Elly De La Cruz (Trading Card DB)

June 23, 2023: Elly De La Cruz hits for the cycle, Reds win 12th in a row

This article was written by Laura H. Peebles

Elly De La Cruz (Trading Card DB)Elly De La Cruz was a reason to come to the ballpark in 2023.1 Called up to the Cincinnati Reds on June 6 after an injury to Nick Senzel,2 the 21-year-old Dominican native entered this June 23 home game against the Atlanta Braves with a .321 batting average, a .923 OPS, 7 extra-base hits and 6 stolen bases in his first 14 major-league games. The Reds (40-35) were 12-2 in those 14 games. De La Cruz’s performance should not have been a surprise—he was Baseball America’s number-8 overall prospect entering the season.3  

Both teams were riding winning streaks—one of which would end in front of the sellout crowd in Cincinnati. The Reds had an 11-game streak—their longest since they won 12 in a row in May 1957.4 They were leading the National League Central Division by 1½ games over the Milwaukee Brewers. The Braves (48-26) led the NL East by six games over the Miami Marlins—and boasted an eight-game winning streak themselves. They had met earlier in the season, with Atlanta winning all three games by one run.

Taking the mound for the Reds was veteran Luke Weaver (1-2, 6.47 ERA). Singles by Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Austin Riley put Atlanta up 1-0 before the first out was recorded. Two outs later, it looked as if Weaver might escape the inning with minimal damage. But Travis d’Arnaud had other ideas—his three-run homer made it 4-0. A walk, a wild pitch, and an Orlando Arcia double added another run for the Braves, who had averaged more than eight runs per game during their winning streak. A reliever was warming in the Cincinnati bullpen before the end of the inning.

Atlanta’s starter was rookie AJ Smith-Shawver (1-0, 2.03 ERA). Still five months from his 21st birthday, Smith-Shawver was the second youngest player in the majors at this time. He had debuted less than three weeks earlier after starting the year in High-A.5

Smith-Shawyer needed just 11 pitches to get three quick outs in the first inning, but the Reds rallied in the second. De La Cruz, playing third and batting cleanup, opened the inning with a double off the top of the center-field wall and scored on Jake Fraley’s homer.

Two outs later, Smith-Shawver walked Tyler Stephenson on a full count. That triggered a visit from pitching coach Rick Kranitz. Whatever he said worked—Luke Maile popped out on the next pitch to end the inning with the score 5-2, Braves.

The Reds drew within one run in the third, and De La Cruz’s powerful bat was again instrumental. TJ Friedl walked and stole second and third6 while Matt McLain and Jonathan India were striking out. De La Cruz hit Smith-Shawver’s first pitch into the stands for his third career homer, bringing the crowd to its feet. When he returned to the dugout, he did the Reds’ home-run celebration: strutting the length of the dugout wearing a replica Viking helmet and fur-trimmed cape. It was a 5-4 game.

Weaver had followed his 43-pitch, 9-batter, 5-run first inning by holding the Braves scoreless in the second and third. After Michael Harris II hit a one-out single in the top of the fourth, however, Daniel Duarte took over for Weaver. Harris wasn’t on base long—he was caught in a rundown trying to steal on Duarte’s first pitch. Acuña singled and stole second, giving him a league-leading 33 steals. He made it to third on catcher Maile’s throwing error, but was left there when Albies struck out.

Leading off Cincinnati’s fourth was first baseman Joey Votto. At age 39, the 2010 NL MVP was in his 17th season with the Reds, who had drafted him in 2002, the year in which De La Cruz and Smith-Shawver were born. Shoulder surgery had ended Votto’s 2022 season in August, and this was only his fourth game back from the injured list.7 Votto worked the count full, then tied the game with his second homer of the year.

Smith-Shawver plunked Steer and threw a very wild pitch to Stephenson. After Stephenson flied out, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker summoned reliever Collin McHugh, who kept the game tied, 5-5.

Atlanta retook the lead on Matt Olson’s two-run homer in the top of the fifth, but Cincinnati continued its siege in the bottom of the inning. McHugh hit both McLain and India, although neither Red was injured seriously. De La Cruz broke his bat blooping a single to score McLain, another promising rookie promoted to Cincinnati in 2023.8

De La Cruz stole second, and Votto’s second homer of the night and 345th of his career, well into Great American Ball Park’s right-field stands, gave the Reds a 9-7 lead.

Reds lefty Alex Young had finished out the Braves in the fifth. Young got the first out in the sixth, then gave way to Ian Gibaut. All he allowed was a walk to Albies.

In the bottom of the sixth, De La Cruz’s triple spurred Cincinnati to its fifth run-scoring inning in a row. Atlanta’s Ben Heller had come on after Votto’s homer. He began the sixth by walking Friedl, who advanced to third on McLain’s fly out, and scored on India’s single for a 10-7 Reds lead. De La Cruz tripled off the right-field wall, scoring India, sliding into third well ahead of the relay throw. As soon as he stood up, he made an arm motion for “cycle,” which increased the intensity of the cheering.

Heller walked Fraley, leading to a pitching change to Kirby Yates. With Votto at the plate, Yates tried to pick Fraley off first. That didn’t work, but the throw from first baseman Olson was in time to catch De La Cruz trying to steal home. Votto struck out to end the inning with the Reds up 11-7.

