Reds achieve two high-priority goals in '10

Reds achieve two high-priority goals in '10

CINCINNATI -- By having a winning season and making the playoffs, the Reds knocked out two very high-priority goals in 2010. The next goal took shape within seconds of their elimination from the postseason in a three-game sweep by the Phillies.

Go even farther next season.

"We're going to relish this time we had and use it to get better next year," center fielder Drew Stubbs said.

During his first losing seasons as Reds manager, Dusty Baker kept repeating to anyone who would listen, "We're building this thing."

He wasn't exaggerating (More | ).

This was the season that Reds fans waited 15 years for and it culminated in a National League Central division title.

From the earliest portion of the season, the Reds began to form their pattern of resiliency. Their first six victories were by the skin of their teeth in the final at-bat and they would go on to have 45 come-from-behind-wins and 22 in the last at-bat -- both tied for the second most in the Majors.

There was a nice course correction after a 7-11 start in late April and recoveries from sweeps at the hands of the Mariners, Phillies and Cardinals. Despite those character building moments, the Reds still managed to be consistent by posting winning records in each of the first five months of the seasons.

One area the Reds will want to work on is their performance vs. winning clubs -- they had a 30-41 record vs. plus-.500 teams but took care of business against the teams they were supposed to beat with a 61-30 record against sub-.500 clubs. Their 32 series wins were tied with the Phillies for the most in the Major Leagues.

Top 12 moments

The Reds became winners by become solid in all areas of the game -- their offense led the National League in virtually all categories and the defense's 72 errors tied for the fewest in the league and buried the old club record of 89 set in 2009.

Some individual performances will leave the biggest impressions on those looking back at the 2010 Reds. Joey Votto earned his way into a deserved national spotlight as an originally overlooked All-Star. Then Votto made a run at the Triple Crown. His year deserved strong consideration for the NL MVP award.

It was the year Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman introduced himself to the Majors with his 100-plus mph fastball (More | ).

And no one will ever forget how Jay Bruce gave the Reds their division clinch with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth against the Astros (More | ). That should be enough to have fans still smiling heading into the winter, but first let's take a look back at the season that was.

Record: 91-71, first place in NL Central

Defining moment: The Reds and Cardinals locked up the top two spots in the NL Central for a Major League record 101 days with neither club having a lead of more than three games over the other. There were 19 lead changes. No series exemplified the rivalry as much as an Aug. 9-11 clash at Great American Ball Park. It started with inflammatory comments about the Cardinals from Brandon Phillips that led to a bench-clearing scuffle.

It ended with an embarrassing sweep of Cincinnati that could have wrecked the season. Instead, the Reds responded by winning seven in a row and finishing up a 19-8 month of August while St. Louis started a huge fade. The Reds had first place for good after Aug. 15.

What went right: Votto's MVP level season will elevate him to a superstar status. ... Scott Rolen hit 17 homers in the first half and became a NL All-Star again. ... Jay Bruce overcame some mid-summer struggles to have a hot last two months and finished with 25 homers and 70 RBIs. ... Drew Stubbs overcame lots of inconsistency and the possibility of losing his center field job and went on a late-summer tear also. Stubbs finished with 20 homers and 30 steals. ... Bronson Arroyo was as dependable as ever and finished with a career-high 17 wins and his sixth-straight 200 innings season. ... Johnny Cueto made strides as a starter and deserved better luck at times. ... 40-year-old reliever Arthur Rhodes became an All-Star again and posted a 33-appearance streak without allowing a run.

What went wrong: In what could be his final year with the Reds, Opening Day starter Aaron Harang still couldn't find his 2006-07 16-win form, battled with a back injury and was out of the rotation by the end of the season. ... Although closer Francisco Cordero notched 40 saves, he also blew eight saves, his most since 2006. Cordero's 1.43 WHIP was the worst among full-time NL closers.

Biggest surprise: While not as much of a factor in the second half, rookie Mike Leake stormed on to the scene in the first half. He was the first Drafted starting pitcher to bypass the Minors and go straight to the Majors since Jim Abbott in 1989. Leake wound up going 8-4 in 22 starts with a 3.78 ERA.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.