Cincinnati Reds (56-55) vs. Cleveland Indians (56-55)
Monday, August 4, 2014: 7:05 p.m. at Progressive Field
The time since the All-Star break has been hellacious for Simon. A loser in all three of his starts, the first time All-Star in 2014 must now snap a skid of three consecutive losses on the road in Cleveland.
His last time out against the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 30, Simon allowed only two runs in seven innings of work, but received zero run support. He would ultimately be the loser, but he had finally come around to pitching solid baseball.
Simon has been at his best on the road, going 7-2 with a 2.45 ERA away from home in 2014. Curiously enough, the spot in the batting order that Simon has taken care of significantly more than the others is the cleanup spot. Outside of the number nine spot, which is usually reserved for a pitcher, the cleanup spot has the lowest batting average (.150), on-base percentage (.177) and slugging percentage (.200).
For as cold as Alfredo Simon has been, Corey Kluber has been the exact opposite, riding a blazing hot streak. Snubbed from the 2014 All-Star Game, Kluber has gone on a phenomenal role since the break. He has completed two games, and come within just an out of finishing the other. His last two starts have yielded 18 innings, no earned runs, five hits, and 18 strikeouts. His game scores from his last two performances rank at the top of the list in baseball for the entire season.
Since the Reds have never faced Kluber before, they may be best served continuing their recent trend of swinging early in the at-bat. For his career, Kluber is allowing a slashline of .417/.422/.673 on the first pitch. Although the Reds may have come out of their month-long slump Sunday in Miami, they now face the hottest pitcher in all of baseball.
Both teams sit with identical records in nearly identical predicaments. They are in the precarious position of having a cold week and being relegated to the bottom part of the standings for the remainder of the season. This will open a two-city, four-game series that each squad is desperate to come out on top in.