Tonight the Reds open a two game series versus the New York Yankees at GABP in a battle of first place teams. At least, that’s what the standings table tells me. Take a moment to savor that just a game or two short of 20% through the 2017 season, the Reds are in first place which is probably the last place most of us projected them to be this far along.
Both teams come into this game waving their brooms following a weekend sweep. The Yankees are 20-9 overall; 8-2 in their last 10 games. The Reds are 17-14 overall; 7-3 in their last 10.
The teams rank number 2 and 3 in MLB in runs scored and runs per game; so, get ready for some offense. Well, maybe. The Yankees also rank in the top 5 of MLB in fewest runs allowed per game. Do I need to point out the Reds are well down in the pack (18th) in this category?
However tonight’s game should set up well for the Reds since the Yankees were involved in a record setting 18 inning game Sunday night that burned 11 bullpen innings among 6 pitchers. Erstwhile Reds closer Aroldis Chapman coughed up a 3 run Yankee lead in the 9th inning to st the stage for the marathon.
Rookie Davis (RH), a former Yankee property who came to the Reds in the Aroldis Chapman trade, gets the start for the Reds. Davis has been less than impressive in his debut MLB season. He walks almost as many batters (13.2%) as he strikes out (14.5%), has a WHIP >2, and is averaging just 3.2 innings per start. Fortunately for the Reds bullpen, the Reds got a complete game effort on Sunday and have Wednesday off.
Righthander Masahiro Tanaka will start for the Yankees. The 28 year old Tanaka is in his fourth season with the Yankees following a 7 season run with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese Pacific League. He has been the Yankees opening day starter for three consecutive seasons. In his three most recent starts, Tanaka has averaged over 7 innings per start; thus, he would seem to be just what the doctor ordered given the Yankees 18 inning game Sunday.
The Reds come in fully rested off of Scott Feldman’s complete game effort on Sunday. An off day on Wednesday followed by a west coast night game on Thursday gives Bryan Price even more leeway in using his pen the next two nights versus the Yankees.
Yankee manager Joe Girardi used 6 pitchers to cover 11 bullpen innings in Sunday’s 18 inning game versus the Cubs. He will be hoping his starter, Tanaka, lives up to his stats and goes at least 7 innings. Just because I know you are wondering like I was, Aroldis Chapman threw 36 pitches Sunday in his blown save appearance. That was his first work since Friday when he he had a quick 14 pitch inning. If he is available tonight, at least he might look merely human to Reds batters.
All the Reds hitters looked hot versus the Giants pitching. Let’s hope the trend continues. The Reds have two hitters with an OPS of > 1.000 and neither of them is Joey Votto. The two guys over 1.000 are Zack Cozart (1.033) and Eugenio Suarez (1.026). Votto is plugging along at a pedestrian, for him, .997 OPS rate. Adam Duvall at .924 rounds out the quartet of Reds hitters currently above the .900 OPS level.
Here comes the Judge…. Yankees rookie Aaron Judge ranks right up with Eric Thames among the hottest new hitters in MLB. He is tied for the MLB lead in HRs with 13. His slash line to date is .317/.410/.772 (1.183OPS). His ISO is .455; you read correctly. His ISO is .455. Former Cub Starlin Castro is having a good season to date for the Yankees with a .941 current OPS. Long time Reds nemesis ex-Cardinal Matt Holliday is OPSing to the tune of .918 primarily as a DH; however, he has played some 1B.
On the surface, Rookie Davis versus Masahiro Tanaka looks like a match up strongly favoring the Yankees. Below the surface, the game sets up well for the Reds. The Yankees played 18 innings yesterday and burned 11 bullpen innings in the process. After Sunday’s game the Yankees had to travel to Cincinnati, arriving in the wee hours of Monday and losing an hour off the clock in the process. The homestanding rested Reds need to take advantage of the situation early and not let the Yankees wake up and get into this one.