The Washington Nationals defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 5-1 this afternoon, guaranteeing the Reds will be the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
Cincinnati’s National League Division Series opponent will be the San Francisco Giants, winners of the National League West. The Reds and Giants have never met in the postseason. The Reds won two of three against the Giants in Cincinnati in April, and split a four-game series in San Francisco in June.
The Reds will be facing a completely different lineup this time around however, as Giants outfielder and All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for high levels of testosterone. The Giants also traded for outfielder Hunter Pence at the trade deadline, a noted Reds killer. Pence has hit .289 in his career against Cincinnati, and has hit 14 home runs against the Reds, more than any other ball club. All-Star catcher Buster Posey is also one of the top offensive players in the game, entering tonight’s final game with a .337 average, 24 home runs, and 102 RBI.
The Giants also boast one of the best starting rotations in baseball, with Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong all posting ERAs under 3.50 this season next to former Cy Young winners Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito. Bumgarner and Zito are lefties, while Cain, Vogelsong, and Lincecum are right-handed.
Cain, who pitched a perfect game earlier this season, will start Game 1 against Johnny Cueto. Cain is 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA. Cueto is 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA. Two of Cain’s five losses were against the Reds. In his first outing in Cincinnati, he surrendered three earned runs on five hits, two home runs, in 6.1 innings and was out pitched by Mat Latos. In the second game in San Francisco, Cain allowed five earned runs on 11 hits, again two home runs, in 6.2 innings and lost as Mike Leake pitched a complete game and homered.
Cueto faced the Giants once this season in San Francisco, and allowed just two earned runs on six hits in six innings, but lost as Bumgarner pitched a complete game shut out.
Bumgarner will likely be the Game 2 starter, opposing Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo pitched well in his two starts against the Giants this season, but did not factor into the decision in either game. The first, in Cincinnati, saw Arroyo pitch five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on nine hits as Jose Arredondo got the win in relief. In the second, Arroyo allowed two earned runs and seven hits in six innings as Arredondo lost the game in relief.
Mat Latos will start Game 3. Latos notably has a checkered past with the Giants, and is no stranger to pitching against them as he spent three seasons in the division as a San Diego Padre. Latos won both of his starts against the Giants this season, beating Cain and Zito. His second start, in San Francisco, was outstanding, a complete game in which he allowed one run on just two hits and struck out seven.
Latos has owned the Giants in his career, with a 4-3 record and 2.19 ERA in 11 starts, including two complete games. He is especially dominant at AT&T Park, where he is 2-2 with a 1.67 ERA in six career starts, including both complete games, but he will face the Giants in Cincinnati.
The Giants have yet to announce their rotation beyond Games 1 and 2. They have stated that they will have a four-man rotation in the NLDS, and Tim Lincecum is expected to start at least one game, leaving Zito and Vogelsong for the final spot.
Games 1 and 2 will be in San Francisco, while the final three, if necessary, will be in Cincinnati. Game 1 will be played on Saturday, and Game 2 will be played the day after. The full schedule is as follows, game times TBA:
Game 1: Saturday, Oct. 6, Cueto (19-9, 2.78) vs. Cain (16-5, 2.79), aired on TBS
Game 2: Sunday, Oct. 7, Arroyo (12-10, 3.74) vs. Bumgarner (16-11, 3.37), TBS or MLB Network
Game 3: Tuesday, Oct. 9, TBA vs. Latos (14-4, 3.48), TBS
Game 4: Wednesday, Oct. 10, TBA vs. TBA, TBS or MLBN, if necessary
Game 5: Thursday, Oct 11, TBA vs. TBA, TBS, if necessary
Check back here at BlogRedMachine throughout the week for more coverage and more in-depth analysis of the Reds’ NLDS matchup against the San Francisco Giants.