The nicest part of being a baseball fan is that there is no time to wallow in one’s own misery, because there are always more games to be played. Even when things are bad, every win could very well be the beginning of a new winning streak, and outlooks can change from bleak to boundless in the blink of an eye.
Thus far in 2019, the A’s have been outright awful while playing on the road, the team with a sad and bad record of 5-13 outside of the Coliseum (5-15 if one includes the opening series in Japan as well, although those counted as home games). A bullpen that is half beat up and half washed up doesn’t help much either.
Things could very well be on the up and up for Oakland, however, as Khris Davis looks to be set to return in his comfortable slot at DH and Matt Olson, after breaking his hamate bone in the Japan series, should reclaim his rightful spot at first base in this next series. The dependable power bats that provided major thump in the middle of the A’s lineup last season will have their work cut out for them in this series, as they take on a pitching staff that has given up, far and away, the fewest home runs in the bigs this year.
The Reds entered 2019 as one of the more intriguing teams in the whole league. After making a flurry of tweaks to the roster during the offseason, while still clearly rebuilding, the Reds appeared poised to make some noise, or at least act as spoiler later in the year. The starting rotation, starved of quality pitching for half a decade, was reinforced by the likes of Sonny Gray, Alex Wood, and Tanner Roark. The offense, middling beyond Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett, added Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, and had a top MLB prospect in Nick Senzel poised to take over once service time shenanigans were done. Maybe Cincinnati wasn’t ready to take on Milwaukee and Chicago yet, but this wasn’t going to be a team that would roll over and die like in some recent years.
With a record that is a half game better than the A’s, one would be hard pressed to say that the Reds have played good baseball, but they certainly haven’t been boring. Their offense has hit the third most home runs in the National League, with 54 total, and the team OPS, currently at .697, has been steadily rising after an abysmal first couple weeks. The pitching staff, the team’s Achilles’ Heel over the last several years, has a National League best 3.49 ERA. While ERA doesn’t do well to predict future performance, it does well enough to tell an observer what has happened up to this point, and what has happened is that the Reds have done a better job of limiting hard contact than any other National League team.
The newcomers into the starting rotation play a small role in that success. Sonny Gray, due to pitch in game two of the series on Wednesday, is winless on the year, but only from a lack of run support. The former Athletic has pitched thirty five innings in seven starts, sporting a 1.02 WHIP and 3.89 ERA. He has allowed just one home run all season long. The biggest star of the Reds’ rotation is Luis Castillo, who has been in their rotation for a couple of years now, but finally appears to really be coming into his own. In eight starts this year, Castillo has pitched fifty innings and has fifty nine strikeouts. His ERA is a svelte 1.97, and his opponent’s batting average is .176.
On offense, the great Joey Votto looks to be on the decline, as he is striking out more than ever, actually popping out on the infield, and hitting for less power than ever. In full time action, Votto has hit just three home runs and just six RsBI total. On the flip side, Senzel, in just four games of action, has already knocked three dingers himself, unfortunately all of them solo shots. Derek Dietrich, the man with the body of an Adonis and an offseason target of some on AN, has been an absolute monster this season, possessing a current OPS of 1.047 with nine home runs and driving in twenty two runs while playing second base this year.
The Reds may not be contenders this year, but this is a team that will give even the best teams fits, and no win should come easy. If they strike against the A’s, at the very least, the team will get to try, try again tomorrow.
Nick Senzel - CF
Joey Votto - 1B
Eugenio Suarez - 3B
Yasiel Puig - RF
Derek Dietrich - DH
Kyle Farmer - 2B
Jose Iglesias - SS
Curt Casali - C
Jose Peraza - LF
Mike Fiers vs Taylor Mahle
Brett Anderson vs Sonny Gray
Chris Bassitt vs Tanner Roark
Game #37: Tuesday, May 7th at 7:07
Game #38: Wednesday, May 8th at 7:07
Game #39: Thursday, May 9th at 12:37
Games 37 and 38 will be on NBCSCA. Game 38 will also be on MLB Network for those out of market. Game 39 will exclusively be a Reds broadcast and on MLB Network.