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Know Your Enemy: Cincinnati Reds

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The Reds have been rolling of late, but how long will it last?

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Atlanta Braves
Oh, Canada: Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds are playing some good baseball of late, but can they keep it up against a 29-win White Sox club?
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve admittedly watched a lot of Chicago Cubs games in the past — not to root for them (goodness gracious, no), but to willfully cheer against them in essentially any circumstance possible.

It’s what happens when you support a team that has been “mired in mediocrity” for many years.

So I’ve witnessed several Reds-Cubs matinees, and the results (historically) have left me wanting to dive into a summer reading novel more than watch Anthony Rizzo hit bombs at Great American Ballpark.

But there’s been a pattern to those games. The Reds’ offense is never really the issue — Joey Votto should be a future Hall-of-Famer — it’s usually the pitching that never seems to show up.

The Reds rank 24th in baseball in team pitching this season. The pitching staff possesses a 4.66 ERA and a .261 BAA. This, so far, is an improvement from last year’s team pitching , which was second-worst in baseball.

Cincinnati really hasn’t had a prototypical ace on its staff since Bronson Arroyo left after the 2013 season. Yeah, it’s now approaching four years since Arroyo pitched in a major league game. I’m allowed to get old too, OK?

Anyway, while the Reds’ pitching has been better, the Sox should get some good swings off the three starters this series.

Luis Castillo gets the ball tonight for Cincinnati. He’s only 25, and was called up last June to try making at least one starter watchable on that staff. Castillo certainly impressed in his first year, ending it with a 3.12 ERA to go along with 98 strikeouts in 15 games started.

This year has been a bit different for Castillo. He’s had some difficulties countering the league’s adjustment to him, with a 5.85 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. His K/9 still is an impressive 8.7.

The Sox will then face Anthony DeSclafani on Tuesday night. DeSclafani was put into a starter role in early June and struggled early on, recording a 5.40 ERA after his first two starts against the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals.

Since then, he’s gone into James Shields mode and racked up a good amount of innings for manager Jim Riggleman. He went 6 13 apiece in his last two starts against the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. Let’s just hope the Sox don’t allow a grand slam to a Reds pitcher this series.

And finally, on Wednesday night, you’ll see 6-foot-5, 270-pound Sal Romano take the bump. Romano, as intimidating as he may seem on the mound, has struggled this season. May was his worst month by far, giving up a robust .298 BAA to go along with a 7.45 ERA.

However, June was a different story for Romano, much like the rest of the Reds pitching staff. He recorded a 3.90 ERA in the month, including an eight-inning performance against the Kansas City Royals and a seven-inning performance against the Detroit Tigers. Hopefully the Sox can halt the Cincinnati onslaught against AL Central teams.

But they’ll have to keep the Reds lineup under control, which is certainly no easy task. The heart of the Cincy lineup includes Votto, Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez — all three of whom could be potential All-Stars.

Center fielder Billy Hamilton has picked up his play of late, getting on base more and creating havoc once on those bases. I’m terrified if he gets on against Lucas Giolito (fast runner stealing on starter with long delivery).

Overall, the Reds are 10th in team batting in all of baseball. They’re a last place team that you can’t take lightly — just ask the Cubs.

Probables:

Monday, July 2: James Shields (3-9, 4.29 ERA) vs. Luis Castillo (5-5, 5.85 ERA)

Tuesday, July 3: Lucas Giolito (5-7, 6.59 ERA) vs. Anthony DeSclafani (3-1, 4.45 ERA)

Wednesday, July 4: Dylan Covey (3-3, 4.82 ERA) vs. Sal Romano (4-8, 5.30 ERA)