Off to the Desert


The beginning of a West Coast trip. In the past those trips have been none too kind to the Reds. There is a sort of bonus for this six game trip…it begins in Arizona for three games against the Diamondbacks.

The Reds (and the rest of the National League) learned one thing about the D’backs last season: if you get to their bullpen early, you will win. Another thing we all learned: if you get to the bullpen late, you have a great chance of pulling off a comeback. You can point to all the strikeouts that D’backs batters had last season as a gaping hole, but the bullpen was an even bigger one.

There have been a few changes in Arizona. Positionally, there’s been a change at first and third. Adam LaRoche (first) and Mark Reynolds (third) depart. Enter Juan Miranda at first and Melvin Mora at third. Positive changes? Nor from a power perspective. Sure, there should be less strikeouts from Miranda and Mora, but the power will fall off significantly as well.

The biggest off-season change was at the closer position. GM Kevin Towers brought in former Mariners closer J.J. Putz. Putz hasn’t been “the” closer for a couple of years, but that’s not to say he’s lost his touch. Two saves in two opportunities. Think what you will about Putz, but he had a couple of nice seasons while in Seattle. I think this is a huge upgrade.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series. It’s interesting to note that Cincy will face the 1-2-3 of the D’backs rotation.

Game 1: Travis Wood (season: 1-0, 1.29 ERA; career v. D’backs: 1-1, 3.18 ERA) v. Ian Kennedy (season: 0-0, 4.50 ERA; career v. Reds: first start)
Game Time: 9:40 PM EDT

Wood will be making his third career start against Arizona. It was a mixed bag for him last season as he won in Arizona (6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO) and lost to the D’backs at GABP (5 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO). In his winning effort at Chase Field, the only run Wood surrendered was on a home run to the now departed Mark Reynolds. Here’s how Wood has fared against the current players on Arizona’s roster.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Xavier Nady did get the start in left field.. He’s a righty (RHB have a .231 BA v. Wood, lefties hit .159) while Gerardo Parra is a lefty. Another possible shocker could be former Red (very briefly) Willie Bloomquist getting the start at short. He’s played in all 5 D’back games to this point due to an abdominal strain to Stephen Drew.

For Kennedy, he hasn’t really faced a significant number of Reds hitters. Only Edgar Renteria (3-6), Ramon Hernandez (3-5, HR, 3 RBI) and Jonny Gomes (0-3) have ever faced the former Yankee. The best way to go about this is how lefties and righties fare against Kennedy. With Kennedy being a righty, you would think lefties hit him a bit more. Not so. RHB have posted a .254 BA while LHB are .213. As far as the long ball, Kennedy is an equal opportunity giver: 16 HR to LHB, 17 to RHB.

I don’t foresee any massive changes to the Reds lineup for Game1 of the series.

Game 2: Bronson Arroyo (season: 1-0, 3.86; career v. D’backs: 3-3, 4.63) v. Daniel Hudson (season: 0-1, 4.50; career v. Reds: 1-1, 1.80)
Game Time: 8:10 PM EDT

Arroyo has had a bit of a battle with the current crop of Diamondbacks. Go up and down this table and it’s really easy to see who loves to see Arroyo and who doesn’t.

If Miguel Montero were slumping (which he isn’t), he would be salivating in seeing Arroyo on the bump. But we know what Arroyo brings to the table. He is well aware of the fact that this game will be the fifth game in a stretch of nine consecutive days where the Reds play. If the bullpen was used in Game 1, he will stay out there to save his pen. He’s not afraid of putting up a “bad game” if it means saving the arms of his teammates.

Simply put, we could see Arroyo surrender a homer or two, maybe even more. Not saying that’s what will happen but this is not a ballpark that keeps a lot of balls from the fences.

The Reds got a look at Daniel Hudson for the first time on August 17 of last season. Did he ever have an outing. Unfortunate that his 10 SO effort resulted in a loss. That didn’t deter him from coming into GABP and completely silencing the Reds bats in his second go around: 8 IP, 8 SO, 4 H. Yep, no yielded no runs that outing. That’s 18 SO in two career starts v. the Reds. I look for more of the same. You would too by looking at this…

This isn’t a particularly good matchup for Cincy.

Game 3: Mike Leake (season: 1-0, 3.00; first career start v. D’backs) v. Joe Saunders (season: 0-1, 3.00; career v. Reds: 0-2, 5.40)
Game Time: 4:10 PM EDT

If we see the same Mike Leake we witnessed in his first outing of the season, odds are things are looking excellent. Leake baffled Astros hitters while allowing only 3 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings of work. That would be a welcome sight to Reds fans, but that would also make for an even more difficult decision once Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey return from the DL.

Joe Saunders is a bit of an enigma. He was a piece of the deal in which Arizona sent Dan Haren to the Angels. The lefty hasn’t exactly had any measure of success since the deal. He’s 3-8 in his time as a D’back.

I bet Hernandez gets a start this game. The way I remember is that Ryan Hanigan catches Arroyo and Hernandez catches for Volquez. The others are based on matchups. This is a matchup that favors the Reds with Hernandez as the starter. The only regulars that have struggled against Saunders are Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto. With this game as a getaway game, don’t be surprised to see at least one of the two sit this one with a three game set in San Diego looming. Then again, it looks like a game in which Scott Rolen is tabbed to sit out as well.

Although with the table above you can see which Reds hit Saunders, I’m not so sure it really matters. For his career batting splits against Saunders are .277/.334/.431. He can be hit and he will walk a batter or two…or even more.

It will be interesting to see what Dusty Baker does for this one…

Now that you have a bit of info on the pitching, what about the guys swinging the bats…

Hot and Not (yes, I renamed it!):

(Reds) Hot:
1. Brandon Phillips: 11-25 (.400), HR, 4 RBI
Not a whole to say about the way BP has started the season. He’s just carried over from his spring into the regular season.

2. Ryan Hanigan: 5-10 (.500), 2 HR, 4 RBI
He just gets better and better.

3. Paul Janish: .444 (8-18), 3 RBI
This was the one and only concern surrounding Janish. If he keeps this up (which hitting .444 is unrealistic, but you know what I mean), a piece posted on FanGraphs (just today!) concerning Zack Cozart may be deemed unfounded.

Not: Jonny Gomes: 2-13 (.153)
Sure he’s got 8 BB, but do you honestly think the Reds like seeing Gomes not driving in runs?

Desert Heat:
1. Willie Bloomquist: 8-23 (.348), HR 4 RBI
Again, Stephen Drew is the guy at short for Arizona, but Bloomquist has more than held down the fort in Drew’s absence.

2. Miguel Montero: 9-19 (.474), 2 HR 3 RBI
Also leads the team in total bases (16). Has a career 34% (62-181) of throwing out potential base thefts.

1. Kelly Johnson: 4-23 (.174), RBI
2. Justin Upton: 4-22 (.182), HR, 3 RBI

Being at Chase Field could aid these two in breaking out of their early slumps.

On paper, this looks like a series in which the Reds should be able win at least two games.