Frequently overshadowed by the hitters lined up before him, Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick has quietly become one of the biggest threats on the club.
Ludwick has spent the majority of the season batting No. 6 in the order, behind Votto, Phillips and Bruce.
After starting the season with a .201 average through his first 45 games, notching 29 hits, eight homers and 27 RBIs, Ludwick's recent play has him feeling like his 2008 self again, when he was an All-Star with the Cardinals.
"I got off to a slow start, and I think I didn't have my swing for a year and a half being over in San Diego," said Ludwick, who hit .228 in parts of two seasons with the Padres. "I've told people this before: I feel as good as I felt in St. Louis."
Ludwick never hit below .267 in his three-plus seasons with the Cardinals, and has had similar production of late. In his past 18 games entering Saturday, Ludwick hit .328 with 21 hits, four homers and eight RBIs, which increased his average for the season to .240.
"I think I'm hitting the ball great," Ludwick said. "I think every day I've been put on the field I've been pretty productive of late, and I think I'll continue to be productive."
Ludwick hasn't just been hitting the ball, he's been crushing it.
He has sent home runs into the upper deck of Great American Ball Park, and has also laced six doubles and a triple in that 18-game span.
"I think my stroke is different," Ludwick said. "It doesn't matter what ballpark you put me in, I think if I have that stroke, I think I'm pretty capable of hitting the ball out of any ballpark."
But it's not just the long ball that Ludwick has contributed. The 10-year veteran also laid down a clutch sacrifice bunt, just the ninth of his career, in the seventh inning of Friday night's game to help secure a 5-3 win against the Cardinals.
"That's something that we work on, and at some point in time, playing championship baseball, everybody is going to have to do it at some point in time," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "In the situation, that was a big, big, big bunt."