After the lackluster performance of the Reds this past weekend at Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati will get one chance to move on to play another day (or series). Dusty’s crew will play Pittsburgh in a one-game Wild-Card playoff game Tuesday night at PNC Park.
The last three home games against the Pirates offered the Reds the chance to play that Wild-Card game at home, but instead seemed to roll over with very little offensive support for pitching that was sub-par, and fans that did not show up and had no enthusiasm…just kidding on that last point, because the attendance was over 40,000 for each game and from my vantage point (the TV set), I could sense they were very supportive and vocal.
For the Reds to be able to get past the Pirates and avoid four losses in a row and an early winter vacation, some things will have to happen. Perhaps some difference makers will need to be at play.
- Dusty Baker and his choice of lineup
- OBP buddies, Choo and Votto have to get on base
- Lineup needs to break the RISP hex
- Johnny Cueto continues to be old self
Point No. 1 – On August 28th, Dusty Baker moved Ludwick to fifth in the order. That shift meant that Brandon Phillips moved back to his more natural 2nd spot and had Votto and Jay Bruce batting third and fourth respectively. Choo seems to be more comfortable with Phillips behind him and having back-to-back lefties at No. 3 and cleanup has shown some dividends offensively.
The experiment with having Ludwick at the No. 2 spot failed miserably this weekend, with Luddy going 0-9 with a walk.
Point No. 2 – When Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto are getting on base with regularity, they score runs. As I wrote back on September 16th, when Choo and Votto get on base via walk or hit, the Reds Won-Loss record is much more impressive, but the lineup around them HAS TO PRODUCE once they get on (see Point No. 3).
Point No. 3 – (see point No. 2) The season long problem of this team driving in runs when runners are in scoring position has to end by Tuesday evening at game time. The Reds’ average with RISP in 2013 was .254. That was before this past weekend’s series against the Pirates. Shin-Soo Shoo and Joey Votto have been getting on base via hit or walk with record-setting frequency (career highs in base on balls for each). If they are able to continue to do this on Tuesday night, the numbers 2, and 4 through 8 have to get clutch and do their part and get these guys to home plate.
Point No. 4 – In the two games that Johnny Cueto has pitched since coming back from the DL, he has looked sharp. He pitched five innings of shutout baseball for the win against the Astros on the 16th of September and had a quality start against the Mets, pitching seven innings and got a no decision on the 23rd. Cueto has a lifetime record of 13-4 and an ERA of 2.37 against the Pirates and an even more impressive 1.90 at PNC park. You gotta think and believe that Cueto is back and is finding his groove, and if numbers don’t lie, Tuesday’s starting pitching should give them every chance to win.
If these difference makers can all click, I believe the Reds will be moving on to play against the St. Louis Cardinals who ended up with the best record in the National League at 97-65. Otherwise, it will be a long off-season.