The Reds aren't doing so hot right now.
The Braves return home from a 3-4 road trip to face the struggling Reds, who are in the tail end of a 20-game stretch without an off day. They started said stretch with five wins in a row, but have since lost eight of nine, dropping them to third place in the NL Central and only one game over .500 at 26-25. They are 1-6 on their current 10-game road trip.
The Reds rode their 2010 offense to their first playoff appearance since 1995 and this year, it's no different. The offense currently ranks third in the NL in hitting and leads the NL with 57 home runs. Their pitching, however, is a different story: the team's 4.46 ERA is the third worst in the NL. Three times in the last five games have the Reds had 10 or more runs dropped on them. Pitching woes such as this are exactly what the Braves and their .242-hitting offense need.
More after the jump.
Friday, May 27, 7:35 p.m. EST
#44 / Pitcher / Cincinnati Reds
Nov 12, 1987
|2011 - Mike Leake||3-2||9||6||0||0||0||0||36.1||37||23||23||5||13||32||5.70||1.38|
#48 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Aug 28, 1986
|2011 - Tommy Hanson||5-3||10||10||0||0||0||0||59.2||44||20||18||5||18||61||2.72||1.04|
Mike Leake came out of nowhere in 2010 and surprised everyone. He won his first five decisions with a 2.22 ERA and finished the season 8-4 with a 4.23 ERA. His only start against the Braves is a game Braves fans remember well: May 20, 2010 when the Braves won on a walkoff grand slam. He's no slouch with the bat either; he's 19 for 61 (.311) in his career. So far, Leake has been more of a strikeout pitcher than in 2010: he averages 7.9 K/9, up from 5.9 last year.
Outside of his last start against Anaheim, Tommy Hanson has never allowed more than three earned runs in a game and hadn't walked more than two in a game. He's faced the Reds three times in his career and is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA. Two of those starts came last year; in the most recent of those, Hanson was the tough-luck loser of a 2-1 loss in Cincinnati. His 9.2 K/9 currently ranks ninth in the NL.
Saturday, May 28, 7:10 p.m. EST
#61 / Pitcher / Cincinnati Reds
Feb 24, 1977
|2011 - Bronson Arroyo||3-5||10||10||0||0||0||0||59.2||71||38||35||12||15||42||5.28||1.44|
#32 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Jun 01, 1973
|2011 - Derek Lowe||3-4||11||11||0||0||0||0||63.2||57||25||25||6||22||56||3.53||1.24|
Bronson Arroyo has had a tough 2011 so far. Of his 10 starts, in only three of them has he allowed fewer than three earned runs; four times he's allowed at least five runs. He was rocked especially hard in his last start Monday in Philadelphia: nine runs in 2.2 innings. The Braves usually hit him hard to the tune a 5.29 ERA in 13 games against them, covering 68 innings. Despite that, he sports a 6-3 record against the Braves.
Derek Lowe was a bit wild in his last start in Anaheim; five walks in six innings. He hadn't walked more than three in a game until then, but still pitched well enough to win. He'll be looking for his first win since May 6 in Philadelphia. He is 4-2 in six games against the Reds with an even 3.00 ERA.
Sunday, May 29, 8:00 p.m. EST
#47 / Pitcher / Cincinnati Reds
Feb 15, 1986
|2011 - Johnny Cueto||2-1||3||4||0||0||0||0||24.2||20||9||6||1||8||15||2.19||1.14|
#49 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Jan 29, 1986
|2011 - Jair Jurrjens||6-1||8||8||1||0||0||0||57.2||50||11||10||2||9||33||1.56||1.02|
Johnny Cueto started the 2011 season on the DL with a biceps injury he suffered at the end of spring training. When he returned to the rotation, he didn't allow an earned run until his third start of the season. He is 1-0 in three starts against the Braves.
Jurrjens continues to dominate the opposition this year, but the Reds offense could give him his stiffest test yet. In four starts against the Reds, he's 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA. However, he's 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA at home this year. Barring a no-decision, one of those has to give.
Few could match the Reds offense in 2010: they led the NL in hitting (.272), slugging percentage (.436) and ranked third in OBP (.338). They haven't been quite as dominant this year, but they're still third in the NL in hitting (.260), OBP (.332), and slugging (.409). They didn't do much to change the offense from last year: over the winter, they signed Edgar Renteria to a 1-year, $2 million deal. Renteria hasn't helped much, hitting .233 with a .591 OPS in 29 games.
The biggest offensive threat this year has been Jay Bruce. He leads the NL with 14 home runs and is tied for second in RBI with 38. Joey Votto currently doesn't have the home runs numbers expected of him, but is still third in the NL with a .330 average and is second in OBP (.453). Brandon Phillips has been a great table-setter at the 2-spot in the lineup, hitting .306 with a .365 OBP. Also, don't overlook Drew Stubbs in the leadoff spot; his 15 steals are tied for third in the NL.
The pitching staffs of the Reds and Braves are polar opposites. Reds starters have the second-worst ERA in the NL (5.01) while the Braves are the second-best in that category (3.19). Reds closer Francisco Cordero has so far pitched better this year than last, holding hitters to a .190 average with a 1.93 ERA. The rest of the bullpen, however, has been mostly unreliable, but still holds a 3.58 ERA. Aroldis Chapman was placed on the DL in mid-May with shoulder inflammation after walking 20 in 13 innings. Bill Bray has been their most effective reliever, holding hitters to a .145 average in 18.1 innings while carrying a 1.47 ERA. Bray is one of two lefties in the bullpen, but the other, Matt Maloney, is on the DL with - surprise! - a strained oblique.
The Braves pitching staff can handle pretty much any offense, but the offense has to take advantage of the mediocre pitching. If the offense comes around, taking two of three is most likely.