Reds vs. Royals

Ah, yes. Thank God for interleague play. Our buddy Ray at www.RoyalsonRadioetc.com asked if we could do a series preview. It would be our pleasure.

THE REDS ENTER … 31-28, third place in the NL Central, 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers. They won their first two in D.C. against the worst team in baseball before a heartbreaking 3-2 loss yesterday afternoon (in a series Hal McCoy said the Reds HAD to sweep). The Reds are 5-5 so far in June.

THE ROYALS ENTER … 25-34, last place in the AL Central, 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers. They’re 2-11 in their last 13 games. They’re 4-16 in their last 20 and 7-23 in their last 30. And this is a team that started the season 18-11. Ouch.

Like the Reds, the Royals also suffered a heartbreaking loss on Thursday, falling 4-3 in Cleveland when the game-winning hit struck a seagull in one of the most bizarre finishes in recent memory. If you haven’t seen the video, it was pretty nuts. The Reds won’t have to face Zack Greinke, by the way, as he started Thursday’s crazy game.

WHO’S HOT FOR THE REDS

Jonny Gomes is 4 for his last 12. Ryan Hanigan is 6 for his last 18 (and 20-for-60 over the past 30 days).

WHO’S HOT FOR THE ROYALS

Second baseman Alberto Callaspo, the only Royal hitting better than .300 so far this season (.308), has nine hits in his last 23 at-bats. Catcher Miguel Olivo has homered in each of the past three games.

WHO’S NOT FOR THE REDS

Geez, take your pick. Ramon Hernandez is 2 for his last 23. Laynce Nix is in a 3-for-19 slump. Also slumping are Adam Rosales (10 hits in his past 60 at-bats), Chris Dickerson (3-for-16), and Jerry Hairston Jr. (5-for-26). Willy Taveras is hitting a whopping .128 (10-for-78) over the past 30 days. Jay Bruce is hitting .170 (16-for-94) over the same period.

WHO’S NOT FOR THE ROYALS

Outfielder Coco Crisp (the unfortunate victim of the seagull incident from yesterday) is hitting .200 in June. Mike Jacobs is hitting .154 with 1 home run in 26 at-bats in June.

FRIDAY PITCHING MATCHUP

Matt Maloney (0-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. Luke Hochevar (1-2, 7.85 ERA). Maloney looked sharp (6 innings, 2 runs) in a no-decision in his first big-league start last Saturday against the Cubs. He became the first left-handed starter for the Reds this season.

Hochevar helped end the Royals’ recent eight-game losing skid with an impressive effort (6 2/3, 2 runs) last Saturday. He was recalled from Triple-A Omaha – where he was 5-1 with a 1.50 ERA by the way – to make the start. Before he got sent down, he had a 10.80 ERA in 11 2/3 innings with the Royals. Hochevar was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 first-year player draft.

SATURDAY PITCHING MATCHUP

Bronson Arroyo (7-4, 5.00 ERA) vs. Kyle Davies (2-6, 5.13 ERA). Arroyo has looked great in five of his last eight starts. Not just quality starts either … you can’t ask for much better than 8 shutout innings (May 1), 3 earned in 7 innings (May 17), 1 earned in 8 innings (May 22), 1 earned in complete game (May 27) and 1 earned in 7 innings (June 7). Yeah, there’s always a chance you could get the May 6 disaster (9 earned in 1 innings) and there’s a good chance he’ll give up at least one bomb but only four National League pitchers have more wins this year.

Davies pitched the second complete game of his career last Sunday. Unfortunately he was facing the best pitcher in baseball in Roy Halladay. Davies had a nice outing, though, giving up four runs in eight innings. Coming off a career-best nine-win season (in 21 starts in 2008), he’s been very inconsistent this season. He had four quality starts in April and three consecutive quality starts in May, but he’s also given up at least seven hits in half of his starts this season.

SUNDAY PITCHING MATCHUP

Johnny Cueto (6-3, 2.33 ERA) vs. Brian Bannister (4-3, 4.69 ERA). Cueto has been outstanding, and if he keeps this up he should really be an All-Star. It’s hard to even pinpoint his most impressive numbers. At least seven innings in nine of his 12 starts. At least six innings in 11 of the 12. Opposing hitters’ average: .210. His WHIP is 1.05. Oh, and on the road, he’s 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA.

Bannister has been feast or famine. Four of his 10 starts have been quality starts, but he’s only had one of those in his past seven. Much like his team, Bannister got off to a very nice start (2-0, 0.69 in April) but things have gone south lately (0-1, 9.35 in June). So far not nearly as impressive as his June two years ago. In June 2007, Bannister was one of two major league pitchers to win 5 games, going 5-1 with a 2.75 ERA in six starts – including a streak of 18 innings without an earned run – and was named AL Rookie of the Month.

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