Monday, May 21, 2012

Reds vs. Braves series preview, take two

The Reds (21-19) and the Braves (26-16) will renew acquaintances for the second time in a week after splitting a brief, two-game set in Atlanta last week. The two squads will have a more traditional four-game meeting this time around, beginning with Monday's nationally televised game on ESPN. For all the info, please read on:

Monday, 7:10
Mike Leake (0-5, 6.21) vs. Mike Minor (2-3, 7.09)

Leake will look for back-to-back quality starts.
ESPN probably isn’t too thrilled about this pitching match-up, but both scheduled starters have the talent to have much, much better numbers. Leake started taking a turn in that direction in his last turn, and quite possibly saved his spot in the rotation, when he tossed six innings and allowed just one earned run against the Mets on May 16. That came just five days after a nightmare (three innings, six runs) against Washington. He might be able to get a little roll going as he’s 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA lifetime against Atlanta and has handled the majority of their lineup – Martin Prado is the guy who has seen Leake the best, going 3-for-6 against him.

Minor has had quite of bit of hype as perhaps the next big thing in the Braves rotation, but things have not been pretty thus far for the lefty. In his last four starts he’s allowed seven, eight, six and six earned runs respectively after throwing three quality starts in a row before that. He’s never faced the Reds. Interestingly, while Cincinnati has hit .233 against righties this year, they’re hitting .253 against lefties like Minor. Still not overly impressive, but worth noting. Zack Cozart (.314), Todd Frazier (.400), Ryan Hanigan (.400) and Devin Mesoraco (.313) have all seen lefties pretty well this year.

Tuesday, 7:10
Mat Latos (2-2, 4.63) vs. Brandon Beachy (5-1, 1.33)

Simply put, Latos has to go deeper into games. I heard someone call into “Extra Innings” on WLW last week and suggest that the Reds traded Edinson Volquez for…Edinson Volquez, and at times it has felt that way. Of the Reds starters, Latos and Leake are tied for the fewest average innings pitched per start, lasting less than five and a half innings per turn. Not exactly what the Reds thought they were getting in December. The good news—Latos has been pretty good against Atlanta (2-2, 2.42) although Brian McCann (.364) and Freddie Freeman (3-for-6) have good results against him.

Latos will likely need to be at his best to give the Reds a chance to win this one as Beachy has been spectacular. His 1.33 ERA is the best in the league thus far on the season and he was dominant against Miami in his last start – a complete game shut out with five hits, six strikeouts and no walks (!). Every start he’s made this year has been a QS save for his first – and that was five innings of one earned run ball on April 9. He’s made one start lifetime against the Reds and has no record.

Wednesday, 7:10
Bronson Arroyo (2-2, 3.46) vs. Tommy Hanson (5-3, 3.31)

Bronson has been the hard luck starter so far, as he deserves much better than his 2-2 record. He probably was left in a touch too long at Yankee Stadium last Friday, but was stellar even though his line looks average (7.2 innings, four earned). Aside from two no-decision clunkers (5 innings, 11 hits, four earned vs. Washington on May 13 and 6.1 innings, 10 hits, four earned against Miami on April 8) Arroyo has been quality this year – and hasn’t received much in the way of run support (ND, 7.1 innings, three hits, no runs vs. Washington on April 13; ND five innings, one earned run April 25 vs. San Francisco). He’s made 14 starts against Atlanta lifetime and although the record is good (6-3) the other numbers aren’t (5.68 ERA, 1.73 WHIP). I’ve got a really scary number for you – nine current Braves are hitting .300 or better against Bronson.

The Reds will catch both of the Braves aces back-to-back as Hanson will seek his second career win against them (1-2, 5.03 ERA in 19.2 innings). He was great at Tampa in his last start (7 innings, two earned). Only one Red in the regular lineup has had any luck against Hanson -  Brandon Phillips is 4-for-10. The rest of the numbers are ugly. This match-up looks bad on paper, but there’s a reason they play the games.

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