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Series preview: Cleveland vs. Reds

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The Ohio Cup is up for grabs in this three-game series

Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Since interleague play began in 1997, the coveted Ohio Cup has resided in Cleveland 11 times, Cincinnati six times, and in a tie purgatory seven times. After dropping two of three to the Reds last month, Cleveland will need to sweep this weekend’s series against the Reds if they want to bring home the cup for lucky number 12.

They’re in a great position to do it, having won their last five games with the hard-hitting ability they were displaying early on finally resulting in hits and runs. Since the start of their streak on May 2 against the White Sox, only a handful of teams top Cleveland’s 125 team wRC+, and only the Cubs have more than their eight home runs.

The Reds, on the other hand, have scored one run in their last two games, though they did pile on 13 against the Cubs on Sunday.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 14-15
  • Runs Scored: 152
  • Run Differential: 0
  • Last 10: 5-5
  • Slash: .245/.325/.434
  • wOBA: .331
  • wRC+: 105
  • ERA: 4.92
  • SIERA: 4.12
  • K-BB%: 14.0%

Projected starters

Friday, May 7, 7:10 p.m. ET: LHP Wade Miley vs. Zach Plesac
Cleveland’s offense got to Wade Miley the last time they faced him, tagging the lefty for four runs in five innings back on April 18. Since that start, Miley has pitched 11 innings against the Cubs and St. Louis, allowing four earned runs and striking out five. He currently sports a 54.9% groundball rate, which would be a career-high if he can maintain it. His 6.5% walk rate is also one of the lowest in his career.

Miley has given up a couple of hard hits this season, but overall he has limited exit velocity, on average, among the elite this season. He’s doing it with a career-high 51.4% of cutters and 32.5% changeups. His curveball has all but disappeared in 2021, only being thrown 10 times.

Saturday, May 8, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Luis Castillo vs. Aaron Civale
Cleveland dodged Luis Castillo in their last series, which seemed like an advantage. But based on how he has pitched through his six starts in 2021, it might be in their best interest to face him. A lot.

The 28-year-old is known for a wicked changeup that fools batters with a three-foot vertical drop, more horizontal movement than expected, and a 10 mph drop off from his high-90s fastball. That’s when everything is working as it should, though. This year, the horizontal movement on his changeup is less than it has been in the past, and he’s lost a mile-per-hour off his fastball, lowering the gap between it and his off-speed offerings.

He enters this game as arguably the Reds’ worst starter — he hasn’t finished a game without allowing a run since April 7, and in his last three, he’s allowed eight earned runs over 14.1 innings.

Sunday, May 9, 1:10 p.m. ET: RHP Tyler Mahle vs. Sam Hentges
On the opposite end of Luis Castillo’s struggles is Tyler Mahle’s surprising start. The 26-year-old — relying on a four-seamer, slider, split-change combination — has a career-high 32.8% strikeout rate and career-low 3.23 ERA through his first six starts.

The four-seamer and split-change have been virtually unhittable this season, with a .171 and .175 xBA this season, respectively.

His last time out was his worst of the season, by far. Cubs batters scored six runs off of him on May 2, the only time he’s allowed more than two earned runs in any start this season. He didn’t walk anyone for the first time all season, but he allowed three home runs. The Reds still won that game, 13-12.

Sam Hentges followed an opener in his last “start,” but Cleveland did announce him as the starter Sunday so we’ll see what happens.

Lineup highlights

OF, Nick Castellanos - Nick Castellanos is second on the Reds in wRC+ and first in pointless suspensions after MLB decided to uphold his two-gamer for standing over a Cubs pitcher in celebration of scoring a run. The outfielder is slashing .324/.360/.648 (168 wRC+) and making excellent contact. He’s being more aggressive than ever, but when you’re hitting everything — why not?

2B, Jonathan India - One of the Reds’ top prospects coming into the season, Jonathan India started his career off hot, with 10 hits in his first 25 plate appearances. He gradually cooled off, and since April 17 has slashed just .094/.231/.250 for a 30 wRC+. As with most rookies, he appears to be hunting fastballs and struggling against anything off-speed — it’s just an adjustment he’ll have to make to reach the 60-hit-tool potential he has.

Reds roster

Poll

How many games will Cleveland win against the Reds?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    3
    (34 votes)
  • 61%
    2
    (90 votes)
  • 12%
    1
    (18 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (5 votes)
147 votes total Vote Now