Well Reds fans, there’s nothing like a sweep to cure the headache of being swept. Told you not to jump off the wagon just yet!
Those of you who were worried about the Reds after their three game series with the Pirates should now feel at ease after watching the good guys sweep the Philadelphia Phillies, a team the Reds have had severe problems with in the very recent past. And how did the Reds secure the sweep? With very, very good pitching.
Steve wrote a recap of the series yesterday, so I’ll spare you the details and just point you over in that direction. I do have some things to take away from this series, however:
First and foremost, it’s a long season. Just as getting swept by the Pirates didn’t mean anything, sweeping the Phillies also doesn’t mean much. At the end of the day, it’s three wins. It’s the difference between 97 wins and 94 wins. Both of those totals (probably) get you into the playoffs.
Secondly, It’s far too early in the season to be calling for certain players to get more or less playing time. The Devin Mesoraco backers have been out in full force lately, and rightfully so. Mesi has proven he can hit, and with Leake’s gem tonight, has shown that he’s capable of catching a good game. But until he can show the reliability and consistency that Ryan Hanigan brings to the team day in and day out, he’ll be starting every fifth game. The same goes for other platoons (Heisey/Paul being the most significant). The struggles or successes of a given player this early on can be attributed to a hot streak or a cold streak and nothing more or less.
Here’s the Three Up, Three Down for the series vs. the Miami Marlins:
Who would’ve thought I’d be saying this after Jonathan Broxton‘s nightmare appearance against the Pirates only a few days ago, but the Reds pitching staff is on fire. The three quality (and I mean quality) starts of Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake have given the bullpen adequate time to be completely rested after being completely gassed just a few days ago. It’s a wonder what good starting pitching can do, and for the most part, it was the efforts of the latter part of the rotation that made the sweep a reality. Tony Cingrani will get the start today against a Marlins team who doesn’t project to be all that good this Summer. Will he join the party?
DatDudeBP continues his reign of terror against opposing pitching, getting things done with runners in scoring position in nearly half of RISP situations. That’s production. He’s currently tied for the league lead in RBIs, with huge names and huge starts like John Buck, Chris Davis and Prince Fielder. He’s off to one of the hottest starts in the MLB, in a lineup spot he wasn’t supposed to hold.
Is BP our new cleanup hitter? What happens when Ryan Ludwick comes off the DL? If only we could find someone to plug in the 2 hole…oh wait…
Cozart, the most recent resident of the second man up spot in the batting order, has been raking in his new role. He’s hitting .385/.407/.731 in the 2 hole, compared to .097/.094/.290 down in the 7 spot. Cozart definitely seems to respond to where he’s placed in the batting order. Last year his splits were also very telling, batting .324/.378/.490 in the second spot compared to .223/.262/.379 when batting leadoff in 2012. So it seems natural that Cozart should have been considered for the 2 spot over Chris Heisey. However, it doesn’t matter now. Cozart is now sitting pretty between Choo and Votto, and has already compiled 10 hits in 6 games, compared to 3 hits in 8 games when batting 7th.
There really aren’t a lot of Reds who didn’t perform at a high level against the Phillies, so this list is more or less a “cooling down” list. Heisey would qualify for that category. He was only able to walk away with one hit in the series vs. Philadelphia, a double in the second game of the series. Heisey is batting .157/.189/.275 on the young season, and seems to have already lost his “every day starter” status in Left Field to a platoon with Xavier Paul and Derrick Robinson, as well as his spot at the top of the order to the aforementioned Zack Cozart. Heisey could use a lift, so let’s see if he can get it in the form of the Miami Marlins.
Hanigan continues his titanic struggle at the plate. One would have to assume that the Reds everyday catcher will get things going sooner rather than later. Hanigan did get a hit in the 1-0 win over the Phillies on Tuesday, but that wasn’t enough to bring his average above .100 just yet. Meanwhile, Devin Mesoraco’s monster game last night has the fans in flux. How do you continue to root for the defensive star who’s struggling at the plate when there’s a hot-hitting young guy behind him? Hanigan will need to find a way to stay in the lineup. Defense only goes so far.
Frazier did hit a home run last night, but it was his only hit in the game, and served as his only hit in the series against the Phillies. The monster start that Frazier got off to has come crashing down. We’ve seen the monstrous numbers he can put up, but like any good player, he needs to stay consistent. His defense has been very good, making a series of nice plays at the hot corner over the entirety of the young season. Let’s see if he can get his bat going in full swing (pardon the pun) again.
What to Expect against the Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins underwent quite possibly the worst (certainly the most publicized) off-season fire sale in recent memory. Imagine the Reds trading away Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Chris Heisey, Devin Mesoraco and Xavier Paul for a haul of prospects, to leave Joey Votto alone on a team full of new faces. That’s pretty much what Marlins fans have had to deal with. Granted, some of the faces that the Marlins had last year were relatively new, and none of them were as entrenched in Marlins lore like Brandon Phillips or Bronson Arroyo are for the Reds, but still. Nearly every average to above average player was traded away, leaving a team of scrubs and prospects to compete day in and day out.
The saving grace for the club is Giancarlo Stanton, who has been off to a slow start on his own right. Miami has never been known for its overwhelming fan base, and whatever fans they did have had to be scorned by the big trade. Stanton is all these people have to hang on to, and he needs to get it going. Just not against the Reds, please and thank you.Game one will see Tony Cingrani taking on Jose Fernandez. Fernandez, a rookie like Cingrani, is having himself a nice start to the season. He comes in to Cincinnati with a 0.82 ERA through 11 innings, with only 1 Earned Run and 3 Walks vs 13 strikeouts. This should be a good matchup between two young, up and coming pitchers.
Game two will feature Mat Latos and Kevin Slowey. Slowey is a guy who’s had some trouble staying in the majors, and almost always has had a higher ERA. He’ll pitch game two of the series sporting a 2.04 ERA through 17.2 innings, with 4 Earned Runs, 5 Walks and 11 strikeouts.
The third game will pit Bronson Arroyo against Wade LeBlanc. LeBlanc has also struggled to stay in the majors during his time as a ballplayer, and is off to the worst start of the four starting pitchers the Reds will see. He’ll face Arroyo, who had a gem of a game one against the Phillies. LeBlanc currently owns a 6.75 ERA through 14.2 innings, having already given up 20 hits, which has been good for 11 Earned Runs. LeBlanc has walked 5 and struck out 14 on the young season.
EDIT: Thanks to commentor Beeker for pointing out that I only included three games at first. The Reds will indeed be playing their first four-game series of the season against the Marlins. The wrap-up game will feature Homer Bailey taking on Alex Sanabia. Sanabia owns a 4.24 ERA through 17 innings, and is fresh off a victory against the Washington Nationals. He’ll need to bring his A game against Bailey, who, with the exception of his start against the Cardinals, has been lights out this season.
I don’t expect Miami to put up much of a fight. But then again, this is baseball. Anything can happen.