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Choo gets Reds going in right direction

Choo gets Reds going in right direction

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ATLANTA -- The Cincinnati Reds are strong believers that where you start -- or at least the way you do -- is as important as where you finish. The numbers back up that belief.

The Reds are 38-14 in games when they score the first run, a trend they hoped to continue and add to after taking a 1-0 first-inning lead in Thursday night's series opener with the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

To that end, there is center fielder and leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo.

Choo began Thursday night with an eight-game hitting streak -- currently the longest on the team -- and needed only five pitches to extend it to nine with a single. He'd score two batters later to give the Reds their 1-0 lead.

It's the kind of jumpstart he knows the team needs and for which it looks to him.

"I always try to help the team. I want to get on base," said Choo, who with his first-inning single off Atlanta's Tim Hudson improved to .412 (14-for-34) during the streak. "We have a tremendous lineup. If I get on base, I have a really good chance to score. I think my focus is getting on base."

During the streak, when he does get on base and scores -- which he's done three times -- the Reds are 3-0. They're 1-4 when Choo doesn't come around.

Reds manager Dusty Baker is enjoying the hot streak his center fielder is on, and is especially pleased with the way Choo -- who played his first eight seasons in the American League -- has done it while learning the National League on the fly.

"Things go in streaks. He started off hot, super-hot, and then all of a sudden the league adjusted to him and he had to make some adjustments to some people he hadn't seen," Baker said. "He hasn't been around the league once. In the American League, he knew everybody, how they walked, talked, where they slept, where they ate, everything. But in this league, you have to learn the opposition. He's on the way back, big time."

Choo isn't using the lack of familiarity as an excuse for any lack of consistency, ala the nine-game slump he had preceding the current run, when he hit .129 (4-for-31 with 10 strikeouts). He's looking to be consistent, and sees NL pitching as pretty consistent to what he saw in the AL.

"I think pitchers do the same thing in the American League," Choo said. "People told me, 'You'll see a lot of fastballs in the National League,' but I don't think so ... 2-0 count, 1-0, you'll still see offspeed, four-seams. Sometimes first innings, pitchers throw the first pitch offspeed. I don't think leagues change pitching style."

His Reds teammates certainly don't want him to change his style.

"He's the MVP on this team. When he gets it going, we all just follow him," said All-Star second baseman Brandon Philips. "That's what it's all about. Once he gets it started, you can't beat us. That's the type of team we are. We have to have somebody who's going to be the person that's going to get us started, turn it up, bring that swag. Shin-Soo Choo, he is the one that gets it going, and once he starts doing it, nobody could beat us."

Choo was flattered by Philips' remarks, and insists he's not going to change anything he does.

"Brandon said that? I appreciate it," said Choo. "Especially when teammates think that, that's something special for me. But I'm just going to keep playing, doing what I'm doing."

Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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