After only two games played so far this week, the Reds (25-43) will be back on your TV or radio all weekend long. They head to Pittsburgh for the next three days to face a Pirates team heading in the opposite direction. While the Reds have won their last three games, the Pirates (33-35) have dropped 14 of their last 20 games since the two teams last met at Great American Ball Park in May. The Pirates stood atop the NL Central at that time, but now find themselves with a losing record as they regress back to the team most expected them to be heading into the season. The division’s bottom-dwellers will duel tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET in PNC Park.
After two solid appearances in the first three starts of his Reds career, Matt Harvey has looked much like his previous self over his last three outings. He’s allowed 11 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings (6.06 ERA) over that time, including five home runs, while striking out 12 and walking six. Although the right-hander has largely shown good control, he is still struggling to get swings and misses, with his 7.9 SwStr% tied for 14th-worst among 121 pitchers with 50 or more innings. If there’s a silver lining, he’s continuing to average around 93-94 with his fastball, which is much better velocity than he was showing with the Mets earlier in the season. He’s also gotten more whiffs (15.6%) on his slider since coming to the Reds than he did with his former team (7.8%). Hopefully, he can continue that improvement and the Reds can flip him at the deadline for a somewhat valuable piece and Robert Stephenson or Amir Garrett can jump into the rotation in the second half, as their development is critical to the rebuild.
Harvey vs. Pirates
Chad Kuhl has always had the fastball velocity, averaging 95 mph and reaching 99 at times, but he hasn’t been able to translate that to consistent results. Still, the Pirates have to be encouraged by some of the signs they’ve seen from the 25-year-old this season. The right-hander’s strikeouts are up and his walks are down, and he’s posted a 2.70 ERA over his last four starts. Home runs have been the largest problem for Kuhl in 2018, with 12 allowed in 73 innings. Despite his increased strikeout numbers, he also doesn’t get a lot of swings and misses, with his 9.4 SwStr% well below league average (10.6%) and he’s only been a league average pitcher when it comes to limiting walks. He’ll likely never become more than a No. 3 or 4 starter, but Kuhl is a formidable pitcher when he’s on.
Scouting report: Kuhl’s sinker has sat at 95.2 mph this season, as he’s one of 15 qualified pitchers in baseball who can say they average a fastball in the mid-90s. His slider is becoming a plus pitch, getting a whiff 21.2% of the time it’s thrown. Of all starters who’ve used the offering 200+ times this season, only seven have a higher whiff rate. Kuhl’s curveball is also a solid pitch, with hitters batting .098/.119/.098 against it this season. He also mixes in a below-average four-seamer and changeup.
Kuhl vs. Reds
- Billy Hamilton is out of the lineup tonight as he nurses a sore knee from sliding into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday. At this point, it may not hurt to start giving Scott Schebler additional time in center field to see if he can handle the position on more than a part-time basis. But MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon is reporting that Hamilton will likely start the next two games of the series.
News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading
Homer Bailey is being shut down from his rehab assignment for now.
Bailey's next rehab start for Louisville tomorrow has been scratched. Right knee still bothering him and he's been returned from his rehab assignment. #reds
— Mark Sheldon (@m_sheldon) June 15, 2018
Nick Senzel should probably be in Cincinnati.
Senzel is sizzling!
With two more hits last night, the #Reds' No. 1 prospect (@MLB No. 5) now has 5 straight multi-hit games and has raised his average from .256 to .299 over that span. Here's a how @Reds top prospects have performed over the past 30 days: https://t.co/iRsJXMTCO6 pic.twitter.com/NrUqOyx1he
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 15, 2018
Stat of the Day
More emphasis is being made on hard contact than ever before. But avoiding soft contact is important, too, because weakly hit balls are converted into outs far more often than not. While Hamilton and Jose Peraza weigh down the Reds in this area, the team still has the fifth-lowest soft-contact rate in baseball at 16.5%. Among qualified hitters, Joey Votto (who else?) is first at 7.5%. Eugenio Suarez is 16th at 11.5%, and Jesse Winker (12.6%) and Tucker Barnhart (12.8%) are both in the top-25 as well.
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.