Reds vs Twins: Three games in Minnesota will determine playoff berth

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 29: Tucker Barnhart #16 of the Cincinnati Reds slides into second unsuccessfully while Ehire Adrianza #16 of the Minnesota Twins trans the double play in the first inning at Target Field on April 29, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 29: Tucker Barnhart #16 of the Cincinnati Reds slides into second unsuccessfully while Ehire Adrianza #16 of the Minnesota Twins trans the double play in the first inning at Target Field on April 29, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) /
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Tyler Mahle #30 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Cleveland Indians
CINCINNATI, OH – AUGUST 4: Tyler Mahle #30 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Cleveland Indians. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

Previewing the pitching matchups: Reds vs Twins

Tyler Mahle (2-2 3.57 ERA) squares off against right-hander Jose Berrios (5-3 3.72 ERA) in tonight’s series opener at Target Field. Earlier this month, we identified Mahle as being a key to the Reds reaching the postseason and thee right-hander has more than rose to the occasion.

Over his last seven starts, Mahle has compiled an impressive 3.08 ERA and has not allowed more than three runs. Tossing 38 innings over that timespan, Tyler Mahle has fanned 46 and allowed just 23 hits.

Also, let’s hope history repeats itself. In one previous start against Minnesota, Mahle earned the victory in an 8-2 Cincinnati Reds win by hurling 6.1 frames of one-run ball and allowing only four hits and fanning seven Twins.

Who did Mahle defeat that night? None other than this counterpart this evening Jose Berrios. During that April 2018 start, Berrios tossed just three innings allowing four runs on five hits and issuing three walks. It’s safe to assume the Reds will be facing a very different pitcher tonight.

Berrios has not surrendered more than three runs in a start in over a month and won his last four decisions. Expect Cincinnati outfielder Nick Castellanos to be excited about the prospect of facing the Minnesota righty. Castellanos is 5-for-13 lifetime against Berrios with a homer and four RBIs.

Reds manager David Bell has yet to name a starter for Saturday and Sunday’s contest due to where the Reds may be positioned as for as the postseason is concerned. If the Reds have clinched a berth, don’t be surprised to see some kind of combination of Tejay Antone, Anthony DeScalfani and Michael Lorenzen to close out the regular season.

If the Reds find themselves in a must-win game Saturday, all signs point to Luis Castillo taking the hill. For all of Reds Country’s sanity, let’s hope it doesn’t come to this. But if the Reds are in another must-win situation Sunday, I’m sure Trevor Bauer will be going on short-rest once again to try and carry the Redlegs across the playoff threshold.

Twins skipper Rocco Baldelli has the luxury of setting his rotation for the postseason to his desire as Minnesota has already punched their postseason ticket. As a result, right-hander Michael Pineda (2-0 3.18 ERA) toes the rubber Saturday night and veteran southpaw Rich Hill (2-2 3.27 ERA) will close out the regular season at Target Field.

Pineda is making just his fourth start of the season after being activated following a suspension for PED use that he began serving late last year. The 31-year-old has never faced the Cincinnati Reds as a starter during his seven-year career.

Unfamiliarity will not be an issue with 40-year-old Rich Hill on Sunday. The lefty has faced the Reds a dozen times over his 16 years in the bigs. His last appearance against the Redlegs was arguably one of the best in his long career.

Pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hill allowed just two hits and whiffed 10 Reds in six shutout innings at Great American Ball Park last May. A trio of Reds sluggers have struggled mightily against Hill over the years. Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas and Joey Votto are a combined 2-for-26 lifetime versus Rich Hill.