Cincinnati Reds: Nick Senzel takes his rookie tour to Philadelphia

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 27: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates at second base after hitting a RBI double in the fifth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on May 27, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati 8-5. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 27: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates at second base after hitting a RBI double in the fifth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on May 27, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati 8-5. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /
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CINCINNATI, OH – JUNE 02: Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Great American Ball Park on June 2, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Previewing the pitching matchups

Tyler Mahle (2-5 4.26 ERA) opposes the Phillies’ Zach Elfin (5-5 3.02 ERA) in Friday night’s opener.  Mahle will be making his second career start against Philadelphia and let’s hope it goes better than the first. In that start, the right-hander lasted just 1 inning allowing 6 hits 3 runs including 2 homers.

The 24-year-old California native has been a different pitcher away from Great American Ball Park this season. Mahle is 0-5 with 4.96 ERA in 8 starts outside of Cincinnati. Hopefully, Citizens Bank Park is the locale where Mahle flips the script on that narrative.

Philadelphia right-hander Zach Elfin is making his first start since spending time on the 10-day IL due to back stiffness. A strong argument can be made that Elfin has been the Phillies best starter this season. Zach Elfin has already tossed two complete games this season. Pounding the strike zone has been the key to his success. In 65.2 IPs he’s fanned 51, while only allowing 14 walks.

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Saturday afternoon finds Tanner Roark (4-4 3.47 ERA) battling Philadelphia’s Nick Pivetta (3-1 6.14 ER). There will be no surprises when Roark toes the rubber. He’s faced the Phillies 22 times in his career and is 6-9 with 4.29 ERA in 20 starts.

Citizens Bank Park has been a house of horrors for the Cincinnati Reds’ right-hander. Tanner Roark is 3-6 with a 5.30 ERA allowing 64 hits in 56 innings. J.T. Realmuto has wore Roark out in their meetings. The Phillies All-Star catcher is hitting .448 in 28 career at-bats. Hopefully, Phils’ manager Gabe Kapler will give Realmuto Saturday off.

If there was a poster boy the for the “kill the win” crowd, Nick Pivetta’s face would be plastered all over the place. In his 6 starts, Pivetta has gone more than 5 innings just once. However, his last start against the Los Angeles Dodgers was his best by a wide margin. Throwing 6 shutout innings Pivetta allowed only 3 hits, while whiffing 9 without surrendering a walk.

Get your popcorn ready because Sunday afternoon is going to be a show. Sonny Gray (2-5 3.54) faces Phillies All-Star Aaron Nola (6-1 4.63 ERA). Sonny Gray has been nothing short of excellent over the last month. In his last 4 outings the right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA. Tossing 22 innings, Gray has only allowed 20 hits and fanned 27 opposing hitters.

Left-handed hitters have been completely neutralized by the Nashville native. Sonny Gray has limited lefties to a .175/.223/.233 slash line. To drive the point home, Gray has whiffed Bryce Harper 4 times in 7 career at-bats without allowing a hit.

Even though Aaron Nola hasn’t been as dominant in 2019 as he has in years passed, he’s still the man to beat in the Phillies rotation. Coming off a 2018 campaign in which he made his first All-Star team and placed third in the NL Cy Young balloting, expectations were sky high entering this season.

While racking up strikeouts at an impressive rate, control has been an issue for the right-hander. Walking 31 in 70 innings his 2.55 K/BB rate is by far the worst of his 5-year career. Nola has been great against the Reds, going 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 4 career starts. He’s also dominated Joey Votto, who is 0-11 lifetime against Nola.