Starting pitching will be key for the Reds who look for a series-split in the Ohio Cup vs. the Guardians

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer (17) catches a throw as Cleveland Guardians right fielder slides.
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer (17) catches a throw as Cleveland Guardians right fielder slides. / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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Reds Country, it was a week unlike any other. For starters, the Cincinnati Reds (9-26) had their first winning week of the year going 4-3 as they took two of three from the first-place Milwaukee Brewers before splitting a four-game set in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. However, that doesn't come close to telling the whole story.

After going 31 games to open the season without a quality start from their rotation, Cincinnati starters tossed three in four games in the Steel City. Unfortunately, the final of those quality starts will go down in the history books for all the wrong reasons.

To say rookie Hunter Greene was sensational on Sunday afternoon is a massive understatement. The fireballing right-hander held the Bucs hitless for 7.1 innings before yielding the mound to Art Warren who recorded two outs without allowing a base hit.

Amazingly, it wasn't enough because, for the sixth time since 1900, the Reds lost without allowing a hit as they fell to Pittsburgh 1-0. If there was ever a game that was a microcosm of the Redlegs' 2022 season, Sunday was certainly it.

Can the Reds earn a series-split in the Ohio Cup?

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Guardians (16-17) return to Progressive Field after dropping two of three over the weekend to the Minnesota Twins who Cleveland trails by three games in the American League Central. If history is any indication, the Reds are exactly what the doctor would prescribe to get the Guardians over the .500 mark.

To call the Reds and Guardians "rivals" is being incredibly generous. In actuality, Cleveland has dominated the series in the quest for the Ohio Cup. Since 1997 the Guardians own a decisive 71-54 advantage including a blistering 39-24 record at Progressive Field.

Additionally, Cincinnati has not won a series in Cleveland since 2018 and you have to go all the back to 2014 to find the last time the Reds captured the season series. After dropping the first two games of the Ohio Cup at Great American Ball Park in April, the best the Reds can do now is split the season series and hope for better results next year.

Previewing the pitching matchups: Reds vs. Guardians

Reds starting pitcher Connor Overton vs. Guardians starting pitcher Zac Plesac

Connor Overton (1-0 1.59 ERA) gets the call in tonight's opener opposing Zach Plesac (1-3 4.68) of the Guardians. What more can you say about the Cincinnati Reds right-hander?

Making three starts since joining the club on April 30th, Overton has allowed just three runs on 12 hits in 17 innings of work. In addition, the former Pittsburg Pirate, snapped the Reds MLB record for futility when he mercifully notched the first quality start of the 2022 campaign for the Redlegs following 31 failed attempts.

It's been tough going of late for Zach Plesac. The right-hander has allowed 14 earned runs in his last 15 frames covering three starts. Many of his problems are directly linked to his inability to find the strike zone. Plesac has issued 10 free passes in his last three starts after allowing just two in his previous three outings.

Even though he's winless in three career starts versus the Cincinnati Reds, Plesac has been a tough customer the last two times the clubs have met. Tossing 15 innings, the Ball State alum has surrendered just three runs on seven hits while punching out 13 Reds.

Reds starting pitcher Tyler Mahle vs. Guardians starting pitcher Cal Quantril

Wednesday's series finale will feature Tyler Mahle (2-4 5.89 ERA) battling Cal Quantrill (1-2 3.93 ERA) for Terry Francona's squad. Mahle's last two starts have been exactly what Reds Country anticipated seeing this season.

Hurling 11 effective frames, the California native has held the opposition to six hits while racking up 14 K's. Interestingly, Mahle is still seeking his first career victory against Guardians in what will be their fifth matchup.

If Mahle is to capture that elusive first win, he'll have to find a way to retire Jose Ramirez. Cleveland's All-Star third baseman is 3-for-8 lifetime versus the Cincinnati right-hander with a triple and a home run.

Cal Quantrill is off to an excellent start in his 2022 campaign. The 27-year-old right-hander has surrendered more than three earned runs only once in his six outings this year. However, Quantrill has walked three or more batters in four of those appearances. Patience will be a key for the Cincinnati hitters tomorrow night.

Not only has the starting pitching sprung to life, but the bats, the past two games notwithstanding, are displaying a pulse as well. Over their last seven contests, the Cincinnati Reds are slashing .260/.341/.443 as a team and have dented the plate 41 times.

The good news is there's plenty of credit to go around. Five Reds hit over .290 last week led by catcher Tyler Stephenson who hit .409 with a homer and seven ribbies while outfielder Tyler Naquin contributed 10 hits to enable him to hit at a .400 clip.

Cincinnati is also getting offensive production from unlikely sources. Centerfielder Albert Almora Jr. hit .308 while sporting an impressive .357 OBP last week. Talk about positive first impressions, the former sixth-overall pick is slashing .320/.346/.400 since having his contract selected from Triple-A Louisville on May 4th.

Last but not least, we can't ignore Mike Moustakas. Moose has been hitting the ball with authority. Over the last two weeks, Moose has been in beast mode. Slashing .326/.431/.651 with a ridiculous 1.083 OPS, the left-handed slugger has smashed three homers while driving in seven.

At last, Mike Moustakas is providing the type of production the Reds envisioned when they signed him to the richest free-agent deal in club history prior to the 2020 season. Better late than never, right?

Prediction: Reds vs. Guardians

Can the Reds actually capture their first series in the Land since 2018? Not so fast, my friend. Even with their best teams, winning in Cleveland is a near impossibility for the Redlegs.

Look for the Reds and Guardians to split their brief two-game set before Cincinnati takes off to the Great White North to tangle with an imposing Toronto Blue Jays offense.

Next. Predicting the Reds rotation after the trade deadline. dark