CINCINNATI -- After being one of the Pirates' big additions at the 2011 Trade Deadline, Ryan Ludwick's two homers and 11 RBIs in 38 games did little to break the club's free-fall out of contention. In his last 14 games alone for the Reds, Ludwick has poked six homers and driven in 20 runs, as one of the main pistons behind their torrid pace. "He's confirming the fact our scouts were hoping for us to find last year. It's there," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "It's been a real good fit for him in this lineup. We put a lot of attention on him and [fellow stretch-drive pickup] Derrek Lee to be run producers. [Ludwick] is probably not in the same place offensively than he was last year; he's worked to get back to this point. He's carried a load for the Reds."
Ludwick's surge is one reason the Reds have not only survived since losing Joey Votto to knee surgery July 16, they have flourished. Cincinnati was 14-3 since, entering Friday night's opener of the series with the Bucs. "They lost the first two when he went out ... and they've lost one since," said Hurdle. "And [Brandon] Phillips is also banged up. They have a very deep, experienced bench. A tough lineup to deal with, from top to bottom. Speed, power. So they are one of the best teams in baseball, and the hottest."