August 2, 2010

Series Preview: Cincinnati Reds

Chris Snyder and some guys I've never heard of even though I blogged about them two days ago will make their Pirates debut this week against the Cincinnati Reds.

The Reds are the most interesting rival in the Central Division. They have a very deep team including five bench players giving above average production as well as six reliable relievers in their bullpen. Joey Votto (.325/.424/.607) has blossomed into a bona fide superstar and is leading the MVP race. Every time a starting pitcher gets hurt which is a lot of times, they call up a new guy from Louisville who turns out to be awesome. It must be nice.

Despite all this success, the Reds are in a dogfight for the playoffs. At 58-47 they are half a game behind the Cardinals for the Central and also trail the Giants by two games for the wild card. Their season will probably go down to the final weekend so needless to say Cincinnati is looking at this Pirates series like a ubiquitous chain of disgusting chili restaurants and that is something Cincinnati likes.

Cincinnati Reds
Monday 7:05, Tuesday 7:05, Wednesday 12:35

Monday the Reds go with 23-year-old lefthander Travis Wood (1-1, 2.87) against Ross Ohlendorf (1-8, 4.35). Wood was called up from the minors and immediately threw eight perfect innings against the Phillies. He has a low 90s fastball with lots of movement and an assortment of four secondary pitches, which he has used to strike out eight batters per nine. You might be thinking that this sounds like a guy the Pirates will score zero runs against. Yet, my pick is the Pirates.

Tuesday the Reds will have Mike Leake (7-2, 3.57) against Paul Maholm (6-9, 4.52). Maholm always rebounds after an eight run start, which I guess is a skill that it would be better if I didn't know whether or not he possessed; he should also be helped by completely owning @sevenwithcheese in a recent Twitter argument. Meanwhile, I keep waiting for Leake to fall off a cliff because it is unfair that a guy can pitch his first professional inning in the major leagues and never look back. He's allowed ten home runs over his last eight starts which would be good if we had any home run hitters. My pick is the Pirates.

Wednesday, the Reds' Johnny Cueto (10-2, 3.32) opposes Jeff Karstens (2-6, 4.42). At 24, Cueto will be the oldest starting pitcher we face this series. You might remember him from such Pirate games as his one-hit shutout of the Bucs at PNC Park in May. Not to be negative, but we're facing a lefthander who relies on pitch movement, a pitch to contact/pinpoint control righty, and a hard throwing fastball/slider righty and each of those seem to be specific pitcher types that the Pirates struggle with. Such is life as the 29th highest scoring offense in baseball. Thank you, Seattle. As an interesting subplot, after this game Jose Tabata will be 42 games away from breaking DiMaggio's hit streak record. My pick is the Pirates.

Finally, there is no free stuff until Thursday so the August home giveaways preview will be up before then.

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