The “Rivalry” is on.
Some time back, I had a poll asking if the Reds-Cards rivalry was still around due to the players or the fans. The results were closer than I thought they would be. Of those that voted, 45% believe it is due to the players while 55% believe the fans keep this going. I thought the fans would receive a much higher percentage. I thought it would be at least 75%.
Why is that? Have you ever seen the back-and-forth that occurs on Twitter? On message boards? Within comments sections of respective newspaper websites? Facebook pages even? It’s there in full force and on a grand display. We don’t hear as much chatter from the opposing clubhouses.
No one would question that words sparked this. Call those infamous words from Brandon Phillips spiteful, deriving out of jealousy of the Cards, whatever adjective(s) you wish to attach to them. That’s been two years. The rhetoric from the teams themselves doesn’t seem to carry, especially this year.
Could that be due to the new regime within the Cardinals dugout? No LaRussa. No Duncan. Don’t completely bet on it. Cards skipper Mike Matheny looks forward to this series. I won’t quote exactly what Matheny said (but you can read it here) because I don’t want to put another quarter in Bart Scott’s pocket.
For this season, the Reds own a 5-4 edge over the Cards. There are 6 remaining games between them: three this weekend and three at the end of the regular season. No matter what anyone says, these carry importance. For the Reds, a sweep this weekend would put the Cards ten full games behind them in the NL Central. Winning 2 of 3 would increase the Reds lead by one game, making that lead eight games.
For St. Louis, a sweep at GABP would put the Cards four games behind Cincy. They would definitely be within striking distance. And if you’re waiting for some reference to what they overcame last season, here ya go. They have been through this before. Yes, they had help, but St. Louis had to play well in order to make that happen. They received the cooperation they needed from the rest of the National League. Winning 2 of 3 would bring the margin down to 6 games.
On the scary side of things, the three pitchers the Reds have going in this series are a combined 5-11 in their careers against the Cardinals. Mat Latos is 1-3. Mike Leake is 1-2. Homer Bailey is 3-6. Bailey and Bronson Arroyo are the only Reds starters to nab wins against the Cards this season. In the four wins St. Louis has, three have come from a starter.
This might be the key to the series: who is the beneficiary of better starting pitching? The Cardinals boast the NL’s best offense. The Reds were down earlier in the season, but they are now in the top half in many NL offensive categories.
These teams are little similar in overall pitching, but when you peel back a bit, you see the differences.
STL: 57 wins (1st), 3.45 ERA (2nd), .258 (9th)/.310 (T6)/.383 (3rd), 1.25 WHIP (T6), 72.9 LOB% (6th)
CIN: 51 wins (6th), 3.71 ERA (5th), .262 (12th)/.310 (T6)/.417 (10th), 1.25 WHIP (T6), 74.6 LOB% (2nd)
STL: 21 losses (5th), 4.05 ERA (10th), .242 (6th)/.317 (8th)/.393 (9th), 1.29 WHIP (8th), 27 IS% (48-177)
CIN: 17 losses (9th), 2.78 ERA (1st), .223 (2nd)/.308 (3rd)/.345 (3rd), 1.26 WHIP (5th), 23 IS% (36-158)
See all these bullpen categories I have listed? A week and a half ago, the Reds ‘pen was at the top or no worse than second in all of them. As of late, the Reds bullpen has stumbled. In the recent split with the Phillies and even going back to the the four-game set against the Cubs. In the last 8 games for teh Reds ‘pen…
Cubs: 10.1 IP, 6 runs allowed, 10 hits allowed
Phillies: 12.2 IP, 8 runs allowed, 19 hits allowed
Total: 23.0 IP, 14 runs allowed, 29 hits allowed
Not what we have been seeing for the majority of the season. In five of these previous eight games, the ‘pen has surrendered runs, On two of those occasions, it was five runs. Yes, they had a few innings to pitch in those two, 5.2 IP in one game and 3.2 IP in another.
Quieting the Cards bats is paramount for a series win.