Three Up, Three Down — 5/10/13 (Reds vs. Brewers)


The Reds past series with the Braves is a very great microcosm for the season as a whole. When the offense is hot, it’s hot. When it’s cold, it’s frigid. We saw the team lose handily, but we also saw the Cardiac Kids comeback in the ninth of game 2. But all in all, we leave the series with a disappointing 1-2 record.

So where do the Reds go from here? They’re still healthily above .500, and in fact (despite two losses against the Braves) now find themselves second in the division, a half game up on Pittsburgh and 3 games back from the first place Cardinals. Looking at the schedule, you have to think that the Reds have a very good chance to find some consistent good play in the coming weeks. After coming off one of the toughest schedules to begin the year in the league, the Reds will perhaps find some comfort in a few familiar foes.

The first is this weekend series against the Brewers. This is the first time the Reds will see Milwaukee on the season, and boy are they struggling. They’ve lost six of their last seven, and come into GABP with an overall record of 15-17. After hosting the Brewers, the Reds go on a road trip to take on the Marlins, Phillies and Mets. All of three teams are suffering down at the bottom of the National League East, and all of them are well below .500. These are the teams the Reds need to beat to offset the losses suffered against greater competition.

We’ll preview the Brewer’s series below. But for now, let’s talk about who’s hot and who’s not.

Three Up

Shin-Soo Choo

Man, how clutch was that 9th inning bomb in game 2? I had a feeling when Choo came to the plate that the game was ours, and I was right. It seems as though Choo can do just about anything he sets his mind to offensively. If the team needs a quick run, he’ll hit it out of the park. If they need someone on base, there’s no one that’s doing it better in the league. And although we haven’t seen much of his base running yet, it should be noted that Choo is a decent base stealer as well.

There are rumbles about whether or not the Reds should try to sign Choo to a longer contract before the season ends. In my opinion, if a deal can be reached, I’d pull the trigger. For as fast as Billy Hamilton is, there’s nothing guaranteed about a guy who has a handful of ABs above AA, and has been struggling mightily with the AAA pitchers. Choo is quickly becoming the best leadoff hitter in the game, and the Reds would do well to sign him for three or four years.

Devin Mesoraco

April 12, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco (39) hits a RBI double against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Choo’s big bomb wouldn’t have meant much without the young catcher’s home run right before it. In my interview with Johnny Bench, I made sure to ask him his opinion on Devin Mesoraco, and it’s clear that the kid isn’t quite there yet. But when we see flashes of his potential, it’s enough to get you very excited for the future.

Alfredo Simon

Simon was generally ranked pretty low in April’s end-of-month power rankings by Steve, Josh and myself. However, there are certain outings and situations that can cause a player’s stock to soar overnight, and Simon’s appearance in game one against the Braves is a great example of such an occasion. Simon came in to a losing ball game to pitch two innings, which equals six batters. Simon struck out all six. It was a truly dominating appearance, and the flash was nice to see from a pitcher some fans had maybe thought couldn’t perform up to the Reds standards.

Three Down

Todd Frazier

Frazier’s struggles continue after one of the hottest starts in the league. Things didn’t get much better in the return to GABP against the Braves. He went 2-8 overall, with only a pretty meaningless RBI in the first game of the series. Unfortunately, we may be looking at the “real” Todd Frazier. Maybe not quite this bad, but certainly not as good as his early numbers suggested he might be. Of course, I could be wrong. But his home/road splits are troubling, and when he start struggling at home as well, you know you’re in for a couple of bad games.

Apr 29, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Cincinnati Reds left fielder Xavier Paul (26) breaks his bat as he drives in a run on a ground out to St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma (not pictured) during the fourth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier Paul

To be fair, our expectations for Xavier Paul as an every day left fielder shouldn’t be very high. He was the fifth outfielder for a reason, and was pretty good (bordering on very good) in that spot. However, since taking over after the injury to Chris Heisey, Paul has only 4 hits in his last 23 at bats. That’s not gonna cut it as an every day guy.

Mike Leake

The inclusion on this list isn’t necessarily about Leake’s play (although, to be honest, he hasn’t been that great), but more because of the Tony Cingrani problem. The fact that he’s being talked about as a potential option to send down to Louisville has to have him thinking. The unbiased eye says that when Johnny Cueto returns from injury, Mike Leake should be the one the odd man out. However, as we’ve seen, Dusty Baker‘s eye is isn’t exactly unbiased. I think Leake has a higher chance of sticking around than some may think, and it may even be hovering around 50/50.

What to Expect from the Milwaukee Brewers

The Reds will see the division rival Brewers for the first time this weekend, and it really couldn’t come at a better time. The Reds are starting to skid a little bit again, and the Brewers are definitely skidding. It will be a contest of who can reverse the ship the fastest, and you have to think that the Reds should be that team.

Apr 27, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun (8) gets a high five after the defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-4 at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Of course the first name you think of when you think Brewers is Ryan Braun. And indeed, the Brewer Left Fielder has been up to his old tricks again this season, hitting .321/.413/.587 with 7 homers and 24 RBIs. But the real surprise so far for the Brewers this season has been Yuniesky Betancourt. While filling in for the injured Aramis Ramirez at 3B, Betancourt has been raking. He’s up to 8 home runs now with 24 RBIs. For those keeping track at home, that’s better than Ryan Braun. Youngster Jean Segura has also been a pleasant surprise, hitting .328/.372/.513 with 4 homers and 8 stolen bases. I predicted at the beginning of the season that Segura could be a 40-40 guy at some point in his career, and he’s certainly showing the potential.

So with all of these scorching hot bats, how are the Brewers not winning games? Pitching. It always comes down to one or the other, doesn’t it?

Game One in the series will see youngster Tony Cingrani taking on Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo, like most of the Brewers pitching staff, is off to an ice cold start in 2013. He’s sporting a 4.50 ERA through 42 innings. Despite the high ERA, Gallardo has found his way to a 3-1 record. The Reds will be looking to add another loss to that column.

I will be at game two of this series, and I’ll get to see Mat Latos take on Marco Estrada. Estrada has the worst ERA of the starters for Milwaukee, coming in with a 6.05 mark through 38.2 innings. He’s died by the long ball, having already given up 11 homers on the season, tied for first in the MLB with Toronto’s Mark Buerhle. You have to think Great American Ballpark is Estrada’s worst nightmare. He’ll have to be on his A game, as Latos has been lights out lately.

The wrap up game will pit Bronson Arroyo against Wily Peralta. Peralta has also been struggling this season, as he’s sitting at a 5.54 ERA through 39 innings. Arroyo has been struggling of late as well (as far as Reds pitching standards go), so this is probably the best shot the Brewers have at taking one in Cincinnati.

This is an important series for the Reds to get back on track. The Brewers are down right now, and the Reds would do good to capitalize on their pitching struggles. Of course, I said the same thing about the Braves, and look how that ended up. Just goes to show that anything can happen in baseball.