The Reds get two of their most important performances of the year in win over the Marlins

In the first week of July, when Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India was stuck in his worst slump of the season, he was studying his best swings from 2021 to try to find some adjustment that could work.

Following a rookie year where nearly everything went right for him, India’s second year in MLB has been a lesson in dealing with adversity. He missed nearly two months early in the year with a hamstring injury. He has been hit by multiple pitches in the wrist, which nearly caused him to miss time. He missed Sunday’s Reds game with a thigh contusion.

But over the last three weeks, India has gotten back to the player he was when he won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2021. On Monday, the Reds beat the Miami Marlins, 11-2, in front of a crowd of 12,948 at Great American Ball Park. India went 3-for-4 with a single, a double and his first career grand slam.

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"The longer you play, the better you’re going to get in this game," India said. "The more games I log playing every day, I’ll get going. Hopefully (this game is) a sign I’ll get going. I feel good right now. I’m ready."

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India (6) hits a grand slam in the fifth inning of the MLB baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on Monday, July 25, 2022.
Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India (6) hits a grand slam in the fifth inning of the MLB baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on Monday, July 25, 2022.

Following that grand slam, India improved his batting average over his last 15 games to .298. During that stretch, he has a .954 OPS and 11 RBI.

With the Reds’ leadoff hitter looking like himself again over the last three weeks, the Reds won series against the Rays, Yankees and Cardinals. On Monday, they opened a four-game series versus Miami with a victory.

There's a big difference across the Reds lineup when India is at his best. On Monday, Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer said India looked as confident as he has all season.

"He’s starting to look more comfortable in the box," Farmer said. "Coming back from injuries like he has had, it probably takes about 50 or 60 at-bats until you get in the swing of things. What you saw tonight is probably him coming out. Tonight, I think, saved his year."

Against the Marlins, India faced starting pitcher Trevor Rogers, who finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year race last season. India jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Rogers and hit a line drive to left field to begin his night with a double.

In his second at-bat, India showed the balance, the patience and the control at the plate that he was lacking earlier in the season. During stretches in June, India’s production fell off in part due to the off-balanced swings he was taking to fall behind in counts. In the third inning, India showed how his timing is back to the level it was last season.

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India (6) high fives Cincinnati Reds center fielder Nick Senzel (15) and Cincinnati Reds catcher Michael Papierski (26) after hitting a grand slam in the fifth inning of the MLB baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on Monday, July 25, 2022.
Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India (6) high fives Cincinnati Reds center fielder Nick Senzel (15) and Cincinnati Reds catcher Michael Papierski (26) after hitting a grand slam in the fifth inning of the MLB baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on Monday, July 25, 2022.

After getting ahead 2-1 in the count, India fouled off four straight pitches to stay alive. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, he laced a sharp single to center field. Then after drawing a walk in the fourth inning, India went back up to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a grand slam into the second deck in left field.

"He expected to step right back in at the Major League level and pick right up where he left off from last year," Reds manager David Bell said. "That’s exactly how we want our players to think. That’s what makes him good. At the same time, it’s still a really tough game, and he had to play himself back into shape, back into the flow of timing, everything, everything to do with what makes this game challenging. It was just a matter of time. The more he has played, the better he has gotten."

India’s first career grand slam gave the Reds a 10-2 lead and set starting pitcher Nick Lodolo up for his third win of the season.

Just like India, Nick Lodolo missed about two months due to an injury that he suffered early in the year. Lodolo returned on July 5 and pitched well in two of his first three games back in the rotation. Against Miami, Lodolo delivered the most impressive start of his rookie season. In a career-high six innings, Lodolo didn’t allow an earned run and struck out a career-high nine batters.

In Lodolo's most recent start, last week against the Cardinals, he allowed five runs in two innings because his command was far from the level he's used to. Against the Marlins, Lodolo made a few key corrections.

"Last outing, it just kind of unraveled a little bit," Lodolo said. "Today, just being able to be in the zone was the biggest thing. I think it's the biggest thing for me all the time is just to let everything, all my stuff, just be in the (strike) zone and let it play."

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Nick Lodolo (40) delivers a pitch in the second inning of the MLB baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on Monday, July 25, 2022.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Nick Lodolo (40) delivers a pitch in the second inning of the MLB baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on Monday, July 25, 2022.

Lodolo hit 96 mph with his fastball, showing some of his best velocity of the season. He matched it by keeping the pitch up in the strike zone to set up his breaking ball.

In the sixth inning on Monday, Lodolo was pumping 95 mph fastballs to strike out batters. He ended his start by getting Marlins center fielder JJ Bleday to lunge at a breaking ball in the dirt.

"(He had a) good fastball, excellent backfoot slider, he threw some good changeups," Bell said. "Even more importantly, when he really needed it, when he got into a little bit of trouble with runners on base, he really made pitches. That’s as good of a start as he has had all year."

The Reds are building around their young stars like India and Lodolo. For the last-place Reds, breakthrough games for their best young players can be some of the team’s most important developments for the rest of the season.

In the win over the Marlins on Monday, India and Lodolo both had their best games of the season.

"We had a bad start (as a team) and our record doesn’t look great," India said. "That start hurt us. But this team is actually really good. We’re playing good baseball now. We’ll carry it on in the second half and see what we can do."

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer (17) greets Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) after they turned a double play with the bases loaded to end the top of the third inning of the MLB baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on Monday, July 25, 2022.
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer (17) greets Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) after they turned a double play with the bases loaded to end the top of the third inning of the MLB baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on Monday, July 25, 2022.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Reds get breakthrough games from Jonathan India, Nick Lodolo