It all comes down to this. The Cincinnati Reds (66-86) and St. Louis Cardinals (79-72) have played 18 games in 2017. Both teams have won nine games. If the Reds can win at Great American Ball Park tonight, the Reds will have won a season series against the Cardinals for the first time since 2011.
Of course, for a game of this magnitude, it’s fitting that the two starters are both veteran pitchers. Homer Bailey and Carlos Martinez will oppose each other on the mound as the Reds also try to avoid a three-game sweep. First pitch is at 7:10 ET.
Bailey’s season has been one of slow progress. It started disastrously, but has improved as he pitches more innings. In the last month, Bailey is 1-2 in four games with a 4.18 ERA, 17 strikeouts and six walks. It’s not great, but it’s a far cry from the 10.12 ERA in July after five starts.
More importantly, Bailey is going deeper into games and building up his arm strength again. He’s pitched six innings in three of his last four games, and has already pitched 80.1 innings this season, many more than the last two years when he pitched 11.1 and 23.0 innings, respectively. That was the goal for the remainder of the season, and as long as nothing else goes wrong, *knock on wood*, Bailey will go into spring training healthy for the first time in a long time.
His problem continues to be control issues, as he has walked 37 batters in 80 innings. For comparison, in 2012 and 2013, Bailey pitched more than 200 innings in each season and walked 52 and 54 batters.
Bailey faced the Cardinals once this year, on August 6. It was one of his worst performances of the season. He lasted just 3.1 innings, giving up 10 hits on 10 runs, while walking three and striking out three.
It’s weird that Martinez is now a “veteran” pitcher, but that’s where we are. Martinez will break the 200 innings mark for the first time in his career, barring a crazy injury. By all accounts, he’s been the Cardinals ace this season, and he turns 26 today. Martinez has a 3.57 ERA in 30 games, has walked just 66 batters, and already recorded a new career strikeout total with 205 (his previous high was 184 in 2015).
He likes his fastball, which tops out in the high 90s. The difference in 2017 is that he’s throwing his slider more (27 percent of his pitches are sliders, compared to 22.8 percent in 2016). Martinez has always been a ground ball pitcher, but this season, he’s given up 25 home runs, the most of his four-year career. In 2016, he gave up 15 home runs in 195.1 innings. This could be due to throwing his slider more or batters just catching up to his fastball. It’s hard to say in the year of the home run.
Martinez has faced the Reds twice in 2017, giving up five earned runs in five innings in early April and four earned runs in 6.1 innings in June.
|1. Matt Carpenter (3B)
2. Tommy Pham (LF)
3. Dexter Fowler (CF)
4. Jose Martinez (1B)
5. Yadier Molina (C)
6. Paul DeJong (SS)
7. Kolten Wong (2B)
8. Randal Grichuk (RF)
9. Carlos Martinez (P)
|1. Scott Schebler (RF)
2. Zack Cozart (SS)
3. Joey Votto (1B)
4. Scooter Gennett (2B)
5. Jesse Winker (LF)
6. Phillip Ervin (CF)
7. Tucker Barnhart (C)
8. Patrick Kivlehan (3B)
9. Homer Bailey (P)
-Zack Cozart’s 2017 season has been nothing short of amazing, especially when you think back to what he was doing a couple years ago. It turns out he’s had one of the best seasons by a Reds shortstop in history. It’s been fun to watch, and I’m going to miss him next season.
-Also in 2017, Joey Votto has done something not many Reds players have done before. But, of course, this is not the first time he has done this.
News and Notes
-Keury Mella made his MLB debut for the Reds last night in the fourth inning. It’s been a revolving door of players coming up from the minors over the last two seasons.
-The Reds are giving away this bobble head of Tucker Barnhart to the first 20,000 fans on Saturday. There’s also a Bronson Arroyo post-game concert and fireworks. If you’d have to choose one game to go to this weekend, Saturday would be a good choice.
-I used to think I didn’t want netting extended beyond the dugouts at ballparks, but my opinion has changed after seeing how many hard line drives have been hit into the seats down the third base line at GABP this season. Now, I side with Cozart on the situation.
-And then the Reds announced this afternoon that they will install extended netting along the first and third base dugouts in time for Opening Day 2018.
Earlier this week, I read a tweet that said it seems like it’s been another lost month for the Reds because the team hasn’t learned anything new about the future rosters during during September. I beg to differ. I think the Reds have learned a lot about many of their young players.
Pitchers like Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and Sal Romano have proven they should get a chance at the rotation in 2018 by their performances in the second half. But it works both ways. Just as players who perform well receive a chance next season to make the team, those who don’t perform well miss their chance. You can bet that the Reds front office is watching closely to see who has what it takes and who doesn’t.
We’ve learned that Eugenio Suarez is a budding star, Jesse Winker is ready for the big leagues, which means a interesting outfield competition soon, and Jose Peraza has not looked like a solid replacement for Cozart.
2017 was the most fun season to watch of the rebuilding years, and call me overly optimistic, but I’m really looking forward to 2018. It’s a shame others can’t see it too.