After a rare successful visit to the West Coast earlier in the month, the Reds (18-33) are heading back for a six-game road trip starting this weekend. The first stop is Denver, where they’ll take on the Rockies (26-24), the leaders in the NL West, tonight at 8:40 p.m. ET.
The wheels have flown off for Sal Romano, who could very well be pitching for his spot in the rotation with the return of Anthony DeSclafani — who is making a rehab start tonight — looming. Romano has been bashed for 13 runs on 14 hits and eight walks over his last two starts and 7 1/3 innings, erasing what was a solid start to his first full season. Without a dependable third pitch, the right-hander has largely been done in by poor fastball command. His K%-BB% (4.0%) is also the sixth-worst mark among all pitchers with 40 or more innings pitched, illustrating both his inability to fan hitters and his erratic control. A solid outing tonight is essential for the 24-year-old, though the task will be tough in Coors Field.
Romano vs. Rockies
Among all qualified pitchers, nobody has a larger differential between their ERA and FIP than Jon Gray. The electric 26-year-old has the strikeout and walk numbers of an elite pitcher, but run prevention has still been a problem for him. Both his home (6.04) and road (4.61) ERAs are rather unsightly, as Gray has essentially been all or nothing in each of his 10 starts. Aside from his three-run, four-inning outing on Opening Day, the right-hander has either allowed one run or fewer (four times) or five runs or more (five times) in all of his outings. After three straight starts of the former, his last two trips to the mound have fallen under the latter category.
Gray has had plenty of bad luck, allowing a .371 BABIP and a lowly strand rate of 63.7%, but he’s giving up a lot of hard contact (37.5 Hard%), too. As FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan noted earlier in the season, part of Gray’s problem has been pitching from the stretch. With the bases empty, he’s allowing a .273/.304/.447 slash line with a 31.2 K% and 3.6 BB%. When runners are on base, those numbers fall to .302/.354/.463 with a 19.2 K% and 7.7 BB%. If the Reds can get plenty of baserunners tonight, Gray is clearly vulnerable.
As far as his repertoire, Gray relies primarily on a four-seam fastball, slider, and curveball. His fastball averages 95.4 mph and reaches the upper-90s. His slider, at a 31.4% usage rate, is his go-to secondary pitch and holds a 17.9% swinging-strike rate.
Gray vs. Reds
News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading
It's a little thing, but that's what we've got this year. MLB best records in Reds #MattHarveyEra
— Joel Luckhaupt (@jluckhaupt) May 25, 2018
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) May 25, 2018
— The Athletic (@TheAthleticCIN) May 25, 2018
Stat of the Day
It’s hard to overstate what a boost Eugenio Suarez has been to the Reds’ offense this year, batting .280/.356/.568 with 19 extra-base hits (8 HR) and 38 RBI in just 146 plate appearances and 34 games. Few players in baseball have hit the ball consistently hard as Suarez, who ranks 10th in hard-contact rate (47.5%) among all players with 100 or more trips to the plate. His soft-contact rate (11.1%) comes in at 21st, one spot behind teammate Tucker Barnhart.
Suarez’s average exit velocity (91.5 mph) is first among Reds hitters by over a full mile per hour, and his xwOBA (which Steve Mancuso talked about in the linked post) ranks 28th among 262 players with 100+ plate appearances.
Coors Field has never been kind to the Reds, who are 40-59 all-time when playing in Denver. The team does have a little momentum working in their favor, however. While still a flawed team, the Reds have played more respectable baseball lately and are coming off their first series win over an NL Central team this year. Their pitchers will also have a potential advantage of going against a struggling lineup. The Rockies offense isn’t the threat it’s been in recent years, ranking 22nd in baseball in runs scored (196), 25th in on-base percentage (.303), 27th in batting average (.228), and dead last in fWAR (0.4) and wRC+ (73). We’ll see if it all adds up to another series victory starting tonight.
Growing up just north of Cincinnati, Matt has been a Reds fan for as long as he can remember. As a kid, he was often found leading the Reds to 162-0 seasons in MVP Baseball 2005 and imitating his favorite players (Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, and Austin Kearns) in the backyard. One of his earliest baseball memories is attending the final night game at Cinergy Field. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in the Dayton area. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.