And here we go…
Game 1 in the first series of the year between the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals. While there will be a few that will write this series off to some extent because it’s only April, I disagree…slightly. With the heat that is now generated, this series does bear some importance. That’s what makes a rivalry in my ever so humble opinion.
So, let’s look at the pitching matchups for tonight’s game…weather permitting. The scheduled start time is 8:15 PM ET.
Cincinnati Reds (10-9)
Edinson Volquez (season: 2-0, 6.75 ERA; career v. Cards: 1-1, 4.98 ERA)
The first inning blues have hit Volquez in each of his four starts this season…hard. Here’s how that ugly stat breaks down: 3 vs. the Brewers on Opening Day, 4 vs. Houston, 2 vs. the Padres, and 4 vs. Pittsburgh. That’s 13 runs! Volquez has consistently put the Reds offense in a hole from the get-go. He simply cannot afford another poor start for one more reason: the Cards bats have come alive. In all honesty, this game has the potential to have “ugly” written all over it. You’ll see what I mean in a bit.
Much has also been made about those innings Volquez has after the first. Yes, there is a HUGE difference between his first inning ERA (29.25) and all other innings (1.93). Another concern is the number of walks Volquez has issued in his 22.2 innings of work. He’s walked 16 with half of those (8) coming in that dreaded first inning. It can’t be overstated that EV needs to get off the schnide in the worst way. And when you look at how the Cards hitters have fared against Volquez, your jaw will drop…similar to any Looney Tunes character.
Now you see what I mean about how this game could turn ugly. Those splits against of .300/..429/.525 are anything but flattering. And the 10/9 SO/BB ratio is just as scary. For the Reds to hold hope in this one, we must see a reversal of trends for EV, like get out of the first inning unscathed. How would that workout?
St. Louis Cardinals (10-9)
Kyle McClellan (season: 2-0, 1.98 ERA; v. Reds: 0-0, 2.95 ERA)
When Adam Wainwright‘s season was ended early in spring training, McClellan was tabbed as the guy to transfer from the pen to the rotation. Has he ever performed thus far. Makes you wonder if he hasn’t found a new home on the Cards staff. May still be too soon to call, but the early returns reveal a success to date. If you can find a negative, it would be that he’s yielded a hit in each inning of work (19 H/19 IP). That is seriously all. A 13/5 SO/BB ratio is not shabby.
But McClellan has been reached in the first inning as well. Just near the extent in which Volquez has. Of the 4 total runs he’s surrendered, 2 have come in the first. The splits against are his worst for any inning as well (.385/.429/.769). Maybe the Reds could pull a reversal of fortunes here, right?
Not so fast. Just look at this…
The Reds are used to seeing McClellan out of the pen. The first time through the lineup will most likely go one of two ways: The Cincy bats will be successful and plate a couple or McClellan will coast. There will be no middle ground. The Reds may have a very slight advantage after the first time through the lineup only because they will have seen him.
Well, you would think so, but McClellan is even tougher after his first time through a lineup. Way tougher. Opposing batters have accounted for a measly 10 hits in 42 AB after seeing him the first time. He gets in a groove.
To put this bluntly, the Reds must (and I cannot emphasize that enough) have Volquez pitch the best first inning of the season and not surrender any runs. The Reds bats need to strike McClellan early as in the first time through the lineup early. They did bat around against Daniel Hudson yesterday, a guy that had been a nemesis to them in the past. Maybe they can do something similar tonight and bring home a “W” in the first game of the series.