Winning Ways in May, While We Welcome a Wistful Winding City

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The 3 game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals provided Reds fans with plenty to talk about. Whether it was Joey Votto’s late inning heroics on Friday night, the superb starting pitching, or the drama that developed in the 9th inning of the series finally; there has been no shortage of topics for the Reds’ blogosphere.

Reds Hoping May Play will Stay

Perhaps lost in all of the hoopla surrounding this weekend was the fact that the Reds have put together a mighty impressive month of May. After losing the first two games of the month, the Reds’ record was 14-15 on May 3rd. They were 2.5 games behind the Cardinals, only a half game up on the Brewers/Pirates, and only 2 games in front of the last place Astros. The Reds went on to win 6 of the following 7 games. They have now won 9 of their last 11 games and are 9-4 overall for the month of May.  As of today, Cincinnati is a game and a half ahead of the Cardinals for first place in the division, 4 games up on the 3rd place Brewers, and a whopping 8 games ahead of the last place Astros.

A.B.C.D.E. (Adding Bailey & Cueto: Domination Effect)

What a difference 2 weeks can make. The improved play can most directly be attributed to the starting pitching. With the return of Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto (5/5 and 5/8 respectively) the Reds’ rotation has been markedly improved. The starting rotation combined for a 9-8 record with an ERA of 5.23 prior to the month of May. Reds pitchers were averaging 5.2 innings per start, with a WHIP of 1.419. For May, Reds starters are 7-2 with 3.10 ERA. They are averaging more than 6 innings per game, with a WHIP 1.251.

Certainly, outside of Volquez, the entire rotation has been effective. However, Cueto and Bailey have been downright dominating. Homer Bailey is 2-0 in his 2 starts, allowing only 1 earned run, 9 hits, and 1 walk, while striking out 12 over 13 innings. Not to be outdone, Johnny Cueto is also 2-0 after two starts. He’s allowed no earned runs, 8 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 9 over 13.2 innings.

How’s this for a “shot in the arm” for a Reds’ rotation that sorely needed it: Together, Bailey and Cueto have combined for a 4-0 record with an ERA of 0.33, with 21 Ks and only 4 walks.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bailey and Cueto have improved the Reds’ rotation. Here at BRM, we’ve been predicting Bailey’s 2011 breakout, and raving about Cueto’s performance. The superb pitching started last year with these guys. The Reds are 11-1 in Homer Bailey’s 12 starts since he came off the DL last August. He has a 3.03 ERA in those starts. As for Cueto, he was arguably the best pitcher for the 2010 NL Central Championship team. In 2010, Cueto put up a career best 3.64 ERA, mainly by reducing HR and BB allowed.

Both of these guys can dominate any lineup. They are still young enough that we should expect some bumps in the road. But with more consistency and continued improvement, Bailey and Cueto are proving to be the difference makers in the rotation.

Up Next: The Windy City, What a Pity

The Reds will look to continue their hot play tonight, as they open a 2-game series against the 5th place Cubs.  The Cubs offense doesn’t offer much power. They are 2nd in the NL in batting average, yet rank 13th in HR and 11th in runs scored. Even worse, they might be the slowest team in baseball. Drew Stubbs has nearly twice as many SB (13) as the entire Cubs team (7).  The Cubs rotation has been miserable thus far, posting a league worst 5.44 ERA. The bullpen currently sports a respectable 3.16 ERA. They’ve blown 5 saves on the season, the exact same number as the Reds bullpen. Defensively, the Cubs rank among the bottom half of the NL, having committed 25 errors to date.

Probable Pitchers

Tonight: RHP Homer Bailey (2-0, 0.69 ERA) vs. RHP Carlos Zambrano (4-1, 4.35 ERA)
Tuesday: RHP Edinson Volquez (3-1, 5.74 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Garza (2-4, 4.17 ERA)

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