For the next three days, the Cincinnati Reds (36-48) take on the bad guys from, what seems like, every baseball movie ever made as the Chicago White Sox (29-54) come to town.
Since the infamous 1919 World Series victory, the Reds have not enjoyed seeing the Chicago South Siders. The Reds have won just four of the 20 meetings between these two teams. The White Sox did not play the Reds at any point between 1920 and 1996.
After playing three-straight series against first place teams, the Reds will put their recent success on the line against a team in more of a rebuilding mode than they are. Cincinnati holds a 6-1 record against American League teams, having gone 2-0 against Kansas City and Detroit and 2-1 against Minnesota. The Reds pitching, during those games, has a collective 3.00 ERA with 47 punch-outs compared to 27 free passes.
The last time the ‘Sox and the ‘Legs met was May 9thand 10th of 2015. There was a doubleheader on the ninth due to a rainout on the 8th. The Reds won the first game, but dropped the next two. Getting the win for Cincinnati in game one was Johnny Cueto, while Jason Marquis and Aroldis Chapman got the losses. Remarkably, the only remaining player still on the team from the Reds last win against the White Sox, is Billy Hamilton.
The White Sox have had a rough go of it since they won the World Series in 2015, compiling just four winning seasons in that time span. In fact, they’ve not finished better than 4th in the AL Central since 2012. This year looks to be no different.
For starters, Chicago’s starters have been inconsistent. The three the Reds will face (James Shields, Lucas Giolito, and Dylan Covey) all sport ERAs above 4.20, with Giolito enduring a 6.59 ERA. They’re in a bit of a “see what we’ve got” phase with the youngsters. Giolito was called up last August and inserted into the rotation. He pitched seven starts in 2017, compiling a 3-3 record with a 2.38 ERA. Sample sizes, though, tend to be misleading as in 16 starts this year he has averaged 5.4 walks per nine innings.
James Shields has a 4.29 ERA and has pitched through nine losses, thus far. The 36-year old hasn’t had an easy time of it since arriving in Chicago, but his current ERA is a run better than it has been since donning a White Sox uniform. He’d like his strikeout-to-walk ratio to calm down, though, as he fans just under two batters before allowing a base-on-balls.
Dylan Covey has a 4.82 ERA in nine starts with a 3-3 record. Covey is allowing a lot of solid to hard contact this season as fangraphs.com says just 19.2% of contact off him is soft-hit. That, coupled with a contact rate of 83.8% of his pitches, is probably why opposing hitters have a .273 average against Covey. After not allowing any long-balls in any of his first six starts, Dylan has given up six homers in his last three starts, including four his last time out. The Rangers touched him up for nine runs (eight earned) on eight hits and three walks in 2.1 innings pitched.
Hitting-wise, they do have two boppers in the middle of their lineup. Matt Davidson leads the team in homers (14), on-base percentage (.347), slugging percentage (.482), and walks (36). Jose Abreu joins him in the middle, leading the team with a .271 batting average, 50 RBIs, and 27 doubles. They also have a speedster in Tim Anderson who spearheads their run-scoring efforts with 45 runs scored and 17 steals.
Despite winning yesterday, Chicago comes to Cincinnati 5-7 in the last two weeks. Their pitching over that time has allowed 79 runs (69 earned), 110 hits, and 53 walks. Opponents have compiled 18 homers on them, over those 12 games.
All three games in the series have a start time of 7:10 pm. Wednesday’s game will have a Independence Day fireworks celebration afterwards.
Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates set to Play Three
Break’s over. That’s right, you heard me, back to work. Well, for the Reds, that is. There’s been four whole days since the last baseball game for Cincinnati, and now they’re back, starting Friday, at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Reds and Pirates are separated by four-and-a-half games in the NL Central. If Cincinnati is to stop the wire-to-wire last place finish they currently have going, this series will go a long way to solving that. The Pirates hold the edge in the season series, having won four of the 10 games, so far.
Th Reds will need to improve their pitching against the Pirates if they hope to make up ground. In the 10 games they’ve played against one another, Pittsburgh is getting on base at a slightly better rate than one per every three batters (.346). Chief among Cincinnati pitchers who need to improve against Pittsburgh is Tyler Mahle, Friday night’s starter.
Mahle’s first start against e Buccos didn’t go so well. In 4.2 innings pitched he was tagged for all five of Pittsburgh’s runs, allowed 10 baserunners (nine hits, one walk), and allowed a pair of home runs. In fact, his counterpart on Friday, Jameson Taillon, was his counterpart on that day. He pitched a complete game shutout against the Redlegs.
