To prepare for the Phillies series against the Cincinnati Reds, I asked some questions to Jesse Borek of Blog Red Machine. Luckily, he was kind enough to provide some answers so that we could learn a little more about the Reds.
Can you provide a brief overview of the Cincinnati Reds season so far? How have they been playing as of late?
Things have been rough for the Reds thus far in 2014. Sitting at 27-31, they have been unable to stay healthy as a collective unit, with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco, Jonathan Broxton and Mat Latos (all All-Star caliber players) missing significant chunks of time on the disabled list.
With everyone but Votto and Latos back, things have slowly been trending in the right direction, but two straight losses at home to the Giants have soured the mood in Cincinnati. The once vaunted offense is looking far from intimidating at this moment in time.
Can you provide a brief scouting report on the scheduled (pitching) starters for the Reds in this upcoming series vs the Phillies?
Friday night will feature perhaps the most dominant pitcher in the National League in Johnny Cueto. An absolute workhorse; any time Cueto takes to the mound, the threat of a complete game shutout looms. His big issue has been staying healthy, which to his credit, he has done thus far in 2014. His stuff will not overwhelm you until he has to, living in the 90-92 MPH range on his fastball with a devastating changeup and slider. Were his offense to give him a few more runs, he would be running away with the starting pitcher candidacy for the All-Star Game.
On Saturday afternoon, Alfredo Simon gets the ball for the Reds. This start is massive for the long reliever who has done an unbelievable job filling in for Mat Latos during his injury. Either Simon or Tony Cingrani will be heading back to the bullpen within the week, so with this being Simon’s potential final start, and with his domination of the Phillies last time out, expect him to be incredibly fired up for this contest.
The Sunday afternoon start sees Homer Bailey take to the hill. He is at his best when firing fastballs early and often. Topping out as high as 98 MPH, Bailey can become a serious force as his contract would indicate, if only he could stay consistent with his fastball. Depending on how the first two games of the series play out, he may have a lot of fans biting their nails heading into the third and final game.
Who will be the x-factor for the Reds in this series? Who do the Phillies need to focus on and be the most concerned with?
Anytime the words “x-factor” and “Reds” are in the same sentence, Billy Hamilton has to be the answer. Arguably the single most dynamic weapon in baseball, if he reaches base, expect havoc to be unleashed. He may be getting a day off since he played three consecutive days against the Giants the last few days, but his presence single-handedly shifts games.
As far as who the Phillies should be most concerned with, Jay Bruce is the man. Sitting dormant like a volcano waiting to explode, Bruce has been ice-cold for the majority of 2014, yet he has shown signs over the last few games of catching fire. Hamels may provide a difficult matchup for him on Friday, but he might beat Hernandez and Buchanan by himself over the final two games if they let him.
Prediction for the series?
Really tricky here. I think Friday night could go either way with one or two plays making the difference with both pitchers being so dominant.
Same can be said for Saturday with both pitchers having the ability to have excellent starts, but the bats on the opposing sides will be thrilled to see somebody besides Saturday’s starters. Bailey has the advantage on Sunday, yet, he has proven to be anything but reliable thus far in 2014.
Optimistically, I’ll say the Reds somehow take 2-out-of-3. Then again, the Phillies could very well do the same.
Much thanks to Jesse, and be sure to follow both him (@JesseABorek) and Blog Red Machine (@blogredmachine) on Twitter!