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.

TUESDAY, 7:05pm

Johnny Cueto 1.85 2.72 0.77 0.7 1.9 9.6
Brandon Cumpton 6.06 4.20 1.53 0.3 2.2 5.5

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 Simon 2.95 4.02 1.09 1.2 2.1 5.5
Edinson Volquez 3.89 4.13 1.18 1.3 2.9 6.1

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.

THURSDAY, 12:35pm

Homer Bailey 4.68 3.49 1.43 1.3 3.0 8.1
Jeff Locke 3.98 2.71 0.93 0.4 0.4 7.5

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.

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.

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11 Responses

  1. WVRedlegs

    Gregory Polanco is the real deal. He is a stud player. I saw about 10 games of his 2012 season at A ball. He hit that year .325/.388./522, 16 HR, 85 RBI, 84 R, 40 SB in 116 games.
    He is better offensively and defensively than Marte. And he is said to be a better CF and all round player than McCutcheon. That is just unimaginable. McCutcheon was the NL MVP last year. I hope Polanco goes 0-12 this series, but I don’t expect that. He is a future mega-star of the NLC and NL.

    • Dale Pearl

      In other words he will be playing in the a.l. East or los angeles in about 5 years. Pittsburgh has done a great job in scouting and developing outfielders. Giving credit where credit is due but i am hoping that Cueto puts this offense into a major slump.

      • WVRedlegs

        Yes, Cueto needs to keep PIT’s bats quiet and the fans quiet too.
        It’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates fans chant “Cueto, Cueto” like they did during the WC playoff play-in game. They had him rattled from the start in that game. There won’t be 42,000 people in the stands and that electric atmosphere but it still should be pretty lively. A small chance for rain about 9:00pm.

      • Drew

        The Pirates have already tried to lock him up like the Astros did their young star with a decent contract offer earlier this season and he rejected it.

  2. al

    It would be really really nice if the Reds had some position player prospects we could bring up to have that kind of impact.

    As was recently posted, Billy is having a pretty nice year, but he’s hardly a slugger.

    • brmreturns

      Winker is probably the closest thing the Reds have to Polanco, but he likely wouldn’t put up those kinds of numbers

  3. preacherj

    We have very favorable pitching matchups and it seems some pop has found it’s way into the bat rack lately. I don’t think a sweep is that unrealistic.

    • ohiojimw

      I don’t think a sweep is that unrealistic…

      Unfortunately this could cut equally in either direction.

  4. ohiojimw

    Well isn’t this interesting. ‘Spose the Reds are interested in leftovers?

    The @RedSox designate OF Grady Sizemore for assignment; recall 3B Garin Cecchini from Triple-A Pawtucket.— MLBRosterMoves (@MLBRosterMoves) June 17, 2014

    • WVRedlegs

      No. But maybe Boston could get interested in Ludwick now. Their OF is a mess after losing Ellsbury.