Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reds take Manhattan, part one (Mets series preview)

The Redlegs hope to turn Mr. Met's smile upside down.

After splitting two in Atlanta, the Reds hit the road to New York. They’ll actually be there for five games, but only two of them will be against the Mets as the Redlegs make a little history as the first team to travel to New York to play both Big Apple teams in back-to-back series. But, first things first and without further adieu, here’s how things stack up with the Metropolitans ….

Wednesday, 7:10
Mike Leake (0-5, 7.11) vs. Johan Santana (1-2, 2.92)

The Reds need a turnaround from Mike Leake.
Things went from bad to worse for Leake in his last time out, surrendering six runs in just three innings on May 11 vs. Washington. Interestingly, 65 percent of Leake’s pitches against the Nationals were fastballs. We all know that Leake isn’t going to overpower anyone, and his only real chance for success at this level is to keep hitters off balance with breaking balls. There haven’t been many good examples this season from Leake to choose from, but let’s compare the Washington game with a quality start on April 10 vs. a very good hitting St. Louis club (six innings, seven hits, three runs, one walk, four strikeouts) – on that day, Leake threw just 39 percent fastballs. They may have moved the fences back at Citi Field, but if he keeps pumping in 88-90 down the plate, it’s likely Leake will take one step closer to Louisville.

As for the Mets starter, Santana has been looking a bit like his old self this season. He has 17 strikeouts over his last 19 innings and has tossed four straight quality starts. Aside from an ugly outing at Atlanta on April 17 (Johnny Cueto can sympathize) in which Santana allowed four runs in 1.1 innings, he has not allowed more than three runs in any start this season.

Thursday, 1:10
Mat Latos (2-2, 4.54) vs. R.A. Dickey (5-1, 3.65)

Latos might be excited about making the trip to New York as he has been very successful against the Mets in the past. He’s 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 19 innings vs. the Mets lifetime. In this stretch of 20 games without a day off, though, the Reds need Latos to attack the strike zone more as racking up pitches early has continued to lead to early exits. The right-hander has lasted seven innings just once – on April 24 vs. San Francisco. The bullpen can’t take too much more five inning or less outings.

A master of my personal favorite pitch, the knuckleball, Dickey is quietly putting together another strong season. How a guy with such an interesting pitch starting in the nation’s largest market continues to sail so relatively under the radar is surprising, but Dickey has put up a 2.70 ERA over he last three starts. He’s made just one start against the Reds, but he owns a 1-0 record. No current Red has more than three at-bats against him and that could spell disaster against a knuckleballer, the type of pitcher who uses a batter’s unfamiliarity to his advantage even more than usual.

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