Apr 4, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee (33) pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the second inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Three Up, Three Down - 4/15/13 (Reds vs Phillies)

Well, the ole’ wagon feels a lot lighter today, doesn’t it?

The Reds are a terrible team. We should all stop watching. Who wants to start rooting for the Cardinals? It’s not too late to jump ship now!

All things I’ve heard or seen from the “community” of Reds fans over the past 48 hours. Give. Me. A. Break.

The Reds got swept in Pittsburgh over the weekend, putting an end to a blistering cold road trip that saw the good guys win only once. The Reds dropped two of three in St. Louis before coming into PNC Park in Pittsburgh to drop three in a row against the rival Pirates. This brings the Reds record to 5-7 on the season, two games below .500 and in third in the National League Central.

Cliff wrote a good piece earlier today about the early season woes, and mentioned that anyone claiming “It’s only April — calm down!” should turn in their fan card. Cliff is an excellent writer and has terrific insight day in and day out, but on this point I need to disagree with him. The fact is, it IS still only April, and everyone DOES need to calm down. The Reds offense is one of the most efficient machines in baseball, currently 5th in Runs scored. Imagine what this offense can do when the bat of Jay Bruce finally makes the trip North from Spring Training!

As has been pointed out (and thoroughly disregarded) countless times in Redsland lately, the Reds were 4-8 at this point last season. Some are arguing that 2013 is technically the worst start, considering we’ve lost 5 games in a row. What people are already forgetting is the fact that this team beat both a very good Anaheim Angels and a very good Washington Nationals team to start the season. I don’t care if they’re consecutive — 5 losses are still 5 losses.  If the Reds had been swept by the Nationals and won the series against the Pirates, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. Sure, losing to a division opponent sucks, but it’s certainly not the end of times. I mentioned in my first post of the 2013 season that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Reds were struggling to stay above .500 through April due to the toughness of the schedule, and indeed, that’s where we find ourselves now.

I digress. Here’s the three up and three down for the series vs. the Phillies.

 

Three Up

Brandon Phillips

How clutch has BP been lately? He has certainly filled the void, so to speak, that Ryan Ludwick left in the cleanup role. Dat Dude has 14 RBIs on the early season, good for second in the National League behind only John Buck of the Mets. He’s got 4 bombs, is hitting .327/.346/.653, and is one of the only Reds hitters currently “on” when it comes to hitting in RISP situations. Players like Brandon Phillips are why the Reds have had success over the past few years. He’s very consistent — almost always good both offensively and defensively.

April 14, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) runs the bases against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 10-6. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Joey Votto

HE HIT A HOME RUN! ALERT THE PRESS! WE DON’T NEED TO TRADE HIM! That’s right folks, Joey Votto hit a Home Run in an actual Major League Baseball game. No longer should we be clamoring for his trade or outright release.

Sarcasm is fun.

Votto is Votto. Anyone who thought he would go the rest of his career without hitting a home run seriously needs to get their brain checked out. This guy is a winner, day in and day out. He’s already amassed 20 walks, 9 more than the second place guy (someone named Albert Pujols) and only one less than Pujols and third place Prince Fielder COMBINED. The fact is, if you don’t throw a strike, Joey isn’t going to swing at it. If you do throw a strike, he’ll think about swinging. If you throw something in his wheelhouse, turn around and watch it fly, baby.

Mat Latos

Ace #2 will need to become Ace #1, at least for the next 15 days. Latos, who generally struggles in April, is off to a pretty good start in 2013 despite having no wins to his record. All because of that meddling bullpen. I can just see Latos cowering in the corner, cursing the bullpen like a Scooby-Doo villain curses the kids of Mystery, Inc.

Latos currently sports a 3.26 ERA, which is much better than it was in April 2012. However, he’ll need to get that pitch count down (currently throwing about 101 pitches per game) if he wants to get that first win. Because honestly, I don’t think we can count on the bullpen just yet.

 

Three Down

Jonathan Broxton

What was wrong with the big fella yesterday? Broxton looked like he had never pitched on the major league stage before. Actually, he looked worse than Phil Irwin, who actually HADN’T pitched on the major league stage prior to Sunday’s game. I think we can all point to the common factor in the Broxton equation. You just can’t go a week without pitching in the MLB as a reliever. I’m not one to point fingers or place blame, especially to someone who has found a lot of success in his career, but c’mon Dusty.

April 12, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier (21) on the field before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Todd Frazier

What goes up, must come down. Frazier, who was arguably off to the hottest start in the MLB through the first two series, came crashing back down to Earth during the road trip. Frazier hit .105 during the two series with the Cardinals and Pirates, and was only able to record two hits in 19 ABs. Hopefully there’s something in the water at GABP that can get this guy back to his meteor he was riding before leaving Cincinnati.

Johnny Cueto

It’s sad, but seeing Cueto leaving games early due to injury is starting to become expected. I wince every time he turns to pitch, his arm herking and jerking in all kinds of unpleasant directions. How long can he keep up throwing like that if he’s going to get injured this often? Fortunately Tony Cingrani, the guy likely to take Cueto’s place in the rotation in the mean time, is off to a blistering start in AAA ball. Unfortunately, we all know that AAA does not equal MLB.

 

What to expect in the series vs. the Phillies

The Phillies, like the Reds so far in ’13, are a team that is much better on paper than they are on the field. They’re off to a 6-6 start, having lost series against Atlanta and Kansas City (both 1-2) and won series against the Mets and Marlins (both 2-1).

The biggest storyline out of Philadelphia has to be the pitching (or lack thereof) of Roy Halladay. Halladay was known only a short while ago as one of the league’s most dominating pitchers. And in fact, I’m sure he’ll be able to turn it on very soon. Fortunately, the Reds won’t have to face him in this series.

Unfortunately, first up for the good guys is Cliff Lee. Lee is pretty much dominating every hitter he faces early on, sporting a minuscule 1.08 ERA in 16.2 innings. He hasn’t walked a batter yet, and has accrued 14 Ks. He’ll face Bronson Arroyo, who’s stats obviously aren’t that good. This game will be on ESPN Monday Night Baseball, for those of you interested.

Game two will pit Homer Bailey against Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick comes into the game sporting a 5.40 ERA, but rebounded nicely from a 4-13 loss against the Royals with a 2 Earned Run victory against the Mets. Bailey has had the opposite luck in his last two games, following up the 15-0 win against the Nationals with his 0-10 loss against the Cardinals.

Game three will pit Mike Leake against John Lannan. Leake has yet to win this season, but hasn’t pitched as terribly as pro-Chapman critics claimed he would before the season started. Lannan hasn’t gained a win yet either, however both of the games he’s started so far for the Phillies have resulted in wins for the club.

This series will go along way in either building momentum or crushing egos for the Redlegs. They desperately need a win, but I just don’t see it happening against Cliff Lee. That’s right Reds fans, don’t be surprised if we lose another game tonight. With that being said, I expect the Reds to win the series 2-1. Whether that will happen or not is anyone’s guess, but another series victory is sorely needed, not only for the team, but for the fans.

Tags: Baseball Cincinnati Reds MLB NL Central

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