What to Watch: Reds and Cards

Been a while since the Reds played significant August games. Let’s all hope that the next three games are only the beginning of many meaningful games to come at GABP.

Just a bit of info. For the season the Cards hold a 7-5 lead against the Reds.

One key all season for the Reds success has been a mantra that manager Dusty Baker has preached…win the series. And that’s where I’m beginning with what to watch for this series.

If you win the first game of a series, you’re chances of winning the series, statistically speaking, are greatly increased. To win tonight, the Reds must beat their nemesis over the last two seasons in Cards ace Chris Carpenter. Nemesis might be an understatement. For ’09 and ’10, Carpenter has been virtually untouchable. 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA. It’s not been any better at GABP as Carpenter is 3-0 and holds a 1.59 ERA.

You can look at the pitching matchups and easily tell both managers set their rotations for this series pretty well. In games in which Carpenter, Garcia and Wainwright have started (the three tabbed to start), the Cards are 45-24 (.652) this season. The weak link has been Garcia. St. Louis is 11-10 in his starts this season. Add this. The Reds have gotten to Wainwright over the last two seasons: 2-3 with an ERA of 5.05.

We’ve covered the Cards pitching. We all know who is talked about the most on the offense…Albert Pujols. This is no different. From 2007-2010, Pujols has lit GABP all on his own. .320 batting average, 9 HR, 24 RBI, 24 R and 20 BB. Yes, those are only his stats in Cincy. They’re actually a little better if you add in the games in St. Louis. No, you can’t totally avoid Pujols, but you can limit his chances and see if Matt Holliday or Colby Rasmus can beat you. Against Cincinnati this season, Holliday is batting .325 with 2 HR and 10 RBI. Rasmus is only hitting .250, but has added 3 HR and 6 RBI. Don’t get lost on the right field situation. The Cards traded Ryan Ludwick (.324, 1 HR, 7 RBI v. CIN this season) to the San Diego and have been using John Jay and Randy Winn. Jay has contributed. In only 16 AB, he’s hitting .438 with 1 HR and 4 RBI. Winn has yet to take an AB against Reds pitching.

For the Reds, Dusty Baker goes with the trio of Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo. Cincy is 40-25 (.615) in games the three have started with Leake having the lowest winning percentage (11-9, .550). Leake has only faced the Cardinals once in his brief career and that was a win on May 15. He allowed 2 runs in 6 innings. Cueto is 1-1 in his two outings against the Redbirds, but his ERA is 8.18 in those games. Arroyo is 2-1 in 3 starts and his ERA is 4.22.

A lot has been made of the season NL MVP candidate Joey Votto is having. His batting average against St. Louis is .325 but he has produced only 2 HR and 3 RBI. Scott Rolen has done damage against his former club as well posting a .304 average with 4 HR and 10 RBI. Jonny Gomes has added a .355 average with 2 HR and 7 RBI.

If the Reds need another bat to step up in this series, it has to be the bat that belongs to Jay Bruce. He had a great game yesterday (3-4, 2 RBI), but he has struggled at the plate just as much as Drew Stubbs. Bruce has not hit a homer since June 30. Since that game, Bruce has lost 23 points off his batting average. His season stats against the Cards are not impressive either. A .244 average with only 2 RBI.

The series could come down to the bullpens and their effectiveness. Despite what has been happening with Reds closer Francisco Cordero, the Reds bullpen is just as good as the Cardinals. Compare:

  • Cards: 15-17, 3.74 ERA, 23 saves, .253 average against
  • Reds: 21-20, 3.95 ERA, 32 saves, .246 average against

The one stat that St. Louis’ bullpen distances itself is in walks (115 to 147). Reds fans all know how much walks will haunt.

One last thing. Defense. Giving up free at-bats and runs will haunt just as much, if not more, than walks. The Reds are 2nd in the NL in fielding percentage with a .990 and have committed only 43 errors. St. Louis is in the middle of the pack ranking 7th with a .983 fielding percentage on 72 errors made.

So, win the first game of the series by beating Carpenter, get Jay Bruce hitting, make no errors, limit the walks from the pen and whatever you do Dusty, limit the chances Albert Pujols has to beat us.

Actually, don’t even give Albert a chance…