Saturday is a big day as it is the 2018 Reds Hall of Fame Induction game. Adam Dunn, Fred Norman, and Dave Bristol will all be enshrined in the best Hall of Fame outside of Cooperstown. Pitching that day is Anthony DeSclafani. His last start against the Pirates just missed being a quality one. He tossed 5.2 innings of two-run baseball and got the win. Both runs were scored on solo homers by Colin Moran and Gregory Polanco.
Pittsburgh’s scheduled starter, Nick Kingham, has never faced Cincinnati.
Sunday’s series finale will feature the Dark Knight making his first trip to the bump on the back side of the break. He’s pitched twice against Pittsburgh this year with varying success. Hist first outing he earned a win, pitching six innings of one-run baseball. His second time out turned into a Pirates win despite five solid innings of three runs allowed. Harvey has struck out seven Buccos in his eleven innings while allowing 11 baserunners.
The Pirates actually have Nick Kingham listed as their Sunday starter, too…so I’m guessing it’s actually TBD. But lets take a quick look at the Pirates young hurler.
Kingham has been around the Pirates minor leagues since 2010 and didn’t make his Major League debut until April 29th. On that day, he pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit and striking out nine. Since then he has not pitched that deep into a game, though he’s grazed it. July hasn’t been as kind to him as he sports a 5.28 ERA for the month and has allowed six homers in three starts.
Fun fact, the Reds are 5-5 in the last 10 years in the first game back from the All Star Break. So yeah, that’s a completely pointless stat, but now you have something to regale your friends with as you watch the game, Friday night.
Both Friday and Saturday games begin at 7:10 pm while Sunday’s game is scheduled for 1:10 pm.
WATCH: Scooter Gennett and Joey Votto homer in the All-Star game
The National League trailed the American League 5-3 on Tuesday night, partially because a Joey Votto error led to three runs for the American League in the eighth inning. Scooter Gennett bailed out his teammate with a pinch hit two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth that forced extra innings. Gennett was the first Reds player to hit a home run in an All-Star game since Davey Concepcion in 1982. Watch the home run below:
SCOOTER GENNETT TIE GAME!
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 18, 2018
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 18, 2018
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 18, 2018
The American League hit two home runs in extra innings and ultimately won the game 8-6. Votto hit a home run in the bottom of the 10th inning. It was Votto’s first hit in an All-Star game (Votto was 1-3 on the night and is now 1-13 in All-Star games). Watch it below:
— Todd (@bitterRedsfan) July 18, 2018
JOEY HAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SWING ON THE PLANET pic.twitter.com/U5RFd8L8MH
— paco 🇺🇸 (@AllaireMatt) July 18, 2018
For more on the Reds, go here.
From the Beginning to the Break
We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and there are still 66 more games to go for the Cincinnati Reds. Buckle up, though, this ride still has a few ups, downs, loops, and corkscrews.
Although, this ride isn’t as bumpy as, say, the Vortex over at Kings Island. This year feels more like the Diamondback. It took awhile to get up that first chain hill (April through the first week of May) but that’s only because it’s a really big hill. The ride has been quite entertaining since that first month.
Sure, the state of things aren’t great. Cincinnati is last in the Central at 43-53 – 13.5 games behind Chicago. They’re 10 games out of the second National League Wildcard spot. The question is, though, were playoffs the goal of 2018? If you’ve paid attention to Locked on Reds, the answer is no.
This was supposed to be a year that the Reds set the table for a contending team at Great American Ballpark, and there is some semblance of success in this arena.
The current team MVP is Joe…nope…Eugenio Suarez. That’s right boys and girls. You remember that contract extension that the front office handed out to a talented, young Venezuelan this past offseason? Yeah, looking like a great idea. According to baseball-reference.com, Suarez has compiled a 3.6 WAR up to this point.
Of course, if WAR is your thing, Fangraphs has both Suarez and Scooter Gennett at 3.3 WAR. The Reds have found their nucleus. In fact, Jose Peraza is currently sitting at a 1.8 WAR, making the entire Reds infield (Votto with a 2.8 WAR) the most valuable part of the team.
Much has been said about Suarez and Scooter, so let’s take a look at an under-appreciated part of this team: Peraza.
