Three Up, Three Down – 4/8/13 (Reds @ Cardinals)


Another series, another series victory for the Redlegs. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — if you want to win a division championship, you have to win season series. And that’s exactly what the Reds have done so far this season. In a matchup that many believe could be a NLCS preview, the Reds were able to take two of three from the visiting Washington Nationals to improve their record to 4-2 on the young season.

The bats really came out to play in this series. A 15-0 walloping that saw nearly every Red offensive player on the roster make a contribution started off the series on a high note. A loss came in extra innings as the Nationals’ bats answered with 5 HRs of their own in the second game. And finally, a good old fashioned close game of baseball found the Reds victorious again, as the deadly trio of Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman slammed the door in the 7th, 8th and 9th to secure the three run victory.

Really, the Reds have been playing textbook baseball. Winning four out of six games, should the Reds stay on that track, will result in 108 wins. Naturally we can’t expect that level of success, but to those freaking out over the two losses, remember, this isn’t football or basketball. It’s okay to lose in baseball, as long as you don’t lose more than you win.

Obviously, winning against division rivals will go a lot further to getting you into the playoffs than beating teams like the Nationals and Angels. Although a win against the Cubs might not be as sexy as a win against one of these teams, at the end of the day it’s much more important. The Reds now move into a series with the bitterest of division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. More on that in a minute. For now, here’s the Three Up and Three Down for the series vs. the Cardinals.

Three Up

Todd Frazier

The ToddFather is straight up raking. He’s leading or sharing the lead   in just about every major statistical category on a very offense-heavy Reds team, including Average, Home Runs, RBIs, OBP, Hits, and even Stolen Bases. His defense has been serviceable, and certainly hasn’t detracted from his overall value. His on-and-off the field antics are quickly making him one of my favorite players to watch and read about. You always like when good people do well for themselves, and it’s even better when that person is the vital cog to a winning machine.

Shin-Soo Choo

Apr 6, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman

Danny Espinosa

(8) turns a double play during the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo (17) at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, the shiny new Reds toy finds his way on the Three Up list. There just doesn’t seem to be anything Choo can’t do (and no phrase that can’t rhyme with his name, seemingly). Choo continues to find himself in the middle of every game, providing a key walk, hit, home run, stolen base or strong throw that gets people talking. As I’ve mentioned before, he’s a great fit for the Reds with his playing style. You can tell the guy just wants to win, which is exactly what this team is all about. Choo stole his first base of the season today, flying into second with reckless abandon, almost injuring the Nationals Shortstop in the process. If that doesn’t give you flashbacks of Charlie Hustle, I don’t know what will.

Jay Bruce

Bruce had a very good series against the Nationals, and I must admit that I am too hard on him most of the time. I don’t much care for streaky players, but when Bruce is on, it’s hard to hate him. Bruce was .375/.375/.563 with 6 hits (3 of them doubles) and 4 RBIs. These numbers aren’t representative of what Bruce would like to be as a player, but I’m sure he’ll take them over his series statistics against the Angels.

Three Down

Ryan Hanigan

Hanigan’s offense has been, well, terrible this season. Hanigan was hitless in the series against the Nationals, and has only one hit on the young season. He’s also already accumulated a passed ball, which is very rare for the catcher. While his defense, with the exception of aforementioned passed ball, has been up to par, it’s impossible to ignore the gaping hole in the 8 spot in the lineup. Either Hanigan needs to start producing offensively, or Devin Mesoraco could slowly but surely start seeing some more ABs. And, nothing against the younger catcher, but 2012 pitcher ERA tells us that we want Hani to catch, not Mesi.

Chris Heisey

March 2, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds left fielder Chris Heisey (28) cannot make the catch in the second inning against the Chicago White Sox during a spring training game at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Heisey, like Hanigan, was pretty non-existent in the Washington series. The replacement left fielder could only manage one hit in ten ABs for the good guys in the series, which certainly isn’t up to the bar the fans have set for him. These lists so early on in the year really don’t show much, but if Heisey doesn’t start getting it going, he could easily lose playing time to Xavier Paul, who has been putting on a pretty good show as of late.

(the mismanagement of) J.J. Hoover

Unfortunately for the young reliever, his name is being dragged through the mud by the more uniformed fans. The arm fatigue of Sean Marshall forced the Reds to enter the season one arm short in the bullpen. Instead of using relievers equally, it seemed as though J.J. Hoover was the go-to guy in every situation that called for a bullpen arm. Through six games, Hoover has been in four. He is right up there with the starters in terms of pitch count, coming in at an absurd 96 pitches. Meanwhile, fellow relievers Alfredo Simon and Sam LeCure have 91 pitches combined between them. I like that Hoover has been given the chance early, but you have to step back and scratch your head, wondering why he’s been used so much in comparison to the other very good arms in the Reds ‘pen.

What to Expect from the St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals always seem to field a great team, no matter who’s injured, who’s healthy, who’s hot and who’s not. The Reds/Cardinals series are always played right down to the wire, and always have playoff implications attached to them. The Cardinals are fresh off a 14-3 walloping of the defending champion San Francisco Giants, and took the series 2-1. Man, who were we supposed to root for in that matchup?

Mar 24 2013; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher

Yadier Molina

(right) and first baseman

Allen Craig

(left) enter the dugout after scoring runs in the third inning during spring training against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Something else that is usually brought to the table when the Reds and Cardinals square off is drama. The sparks fly when these two teams meet, a natural rivalry that has been multiplied by on-field and off-field incidents over the past handful of seasons. Anything can happen when the Reds play the Cardinals, but one thing’s for sure — it’ll be a good matchup.

The Cardinals are 3-3 on the season, having lost a series 1-2 to the Diamondbacks before getting revenge against the Giants. They’ve won 2 straight, and should the series with the Reds will be their first at home on the season. The momentum swing should definitely be in the Cardinals favor. Nothing would please me more than sending their fans home with three straight losses.

Fortunately the pitching matchups look to be in Cincinnati’s favor. We narrowly avoid facing bonafide ace Adam Wainright, instead sending out our own Ace.2 Mat Latos to face Jaime Garcia. Game 2 will pit Bronson Arroyo against Lance Lynn. The series will wrap with a game featuring Homer Bailey vs. Jake Westbrook.

The fans will be out in St. Louis, that’s for sure. The opening day intensity could very realistically lead to things escalating on the field. Should anything be said in any of the pre- or post-game interviews by either side, it’s conceivable that in combination with the drama of opening day, a brawl could break out. Let’s hope that the two teams can get together to play a professional baseball series without hitting any snags along the way. But, this is the Cardinals vs. Reds.