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Series preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Cincinnati Reds

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Let the battle for Brohio commence.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Cleveland Indians have narrowly escaped the powerhouse Minnesota Twins with a win, they look to move on against their in-state rival Cincinnati Reds. This will be the first matchup of the season between these two teams, and the last leg of a homestand for the Tribe.

Ths is one of those series where the Indians are trying out that delightful 6:10 start time.

Matchups

  • Monday, 6:10 p.m. ET: Cody Anderson (RHP) vs. John Lamb (LHP)
  • Tuesday, 6:10 p.m. ET: Danny Salazar (RHP) vs. Alfredo Simon (RHP)

All you have to do is sit through a Cody Anderson start without clawing your eyes out and you get to watch Danny Salazar pitch. I know it will not be easy, but I believe in you. When you are watching Anderson throw a 94 mph fastball over the heart of the plate straight as an arrow, just close your eyes and imagine yourself watching tomorrow's game instead. By the time you open your eyes the ball will be half way to Illinois and the next at-bat will have started.

I don't even know anymore with these pitchers. The only thing I do know is that Josh Tomlin will win on Wednesday if Danny Salazar loses on Tuesday. It's the law.

The Indians will also be facing two lefties this series, but that is not quite as bad as it sounds (although it's still bad). Most everyone not named Jason Kipnis has at least been passable against southpaws this season; Francisco Lindor has been particularly Francisco Lindory against them. Four Indians batters -- Lindor, Mike Napoli, Marlon Byrd, and Yan Gomes (!!) -- all have a wOBA on the positive side of .300, at least. Carlos Santana has been the worst against lefties by far, slashing .188/.229/.219 against pitchers who are cursed with left-handedness.

Alfredo Simon spent 2015 on the Detroit Tigers, so hopefully whatever kind of juju the Indians currently have that is helping them dominate Detroit carries over to former players.

Upcoming schedule: Following this two-game set with the Reds, the Tribe will travel to Cincinnati for another two-game contest, then head to Boston for a weekend series against the Boston Red Sox, then conclude their road trip against the Chicago White Sox. Depending on how the Indians and White Sox do over this next week, that series could be huge for swinging the balance of power in the American League Central. Maybe not drawn-out-Obi-Wan-vs-Anakin-fighting-on-a-lava-planet huge, but huge, nonetheless.

Team in a Box

Cincinnati Reds

Offense

NL Rank

Pitching

NL Rank

Record

15-22

R/G

4.14

11th

ERA

5.08

14th

NL Central

Last

OBP

.295

12th

HR/9

1.78

15th

Last 10

5-5

SLG

.400

11th

BB/9

4.42

15th

Streak

W3

Steals

24

4th

SO/9

7.31

14th

Reds pitching has been downright abysmal this season, which means they will probably look unhittable against the Tribe lineup. For a team running headlong into a lengthy rebuild, the Reds really are not that bad. Their 15-22 record has them last in the ultra-competitive National League Central, but they would be fourth in a couple others, including the American League Central.

The Reds are also coming off of a sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies who are beginning their slow descent back into mediocrity after a surprisingly fast start which included a sweep over the Indians.

Reds position players

  • C: Tucker Barnhart
  • 1B: Joey Votto
  • 2B: Brandon Phillips
  • SS: Zack Cozart
  • 3B: Eugenio Suarez
  • LF: Adam Duvall
  • CF: Billy Hamilton
  • RF: Jay Bruce
Reds bench
  • C: Jordan Pacheco
  • IF: Ivan De Jesus Jr.
  • C: Ramon Cabrera
  • IF: Jose Peraza
  • OF: Tyler Holt

Even with all the Reds' recent struggles, Joey Votto has often stood out above the rest. So far that has not been the case season, and his mortality is beginning to show through. He is still walking at a prolific rate (15.3 BB%), which has helped him maintain a respectable .353 on-base percentage. Keep in mind, though, this is the same Joey Votto that has had an on-base percentage above .400 in all but three of his major-league seasons. His current 26.7 percent strikeout rate would also be the highest of his career over a full season. There is still plenty of time for him to re-emerge as the Canadian God of Walks, just hopefully not for another week or so.

At this point, the Reds could not pay anyone to take Jay Bruce and his contract, but he has not been bad for them this season -- offensively at least. Bruce is slashing .258/.318/.500 with six home runs, seven doubles, and two triples. Maybe not worth the $12.5 million he is being paid this season (certainly not after you factor in his atrocious defense), but Bruce could still make a half-decent designated hitter if the Reds can find someone desperate at the trade deadline. And no, not the Indians.

Old friend Tyler Holt has found a new home in another part of Ohio. He has played in 26 games this season, mostly as a late-game defensive switch or pinch-runner, but in his 48 plate appearances, he is slashing .279/.340/.349 with two stolen bases. Since the series will be played on an American League field, the Reds will likely shift Jay Bruce to the DH slot, which means Holt could get some starts in front of his fans who somehow adored him despite the fact that he did not do a lot in an Indians uniform.

Reds starting pitchers
  • LHP: Brandon Finnegan
  • RHP: Alfredo Simon
  • RHP: Dan Straily
  • RHP: Tim Adleman
  • LHP: John Lamb
Reds bullpen
  • LHP: Tony Cingrani
  • RHP: Caleb Cotham
  • RHP: Ross Ohlendorf
  • RHP: Blake Wood
  • RHP: JC Ramirez
  • RHP: Drew Hayes
  • RHP: Steve Delabar
  • RHP: Layne Somsen

The Reds have already had nine different pitchers start multiple games this season, and this current configuration of a staff is not the greatest. Alfredo Simon carries a 7.96 ERA on the year, with a not-much-better 7.00 FIP. At least part of this comes from the Reds horrid defense behind him, as he leads all Reds starters in ground ball rate (46.5%), but he also has the second-worst BABIP against (.354).

The one bright spot in the Cincinnati rotation this season has been second-year pitcher John Lamb, who has a 1.80 ERA over his two starts.

A bullpen that was once anchored by Aroldis Chapman now has several relievers with ERAs in the double-digits. As a team, the bullpen has converted four saves so far this season, three of which came from Tony Cingrani, who is starting his first season as the team's full-time closer.

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