The Reds (33-35) head to Pittsburgh (34-35) for the third meeting of the year between these two clubs. Cincinnati has already taken five of seven against the Pirates this season and have favorable pitching match-ups again in this series.
However, as Nick noted in his weekly Central Intelligence Power Rankings, the Pirates having been winning this month on the back of their offense. Pittsburgh leads all of baseball in runs scored this month. For the season overall, the Pirates are ranked 7th in NL runs scored per game.
Helping to lead the offensive surge is 22-year old outfield prospect Gregory Polanco. Six games into his major league career, Polanco has hit .387/.406/.484 batting in front of Andrew McCutchen. Prior to his promotion, the Baseball America 10th ranked MLB prospect had a .905 OPS for AAA Indianapolis.
The only major offensive injury for the Pirates is second baseman Neil Walker (.280/.353/.452). They’ve been spot starting Josh Harrison (who had been predominantly playing right field) and Clinton Barmes (.583 OPS).
Since last facing the Pirates back on the third week of April, Pittsburgh has lost 3/5th’s of their starting rotation to injury. Wandy Rodriguez, Francisco Liriano, and Gerrit Cole are on the DL in favor of Jeff Locke, Brandon Cumpton, and Vance Worley. The Reds will face off against two of those three plus longtime friend, Edinson Volquez.
Johnny Cueto is having a spectacular season with an unhittable fastball. He is coming off 6 shutout innings against the Dodgers where he struck out 12 and walked no one.
Brandon Cumpton has had only 6 starts for the Pirates this season. His poor numbers are inflated by a bad (10 runs in 3 innings) start against the Dodgers on May 31. His best start of the season was against Cincinnati on April 24th when he allowed just 2 runs over 7 innings, walking one and striking out five. Cumpton had a 1.35 ERA and 3.49 FIP in 6 starts for Indianapolis this season. Last year, he posted a 3.07 ERA between AAA and Pittsburgh in 24 starts, most of them in minors.
Alfredo pitched so well as Mat Latos’ fill-in that he kept his rotation spot when Latos returned. Simon is coming off a 1-run, no walk, 5 strikeout, 8-inning outing against the Dodgers. When Simon faced the Pirates earlier this season, he walked 5 batters in 6.2 innings.
Edinson Volquez has significantly cut down his walk rate this year (career 4.6 BB per 9ip) at the expense of his K-rate (8.2 K per 9ip). Volquez’s fastball velocity is down a tick from his career average, but actually up just a little from last season. He has been throwing a curveball almost 30% of the time, which is up from 25% the past two seasons and just 20% of the time his last two years with Cincinnati.
After making 30 starts for the Pirates last season, Jeff Locke has only had 3 starts for the Pirates this season. He started the year on the disabled list, and then was optioned to AAA once he was healthy. Locke has a career 4.05 ERA, 4.12 xFIP, 4.33 SIERA in 45 appearances (43 starts) with the Pirates. He’s only walked 1 batter in 20.1 MLB innings this season.
Homer Bailey has had a frustrating season, and hopefully some of that is attributed to bad luck. Back in May, Fangraphs listed him as having the 3rd largest difference between ERA and SIERA at the time. His BABIP has come down some, but it’s still a bit higher than his career average. He loves pitching to the Pirates, though, especially in Pittsburgh.
WHERE TO WATCH
Locally, all three games will be on FOX Sports Ohio. Pittsburgh’s ROOT Sports network will also air all three games in their local television market. Thursday’s game may also play nationally in some markets on the MLB Network. Check local listings.
The Reds need to win the series to leapfrog the Pirates into 3rd place in the division. A series sweep would put Cincinnati over .500 for the first time all season. They’ll get Pittsburgh three more times on July 11th through the 13th, just before the all-star break. Winning would not only put Cincinnati back on track to climb the division standings but would go a long ways to permanently dropping Pittsburgh to 4th place.