runs scored is definitely a precursor for postseason aspirations, as last year the lowest a playoff team was ranked in runs scored was 18th (St. Louis).

This all comes at a time when the Reds’ bats and arms are hitting their stride together, and when a team is hitting and pitching well, it is unlikely they will go down easily.

While they are scoring more than they are letting up, the bullpen could end up being a liability.  They are currently in the bottom third of the NL in reliever ERA at 4.74, while the rival Cardinals are at a stingy 2.68. This could end up being a cause for concern.

Second, a team must play defense as to not screw up what their pitching and offense has gotten them.

The Reds have the fourth fewest errors in the Majors, and are tied for the fewest in the National League with 16.

They do have some players that could end up being defensive liabilities if they are to get fatigued, like their 35-year-old left side of the infield in Scott Rolen and Orlando Cabrera, both of whom have lost a step in their advancing age. 

But so far, the defense has helped contribute to their winning ways, especially in Saturday’s win on a play at the plate.

Finally, there is possibly the most important thing to do: beating the teams within your division.

The Reds are 17-10 against teams in their division, but are only 4-5 against the Cardinals; the team currently looking up from second place at the Reds. 

While they do have good division numbers, the most important numbers are against the team that poses the biggest threat to knocking the Reds from atop the NL Central mountain they now see themselves sitting on, the Cardinals.

So for the Reds to continue their hot streak that has gotten them to this point, they must continue to pitch well and hope their defense can stay effective. They must also begin to beat good teams more often in order to stay ahead of them in the standings.

With the hot start of the virtually unknown Mike Leake and the future promises of flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman, the Cincinnati fans finally have a bright future to look forward too, only it seemingly came years early (not that you will get any complaints from the Cincinnati faithful).

So go out to Great American Ballpark and enjoy the first place Reds, hopefully for a while.  And keep your fingers crossed that they will get to play into October in The Queen City, it would definitely be a welcome sight.

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