After salvaging a win Thursday night and avoiding a sweep to the Cubs, the Cincinnati Reds (54-74) start a three-game series this weekend against the slumping Pittsburgh Pirates (61-67) at GABP. First pitch is at 7:10 ET.
The Pirates come into town having lost three of four to the Dodgers in Pittsburgh and nine of the last 12. For as bad as the Reds have been this season, they are 8-2 against the team directly above them in the Central.
The Pirates rank 13th out of 15 total teams in the National League in OPS. Meanwhile, the Reds are 4th in OPS in the NL. The disparity, and the reason the Pirates are seven games better than the Reds in the Central, comes on the pitching side. While the Reds are dead last in the NL in ERA, Pirates are middle of the road at 7th.
It’s Players Weekend in MLB, so the Reds and Pirates will be wearing special jerseys with nicknames they chose on the back of their jerseys. (Note: the Reds will be wearing the Players Weekend jerseys for the game, and camo jerseys for batting practice tonight).
Here are the Pirates’ jerseys for this weekend. My favorite one remains David Freese’s: Davehuman, because his friend has a dog named Dave.
After a quick DL stint, Stephenson (also known this weekend as Bob, but he missed an opportunity to go with Bob Steve) has had his best month of the season. Since returning to the Reds from AAA-Louisville, he’s lowered his ERA two points, from 8.10 to 6.13, and in the month of August, he’s given up just two earned runs in 12.2 innings. Stephenson is coming off a solid start against the Atlanta Braves in which he pitched five innings and gave up only two earned runs on five hits, striking out three.
His biggest drawback continues to be walking batters, though he’s been better of late. If he’s commanding the strike zone, he can be great, but he gets himself in trouble when he walks too many batters. Stephenson has walked 31 batters in 2017, but in August, he’s only walked six.
Stephenson has pitched well against the Pirates in his short career, but he might want to be careful with Josh Bell, who seems to have the best numbers against him.
Nova (better known as Super Nova this weekend) has been the Pirates best starting pitcher in 2017. A big reason for this is his incredibly low BB%, walking just 24 batters in 160.2 innings. He’s not a huge strikeout pitcher, striking out just 103 this season, and has given up as many home runs (23) as he did all of last season in the same number of innings.
Nova has three pitches: fastball, curveball and changeup, but uses his fastball and curveball most frequently. In his most recent appearance against the Cardinals in the Little League Classic in Williamsport, PA, Nova went 5.2 innings, giving up eight hits on three runs with five strikeouts.
Here’s how the Reds have fared against Nova in the past:
|1. Starling Marte (CF)
2. Adam Frazier (LF)
3. Josh Harrison (2B)
4. Josh Bell (1B)
5. David Freese (3B)
6. John Jaso (RF)
7. Francisco Cervelli (C)
8. Jordy Mercer (SS)
9. Ivan Nova (P)
|1. Billy Hamilton (CF)
2. Zack Cozart (SS)
3. Joey Votto (1B)
4. Adam Duvall (LF)
5. Scooter Gennett (2B)
6. Eugenio Suarez (3B)
7. Scott Schebler (RF)
8. Tucker Barnhart (C)
9. Robert Stephenson (P)
-And here’s the Reds lineup, with nicknames included:
Stat of the Day
Joey Votto just keeps on being Joey Votto. And if it wasn’t for one game, he would be crushing Ted Williams’ streak of getting on-base twice in a game 21 straight games.
News and Notes
-Mark Sheldon of MLB.com goes deeper into the stories behind the players’ nicknames.
-Jesse Winker goes on the DL, which is a surprise. Hopefully Phillip Ervin gets some playing time, but I’m not holding my breath. No surprise to see Stuart Turner go on paternity leave. Chad Wallach will be with the Reds for at least a week, as Tucker Barnhart is next up for paternity leave.
-I don’t know what happened to Amir Garrett, but since he got sent down in May, he hasn’t been the same.
The Reds aren’t going to the playoffs this year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t play spoiler to other teams, particularly in their own division. Of the 34 games left to be played, 24 are against NL Central teams, including nine against tonight’s opponent, the Pirates.