The Cleveland Indians head to Cincinnati tonight to kick off a three-game set against the Reds at Great American Ballpark. As we wait for action to get underway in the first round of the 2012 Ohio Cup series (which some people apparently take very seriously), I talked to Steve Engbloom, Senior Editor of the great site Blog Red Machine, about this week’s pitching matchups, Joey Votto‘s greatness, and Cincinnati’s playoff hopes.
The Reds are five games over .500 and tied for first in the NL Central. Do they have what it takes to play into October?
If you’re mean winning the division, I would say yes, but with a degree of hesitancy. The Reds lack any bench depth at the moment and the offense hasn’t been consistent. They have a game where they score five runs and then go through a stretch where five runs is their offensive output for three games.
- At age 28 Joey Votto is taking his already incredible game to new heights. Can he keep up his torrid pace? Is it possible that we still haven’t seen his best yet?
I covered this very topic yesterday. Enjoy!
- It’s been sort of a down year for former Indian Brandon Phillips. What’s behind his slump?
I’m not sure what you’re referring to as “down year”. Honestly, BP’s been right where I think he should be. I think some were jaded because of his production from the leadoff spot at the end of last season. His slash line in those 39 games was extremely impressive: .350/.417/.573 with 7 HR and 19 RBI. He also scored 30 runs. In the 46 games since BP was moved to cleanup this year, his slash is .281/.330/.438 with 6 HR, 31 RBI and 29 runs scored. While Phillips should not be confused as your typical cleanup guy, he can produce in the spot.
- Who’s pitching for the Reds this weekend and what should Tribe fans look for from them?
Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Mat Latos are the three hurlers for the Reds n this series. Here’s what I expect. Cueto could look awful and nothing will be said (or tweeted except a “bad outing”). If Leake pitches poorly, the masses will scream for him to sent down to Louisville. On the third game, if Latos underperforms, that same mass will cry the Reds surrendered too much for his services and proceed to blast his wife for his performance. If they all do well, it will be extremely quiet.
Wait. You meant from the pitchers themselves, huh? Okay, I’ll do this quick-like.
Cueto will pitch to contact, yes, even at GABP. The “experts” have said for the past three seasons that Cueto’s continuing decreasing SO/9 is a cause for concern. Pshh. His SO/BB rate is the highest it’s ever been at 2.74 and hitters can never seem to square up to his pitches.
For Leake, he’s moving in the right direction after an abysmal beginning to the season. If the gun shows 91, it might be juiced. Leake has good control and movement, but not the velocity. Sometimes hitters leave the plate shaking their heads.
Latos pitched well his last start, but he hasn’t been consistent. His pitches have more movement to them, but hitters are hitting him more this year than last year. His contact rate is up and swinging strike rate is down. Yes, a cause for concern.