July's Jaunt

jaunt [jawnt, jahnt] –noun: a short journey, especially one taken for pleasure.

I’m not 100% sure “jaunt” is the correct term to use in reference to the Reds and their schedule for July. If you look at each of the opponents, it’s actually a little on the daunting side. Here’s a quick peek at how July will roll for the Reds

1. St. Louis Cardinals (49-43)

What a series to open the so-called “second half” of the season. The most heated rivalry (according to some) in baseball kicks off and I’m not sure whether feelings still twisted. Who am I kidding? Of course they do. We saw that develop a bit during the Reds recent visit to Busch III. But here are a few things to keep an eye on…

Albert Pujols: When Pujols originally injured his wrist, the prognosis was about 6-8 weeks. Albert came back much sooner which led to some “playful banter” between Reds fans and Cards fans on Twitter. Yes, the “s” words was mentioned. But it will be a worth while look to see how the All-Star break helped Pujols.

The closer situation: You could say that applies to both dugouts. The Cards released former closer Ryan Franklin after witnessing implosion after implosion. The role was given to Fernando Salas. I don’t think Cards fans envisioned the success Salas has experienced in the role (16 saves in 18 save opportunities). It has been a much needed shot in the arm and the Cards have been better than advertised considering losing Adam Wainwright. I said that the Cards were (and still are) the Reds biggest competition for a repeat.

Image: Bo Hussey

The Reds have seen the opposite effect as of late. Francisco Cordero has stumbled since his disappointment from not being on the NL All-Star squad. If he really is, it has clearly shown in his recent outings. Reds fans saw Coco blow three save opportunities in the last two series prior to the break (his last four outings). Coco’s ERA has risen from 1.69 to 2.95 over those four games. While I have no doubt that Dusty and Walt will be willing to ride on Cordero’s back for the remainder of the season, I have to think the cries for a new closer will arise to a crescendo if Cordero blows just one more shot at a save.

Pitching matchups: The Reds send Johnny Cueto to the hill for tonight. The Cards will go with Jake Westbrook. But the Cards appear to be stacked for the last two games: Chris Carpenter (who is looking like the Chris Carpenter of seasons past) and Jaime Garcia. The Reds counter with Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey. Confidence level?

2. Pittsburgh Pirates (47-43)

Alex pointed out some nice facts about the Bucs yesterday. But the Pirates face a gauntlet of their own. (Maybe that’s the word I should have used!) Here is Pittsburgh’s schedule for the rest of July:

  • @Houston (30-62)
  • Cincinnati (45-47)
  • St. Louis (49-43)
  • @Atlanta (54-38
  • @Philadelphia (57-34)

Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan (Image: Brock Fleeger via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Okay. The first series isn’t a threat, right? Remember the Reds run last season? They were beating teams they were supposed to beat. The Pirates now will find themselves in that exact situation when they square off against the Astros (7-2 against HOU in 2011) before facing our Reds (5-1 in 2011).

So, if the Pirates emerge from the first two series unscathed, and all signs do point that way, the last three series are against three of the best four teams in the NL. For the record, Pittsburgh is 2-1 against the Cards, 0-2 against the Braves and 2-1 against the Phillies. Not a whole lot to glean from those. Not as much as the Bucs record against the ‘Stros and Reds anyway.

3. Atlanta Braves (54-38)

The first thing that should jump out at you is that the Braves have the arms. Jair Jurrjens, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel are all considered among the top of the NL in regards to young, successful arms. You can add Tommy Hanson to that mix, too. The first three were on the NL All-Star team and you can argue that Hanson should have been as well. And the staff as a whole owns the second best ERA in the NL (3.12).

And one more thing: Martin Prado will be back provided no setbacks between now and the beginning of this series. The offense could use Prado. Rookie Freddie Freeman and All-Star cather Brian McCann have carried a big load for the Braves offense this season. Dan Uglla is still below the Mendoza line, and Jason Heyward is in the .220′s. In fact, the Catcher and first base posistions are the only positions where the Braves can sport a BA over .270 (.272 at 1B and .313 at C).

Still, Atlanta owns the NL’s second best record behind the Phillies.

4. New York Mets (46-45)

By the time the Mets stroll into GABP, there’s a chance they will be below .500. They traded closer Frankie Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers over the AS break leaving manager Terry Collins with no real proven closer. But thats not the reason I say they could be back under .500.

(Image: joseph a/Flickr via Creative Commons)

The Mets first series out of the second half gate is against the NL best and NL East divisional foe Philadelphia Phillies, a make-up game against the Marlins, then three with the Cards. The silver lining: all are at Citi Field.

And the status of Mr. Jose Reyes is something to think about, too. He does make this team go. Maybe I should ask will Reyes be a Met when this series starts?

5. San Francisco Giants (53-40)

The Giants own the third best record in the NL. You know you can be in for a long series if you run into the the combo of Tim Lincecum (despite his W-L) and Matt Cain. Ryan Vogelsong has stepped up and provided the starting staff a much needed lift.

And like the Braves, the Giants don’t exactly knock to cover off the ball either: 13th in BA (.242), 13th in OBP (.308), 15th in SLG (.362), 12th in HR (60) and 15th in runs (338). Of course, their home has a tendency to allow for the lower HR and SLG stats.

The Miguel Tejada signing is looking like a bust, the loss of Freddy Sanchez has created a hole at 2B, and the loss of Buster Posey has created cries for changes in the way players slide into home.

But don’t lose track that these guys have a prominent closer in Brian Wilson and they are the defending champs.

So, add up those records and you get 250-199, or a .557 winning percentage. Yes, the Reds next five opponents are all over .500 while the Reds dwell two games under.

The remainder July can be a make or break month for this team. With the quality of opponents on tap, it could be a tough jaunt to enjoy.

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Friday, Sep 1919 Sep7:15at St. Louis CardinalsBuy Tickets

Tags: Atlanta Braves Baseball Cincinnati Reds MLB New York Mets Pittsburgh Pirates San Francisco Giants St Louis Cardinals

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