Returning home proved to be just the ticket for the Reds (51-65) last night, as they pulled off an impressive shutout victory over the first-place Diamondbacks (64-53). It was a much-needed pitching performance after several duds during the nine-game road trip. Tonight, the club will try to keep building some momentum when it sends its most experienced starting pitcher to the mound at 6:40 p.m. ET.
Robbie Ray was one of baseball’s breakout stars in 2017, but he’s struggled to replicate that success this year. Injuries have slowed him down, and when he’s been on the mound, he’s battled inconsistent performance. Look at his strikeout and walk rates for all the evidence you need there. Ray has made it through the sixth inning in only four of his 14 starts on the season due to his inefficiency. While his stuff is still as nasty as ever — his K% ranks eighth among all pitchers with 70 or more innings — he’s having trouble controlling it. While he succeeded despite his erratic pitching last year, luck hasn’t quite gone in his favor in 2018.
Ray benefited from an 84.7% strand rate and .267 BABIP last season despite being one of the league leaders in hard contact allowed (40.4%). The result was a 2.89 ERA. This year, he’s giving up even more hard contact (43.9%) — a rate topped by only six pitchers with the same number of innings. This time, however, the balls aren’t bouncing his way. His BABIP is up to .331 this season, while his strand rate has fallen to more normal levels (75.2%)
Scouting report: Ray is primarily a three-pitch pitcher, throwing a four-seam fastball, slider, and curveball. His fastball sits around 93-94 mph and touches 97. Per FanGraphs pitch value, his heater was the eighth-best in the game last year, holding hitters to a .193 average, .371 slugging percentage, and 86 wRC+. This year, those numbers have regressed to .273, .469, and 146. His breaking pitches haven’t been as effective either. His slider is still getting a lot of whiffs (21.4%), but not as many as last year, particularly outside the strike zone. Ray’s wRC+ allowed on the slider has risen from a 40 to 72. The curveball has been even less effective, increasing from a dominant 47 wRC+ last year to 111 this year.
It’s August 11, and Matt Harvey is still a Cincinnati Red. Not a sentence most people expected to read a few weeks ago. Presumably, the team is still looking to move him by getting him through waivers, but based on the recent returns the Padres got for Tyson Ross and Jordan Lyles (which were nonexistent), the Reds are likely not going to get any more for Harvey than they would’ve on July 31. At this point, his starts should be going to young pitchers like Cody Reed or Lucas Sims.
As for Harvey’s actual performance, he’s coming off another shaky outing, his second such start in his last three trips to the mound. The right-hander has allowed 15 runs and six round-trippers in his last 12 2/3 innings and has not made it through the sixth inning since June 26.
- Dilson Herrera is making his first professional start in the outfield. All of his other starts have come at second base, shortstop, and third base.
- After returning for one game, Joey Votto is back out of the lineup again as he continues to nurse a knee injury. Thanks for nothing, Ryan Madson.
News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading
— Mark Schmetzer (@markschmetzer) August 11, 2018
— The Athletic (@TheAthleticCIN) August 11, 2018
Cincinnati #Reds Minor League Game Review: 8/10/18
— Doug Gray (@dougdirt24) August 11, 2018
Members of the @GvilleReds witnessed a fatal traffic accident yesterday on I-81 in Sullivan County, TN prior to their game against the Bristol Pirates. Team trainer and players attempted to help. Story here: https://t.co/HAdhkYLVRn
— Jamie Ramsey (@Jamieblog) August 11, 2018
Stat of the Day
Three position players have pitched for the Reds this season (Cliff Pennington, Alex Blandino, Phil Ervin). The Reds haven’t had multiple appearances by a position player in a single season since 2009, when Paul Janish threw in a pair of relief outings. Believe it or not, four other MLB teams have had more relief appearances by position players this year, one of them being the Diamondbacks (the others are the Cubs, Brewers, and Rays).
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.