The Reds open a six game road trip tonight in Milwaukee with the first of three games versus the Brewers. Game time is 7:40 p.m. ET. Despite dropping 7 of 10 games on their just completed home stand, the Reds remain a game above .500 at 10-9, good enough for second place in the NL Central -0.5 games to the Cubs. The Brewers stand at 9-11, tied for fourth place 2 games behind the Cubs. Over the last week, the Brewers lost 5 of 7 games, including the last 3 games of a 4 game series versus the Cardinals over the weekend.
The Reds have dropped 3 straight series, the Brewers 2 straight series. By late Wednesday afternoon, one of those streaks will have been broken. Both of these teams have been markedly better as road warriors than as home standers in 2017. Hopefully these trends will continue; and, the Reds will leave Milwaukee with at least 2 more wins to their credit.
Amir Garrett (LH) makes his fourth major league start for the Reds. Garrett’s major league debut has been probably the biggest positive for the Reds in 2017. In three starts he has averaged over 6 innings pitched per start striking out batters at a rate of more than 1 per inning while issuing walks at a rate of just over 1 per 9 innings pitched and compiling a WHIP of 0.864. Just as importantly, Garrett has kept the ball in park, allowing only 1 HR allowed. Garrett did not pitch against the Brewers when they visited the Reds two weeks ago.
Veteran right hander Matt Garza makes the start for the Brewers. Tonight will be the 33-year-old Garza’s 2017 debut as he returns from a groin injury suffered in spring training. Garza’s numbers from 2015 and 2016 suggest he is in decline. His xFIP for 2015 and 2016 was in the 4.50 range. His K/BB ratio which had been better than 3 for much of his career fell to under 2 in both those seasons.
These two pitchers are at opposite ends of their careers; and, this is Garza’s 2017 seasonal debut. For comparison, we will go with Garza’s 2016 numbers and Garrett’s 2017 numbers.
|Matt Garza 2016||4.49||0.97||3.19||6.20|
|Amir Garrett 2017||2.69||0.46||1.37||9.61|
On the surface the Reds pen would appear to be well rested with solid starts in 2 of the 3 games in the Cubs series and a yeoman’s long relief job turned in Saturday by Lisalverto Bonilla. However both Raisel Iglesias and Wandy Peralta, the Reds only LH bullpen man currently, worked 1+ innings on Sunday and are likely limited tonight. Blake Wood has experienced back to back tough outings. Michael Lorenzen has not pitched since his 40+ pitch appearance on Friday; but is he ready for a two inning stint tonight after that longish Friday appearance? Drew Storen thus could be a key piece tonight in Bryan Price’s bullpen puzzle. In one of the ironic cruelties of MLB baseball, for his effort Saturday, Bonilla was replaced on the roster with the fresh but untried arm of Ariel Hernandez. When Hernandez gets into a game, it will be his MLB debut.
Nobody from the Brewers bullpen has worked longer than an inning in a game since Friday night. The single-inning stints seem to be well distributed among the corp. Due to tonight being Garza’s seasonal debut coming off of the DL, we could see most of them before the game is over.
Stuart Turner gets the start behind the plate for the Reds tonight. I’m mildly surprised Scooter Gennett doesn’t get a starting call in his old stomping ground.
The Brewers Eric Thames came back to earth in the Brewers weekend series versus the Cardinals, that is if 1HR and an OPS of .733 over four games qualifies as back to earth. Well, at least he looked merely human. Let’s hope the Reds can keep him well grounded the next three days.
Eugenio Suarez has continued to pound the ball for the Reds. Suarez compiled a 1.130 OPS on the Reds just completed home stand. That Votto guy also had a big home stand for the Reds, putting up a 1.072 OPS; but then, we knew that kind of performance was somewhere in the works. Milwaukee is historically a good hitting park for Votto. Maybe he can turn it up even another notch this week. Wouldn’t it be nice to see what might happen if Votto and Suarez were to bat back to back?
Last week was tough for the Reds. Against teams projected to be playoff level clubs, they managed for the most part to hang in; but, in at least two games, blinked first and took a loss when they they could have, probably even should have, a recorded win. Experiencing such losses and learning how to turn them into wins is part of the process the team must go through to get to where we and they want them to be. That does not however make them any easier live through.
Anyone looking for an immediate sign of improvement and progress by the Reds can latch onto the resiliency the team demonstrated last weekend. I’m not sure the 2016 edition of the Reds gets up off the mat to win Sunday after two tough losses to the Orioles, the crushing defeat on Friday and the debacle on Saturday; but, this 2017 team did.
The challenge the next three days is a different one. Instead of elevating to the level of the competition as the Reds needed to do last week, they need to avoid playing down to the level of even or lesser competition. They need to establish and maintain a level of excellence without regard to who is in the other dugout. That’s the lesson about winning which hopefully the Reds will master versus the Brewers. Go Reds!