The Reds (50-65) will undoubtedly be glad to return home this evening after a rough nine-game road trip that saw them go 2-7. Optimism has dwindled lately in Redsland after riding into the All-Star break on a high note, particularly when it comes to the starting rotation. The group made some strides from May onward but has scuffled of late — Luis Castillo and Sal Romano notwithstanding — with a 5.67 ERA in the second half. These next two months will be a critical time of evaluation for the pitching staff as the organization determines whether it should go after an established starter in free agency and whether competing in 2019 is a serious possibility.
The competition won’t get easier for the Reds this weekend after facing the lowly Mets earlier in the week. The NL West-leading Diamondbacks (64-52) are rolling into town for Cincinnati’s first of two straight series against first-place clubs. Fortunately, the Reds have performed well against division-leading teams recently. They’ll need that good fortune to continue after the first pitch is unleashed tonight at 7:10 p.m.
Although he’s only made 10 starts, Clay Buchholz has had somewhat of a career resurgence in the desert. After an ugly end to his Red Sox career in 2016 and a lost season with the Phillies in 2017 due to a forearm injury, the 33-year-old signed a minor-league deal with the Royals in the offseason. He couldn’t break through in even the woeful Kansas City rotation and eventually used his opt-out clause on May 1. He was released and scooped up by the D-Backs four days later. After making two starts in Triple-A, he was recalled when Shelby Miller was placed on the disabled list. As has been the story of his career, Buchholz has dealt with an injury again — missing nearly a month with an oblique strain — but when healthy, he’s had his first bit of sustained success in three seasons.
The right-hander has been a valuable commodity at the back end of the Diamondbacks’ rotation, especially with the inconsistencies of Robbie Ray and Zack Godley. Buchholz is missing bats at his best rate (10.4 SwStr%) since 2015 and the second-highest rate since his rookie season in 2007. His walk rate is also the second-best of his career, and he has allowed three or fewer runs in nine of his 10 outings this season. While his strand rate (84.9%) is unsustainably high and his velocity is at a career low, his peripherals indicate his performance, while not quite as impressive as his ERA indicates, is still pretty darn good.
Scouting report: Buchholz is averaging just 90.4 mph on his fastball this season, but his secondary stuff is still sharp. His cutter is missing bats at a career-high percentage, trailing only James Paxton and Trevor Bauer’s cutters in whiff rate according to Statcast data. His changeup is no slouch, either, coming in at a 17.9% whiff rate and holding hitters to a .227 slugging percentage. Buchholz also mixes in a solid sinker (55.6% groundball rate, .318 SLG) and a curveball that has been rather terrible this season (.394/.400/.697 against). He mixes in all five pitches fairly consistently, throwing each at least 15% of the time.
Following three consecutive rough starts, Anthony DeSclafani finally righted the ship in his last trip to the mound, firing seven innings of one-run baseball against the Nationals. He’s still trying to shake off the rust from a year-and-a-half away from major-league competition, so the rest of this year is essentially a way for him to reacclimate and get ready for 2019.
The home run ball has been Disco’s biggest nemesis this season, and his last outing broke a streak of eight straight starts with a round-tripper allowed. The good news is that number figures to keep coming down, as his 20.5% home run-to-flyball ratio is ridiculously high (league average is 12.7%, 13.1% for starters). Ideally, though, he’ll get back to being a better groundball pitcher the way he was in 2015 and ’16 to help limit the long ball. His current 37.6% is well below his 42.2% mark.
1. Jose Peraza (SS)
- Joey Votto is back in the lineup after a two-game absence due to a knee injury. He looked very uncomfortable the last time he played on Monday, so he’s worth keeping an eye on tonight.
News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading
Promising news on Scott Schebler and his injured right shoulder:
Scott Schebler plans to begin throwing again Monday. He said his injured shoulder has made progress in the last week. #Reds
— Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) August 10, 2018
ICYMI, next weekend is Players’ Weekend around MLB. Here are the nicknames Reds players will be wearing on the backs of their uniforms throughout the weekend:
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 9, 2018
It’s already been eight years since the Reds and Cardinals duked it out in Great American Ball Park:
— Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) August 10, 2018
Grant Freking wrote about the bizarre roster decisions the Reds have made throughout the course of the rebuild:
Just how committed are the @Reds to The Rebuild? It’s an outwardly silly question, but there have been curious roster-management moments over the years that call into question the priorities of team rebuilding. https://t.co/bfBSrle0wi
— Cincinnati Magazine (@CincinnatiMag) August 10, 2018
Stat of the Day
Red Sox outfielder and AL MVP contender Mookie Betts hit the first cycle of the season last night. It’s been a loooong time since a Reds hitter has accomplished the feat. Eric Davis was the last player to do so back on June 2, 1989. Since that time, the Reds have had six players hit for the cycle against them (Gary Redus, Chad Moeller, Randy Winn, Jose Reyes, Michael Cuddyer, and Freddie Freeman).
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.