De La Cruz’s cycle was the first by a Red since Eric Davis on June 2, 1989, a gap of 34 years. Before that, the previous cycle by a Red was Frank Robinson in 1959—a 30-year gap. Coincidentally, both Davis and De La Cruz wore number 44. De La Cruz’s speed was impressive as well—10.83 seconds from home to third.9 De La Cruz was the youngest major leaguer to cycle since César Cedeño of the Houston Astros in 1972.10

The Reds were up by four runs, and it was up to Cincinnati’s bullpen to preserve the lead against Atlanta’s high-octane offense. Buck Farmer pitched a scoreless seventh—with a lot of help from Steer, who was making only his fifth appearance in left field.11 Steer made a running catch of Olson’s fly in foul ground in deep left, bouncing off the wall after the catch. Marcell Ozuna flied out to Steer on a more straightforward catch. D’Arnaud blooped a single to center and moved to third on Rosario’s double off the center-field wall. Arcia struck out swinging, stranding the two runners in scoring position.

All Yates allowed in the bottom of the seventh was a base hit by Maile. With that hit, every Red had reached base.

Lucas Sims took the mound for the Reds and struck out Harris, Albies, and Ozuna in the top of the eighth. Between those strikeouts he allowed three home runs: Acuña homered to put himself a triple shy of the cycle, Riley lofted one over the Reds’ bullpen, and Olson’s was caught by an Atlanta fan at the edge of the batter’s eye.12 The Reds still had the lead, but just barely, 11-10.

After Joe Jiménez pitched a scoreless eighth for Atlanta, the Reds turned to closer Alexis Díaz, who had been perfect in save chances this season—20-for-20. D’Arnaud popped up on the infield on the first pitch. Rosario walked on a full count. When Sam Hilliard pinch-ran, the Reds’ TV announcers13 mentioned that Atlanta was prone to grounding into double plays.14 Their summoning worked—Arcia grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.

The fans, ecstatic over the 12-game winning streak and witnessing a historic cycle, didn’t want to leave. Many of them stayed to watch the postgame interview of De La Cruz through his interpreter. He mentioned that he had been in touch with Eric Davis, and considered it an honor and a privilege to wear number 44 as Davis did.

The Reds’ winning streak ended at the hands of the Braves the next night. They were in first place in their division as late as August 2, but faded down the stretch and finished 82-80, in third place in the NL Central. The Braves finished first in the NL East, but lost the Division Series to the Philadelphia Phillies, three games to one.

De La Cruz’s batting average (.325) and OPS (.905) peaked in early July, but faded after that, finishing at .235 and .710, respectively. He still was seventh in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, behind his teammates McLain (fifth) and Steer (sixth).



This article was fact-checked by Bruce Slutsky and copy-edited by Len Levin. 



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org and viewed the home TV broadcast on mlb.com.



Photo credit: Elly De La Cruz, Trading Card Database.



1 He was such an attraction that when he debuted, on a Tuesday, the Reds’ ticketing website broke down. Charlie Goldsmith, “A Hit from the Start,” Cincinnati Enquirer, June 8, 2023: 1D.

2 Gordon Wittenmyer, “Reds Call Up Elly De La Cruz,” Cincinnati Enquirer, June 7, 2023: 1D.

3 He stood out not just because he was 6-feet-5 – he was ranked as the Reds’ number-eight prospect before the previous season. Mark Sheldon, “Reds Great on SS Prospect De La Cruz: ‘He’s a Fast-Track Guy,’” mlb.com, February 22, 2022. Joe Trezza, “Ready for Futures Game? De La Cruz Leaves No Doubt,” mlb.com, July 8, 2022. https://www.mlb.com/news/elly-de-la-cruz-looks-to-rise-quickly-in-reds-ranks; https://www.mlb.com/news/reds-no-2-prospect-elly-de-la-cruz-hits-three-homers-in-doubleheader.

4 The Reds had had 13- and 14-game winning streaks but they were in the 1800s. Charlie Goldsmith, “And for his Next Trick …,” Cincinnati Enquirer, June 25, 2023: 1C.

5 His somewhat accelerated call-up was triggered by injuries to other Atlanta pitchers. Mark Bradley, “Team can Handle Rough Stretch,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 25, 2023: B1.

6 This was Friedl’s first game with two stolen bases, but not his last—he also stole two on June 28 and August 4. Used as a pinch-runner on August 4, he also stole second and third in the same inning.

7 Jason Williams, “Will Votto Returning to Reds Stunt Growth?” Cincinnati Enquirer, June 15, 2023: D1.

8 Cincinnati had called up McLain, its first-round pick in the June 2021 draft, on May 15.

9 De La Cruz was the fifth youngest player to hit for the cycle, and the fastest in the Statcast era. Jayson Stark, “Elly De La Cruz’s Cycle for Reds Was the Most Thrilling Ever. Here’s Why,” theathletic.com, June 29, 2023. https://theathletic.com/4651037/2023/06/29/elly-de-la-cruz-cycle-reds/.

10 Cedeño, who was 21 years old, hit for the cycle against the Reds at the Astrodome on August 2, 1972.

11 He usually played first or third base.

12 Atlanta hit 307 home runs in 2023, tying the 2019 Minnesota Twins for the record.

13 The Reds’ TV announcers were Barry Larkin and John Sadak.

14 For the full season, Atlanta was fourth in the National League with 128 GIDPs.

Additional Stats

Cincinnati Reds 11
Atlanta Braves 10

Great American Ball Park
Cincinnati, OH


Box Score + PBP:

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