For starters, he’s been a revelation from the leadoff spot. Peraza is hitting .333 as the leadoff hitter and has a .389 on-base percentage. Right, blink, rub your eyes, and look again at that .389 OBP. He’s scored 22 of his 53 runs from the leadoff spot, scoring just under 50% of the time he’s reached base.
Part of the explanation for his success can be explained by Peraza having a 30 point-better batting average on balls in play than last year (.293 compared to .259). Another part of the explanation comes from Peraza’s improved plate disciple. His walk percentage is up for the third-straight year to 5.5% and his strikeout rate is down to 10.9%. Diving slightly deeper, he has decreased his swing % by three points on pitches outside the zone and has a 95% contact rate on pitches in the zone. He’s made leaps and bounds in the improvement area this season.
The hitting has been what’s pushed this team through the first 96 games. The Reds have scored the third most runs in the NL, at 461. Their team on-base percentage trails the Cubs by 4 points (.341) for best in the Majors. Much has been written, of late, regarding Cincinnati’s plate discipline and their willingness to take more walks translating into success at the plate, and who could argue? It has been a huge factor in their turnaround.
While not egregiously worse, Cincinnati’s OBP was 15 points lower for the month of April. Combine that with the second worst slugging percentage in all of major league baseball, for that month (.357), and you get an offense that was unable to bail out horrific pitching.
The pitching has come a long way, since that harrowing month, in which the Reds compiled the worst ERA in the NL (5.15) and beat everyone to 20 losses. They’ve shaved over a run off that number, since April, as their team ERA in months not named April is 4.06. The bullpen has gotten a lot of work, as Reds starters average just over five innings a game, but they’ve been up to the task, thus far.
As a unit, considering some individuals that are no longer with the major league team, they re statistically at the middle of the pack in the National League. Individually, there are some pitchers that no opposing lineup looks forward to facing, late in-game. Foremost is Jared Hughes.
Hughes has a 2.3 WAR, per Baseball Reference, good for 4th best on the team. His 1.44 ERA is third best among NL relievers with at least 40 IP. When you are the key guy out of the bullpen, you’ve got to be tough when you get a bad hand dealt to you, and Hughes stands tall in those situations. He’s inherited 23 runners and stranded 15 of them. Despite tossing right handed, Hughes is toughest on lefties, allowing 16 hits in 81 lefties faced. He’s also kept the ball in the park, allowing just two round-trippers.
Amir Garrett stands tall next to Hughes. The starter turned reliever has one-upped Jared Hughes in the inherited run department. Just six of the 32 runners Garrett has inherited have crossed home plate. He is tied for eighth in the Majors with 18 holds, but his ERA has climbed each month (it currently sits at 10.13 for the month of July). Safe to say, he’s relishing this All Star break.
The winning of late has distracted us Reds fans from the big picture of this season. It isn’t necessarily the goal to make the playoffs this year, but to get the team situated for multiple years of playoff contention, beginning next year. The biggest storylines coming out of the All Star Break will not be a pursuit of a playoff appearance, but a couple of other things:
What will they do at the trade deadline?
– Will they sell off? (I hope not)
– Will they go after a staff ace? (I hope so)
– Who will be a Red after the dust settles?
Will they succumb to peer pressure and remove the interim tag from Jim Riggleman?
– Don’t get me wrong, Riggsy has done a fantastic job, but that’s just premature and needless in so many ways. They haven’t conducted an actual managerial search since they hired Bob Boone. It needs to happen at the end of this season. If Riggsy is determined to be the guy after it’s all said and done, cool, but do a search.
Will they stop bunting?
– Okay, admittedly this isn’t really a storyline, per say, but it’s worth noting. The team that has scored the most runs in the Majors, the Boston Red Sox, have compiled a grand total of three sacrifices. Three. That’s it. That’s 30 less than the Reds, who lead all of Major League Baseball in sacrifices. Their seventh in runs scored, but think of where they could be if they stop giving up outs. You know what…I’m feeling a more detailed blog about this subject, so let’s wrap this up.
The Reds need to win 38 games in their final 66 to finish the year at .500. I predicted they would, before the season, on another website. I still think they complete the 81-81 season. This is a decent team, an entertaining team, and they can play with anyone. Add in a couple of trades that are, hopefully, coming in the next few weeks, and you got yourself a contender for the next few years.
Like I said in the opening graph, buckle up, Reds fans, there’s plenty of baseball left!
(Also, shout out Locked on Reds, this is post 100!)
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