Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 4/24/12
CINCINNATI When Drew Stubbs walks to home plate in Great American Ball Park, he should wear a lightning rod on top of his Cincinnati Reds batting helmet. Nobody with the Reds draws more negative volts than Stubbs -- a 27-year old center fielder who runs as if his feet are roller boards. Fans want to see that speed utilized, and if speed kills, they want Stubbs to execute a few opposing teams by wreaking mayhem on the basepaths. And when he is on the basepaths, he does just that. When he hits ground balls, infielders react as if they've had too much coffee and the caffeine has kicked in, making them jittery. It happened twice in Chicago when Stubbs hit routine slow rollers to the infield. The infielder, knowing he had a nanosecond to throw out Stubbs, juggled the ball just enough that it was mission impossible to throw out Stubbs. That's what fans want to see put the ball on the ground and flee toward first base like a greyhound breaking out of the starting box. What they don't like to see is the propensity for Stubbs to strike out, a league-leading 205 times last year in 604 at-bats with only 63 walks. In 2010 he struck out 168 times in 514 at-bats with only 55 walks. And it started that way again in 2012 when Stubbs whiffed 16 times in his first 45 at-bats. Manager Dusty Baker loves batting Stubbs in the leadoff spot, where his speed can best be put to positive use. But the strikeouts negated that advantage and Baker has batted Stubbs sixth, seventh and eighth at different times the last two seasons. Second? No, not second. But out of necessity, an injury to second baseman and leadoff hitter Brandon Phillips, Baker did another juggling and balancing act. He moved his No. 2 hitter, Zack Cozart, into the leadoff spot and dropped Stubbs into the two-hole. Sha-zam. It worked. In fact, it worked so well that when Phillips came back Baker put him into the clean-up spot and left Stubbs in the No. 2 spot. Stubbs promptly went 17 straight at-bats without a strikeout and had two three-hit games in a row. On Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park, Stubbs doubled in the first inning and scored the game's first run during a 9-2 Reds victory over the San Francisco Giants and Matt Cain. In his second at-bat in the third inning, Stubbs followed a Zack Cozart double with a perfect sacrifice bunt. Then he banged his second hit of the night to drive home the team's ninth run in the eighth inning. Asked if it is tough to bounce around the batting order like a lottery ping pong ball, Stubbs said, "You have different responsibilities in the different spots in the lineup. If you know what you're supposed to do going into the game, buy into it and go with it, you're OK. At the top of the order, you have more opportunities to bat and do some stuff." Batting ahead of No. 3 hitter Joey Votto will do that for you get you more strikes, better pitches to hit. Stubbs has hit safely in eight of nine games, had those two three-hit games back-to-back and put together a six-game hitting streak. During the last nine games, he is hitting .371 (13-35) with two double, a home run and two stolen bases. There were times over the course of the last two seasons when Stubbs approached the batter's box like a condemned man walking The Green Mile. That isn't the case now. He can't wait to dig in. "I'm feeling better at the plate and it is kind of exciting," he said. "Like anything else, when things are going good you can't wait to get up the next time. I'm kind of finding my rhythm back, feeling comfortable in the box. Hopefully, I can continue to push forward, score some runs, help this team win." And Stubbs is definitely appreciative of the spectre of Joey Votto standing in the batter's box while Stubbs is hitting. "I'm not seeing more fastballs and, in fact, the Cubs threw me a lot more sliders," said Stubbs. "Obviously, pitchers don't want to walk me in front of Votto, but that hasn't translated into more fastballs. Just more balls in the hitting zone. "I'm having success right now because I'm staying on the ball better than I have for a long, long time and that's why I've had some success," he said. And the proof is in the fact a lot of his hits are plopping into the right field grass, the opposite field. The Reds struggled and squirmed on the first portion of the just-completed trip, losing five of the first six. But they righted themselves in time to win three of the last four and came home 4-6 under .500, but in third place behind St. Louis and only 3 games out of the first place in the National League Central. "It was a tough road trip with the arms Washington threw at us (1-and-3) and the Cardinals (1-and-2) being who they are," said Stubbs. "We weren't playing our best and those two teams played some good baseball. We were able to salvage two of three in Chicago before we came home." And with Stubbs sticking his hand in the middle of things, along with seven shutout innings by Mat Latos, the Reds have now won four of five and Reds fans all know who's No. 2 when it comes to the batting order.
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