Reds headed to enemy territory

FOXSportsOhio.com and FOXSportsMidwest.com have teamed up on the brink of the first Reds/Cardinals series of the year.  Here’s a look ahead at an important early-season 3-game series;

What Reds Fans Need to Know about the Cardinals
Andrew Astleford
FoxSportsMidwest.com

THE PITCHERS YOU’RE FACING

RHP Kyle McClellan has given up four runs in 19 innings pitched. He had a season-high seven strikeouts in his debut against the Pirates on April 5, and he has not allowed more than two runs in each of his three starts.

RHP Chris Carpenter recovered from giving up eight hits and eight runs in a loss to the Diamondbacks on April 12 by holding the Dodgers to five hits and no runs on Sunday. He is still searching for his first victory this season.

RHP Jake Westbrook has struggled with his command, surrendering 13 runs in 18-1/3 innings pitched. He was tagged for a season-high seven hits and seven runs in a loss to the Nationals on Wednesday.

THREE KEYS TO THE SEASON SO FAR

If the Cardinals build a lead, will they be able to keep it? Late-game pitching has been a concern after demoted closer Ryan Franklin squandered four of his first five save chances this season. On Wednesday, he was booed in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium in a relief effort against the Nationals.

Albert Pujols’ slow hitting start has created a lot of chatter. He should return to form, but how quickly he does so will determine if the Cardinals chase rivals like the Reds or pace the field in the hotly contested NL Central.

This is the first series between the Cardinals and Reds this season. The rivalry will go a long way in shaping the NL Central race, and both teams want to start strong against the other.

THE CARDINALS WIN THE SERIES IF:

Their bats come alive and relief pitching stabilizes against Reds hitters in late-inning situations.

THE CARDINALS LOSE THE SERIES IF:

Hitters are handcuffed against the Reds starting rotation and shaky relief-pitching performances continue.


What Cardinals Fans Need to Know about the Reds

Hal McCoy
FoxSportsOhio.com

THE PITCHERS YOU’RE FACING

RHP Edinson Volquez has given up runs in the first inning in each of his four starts, twice giving up back-to-back home runs to start the game, then gives up nothing. His first-inning ERA is 29.95 and his ERA for the rest of his innings is 1.93.

LHP Travis Wood was the best pitcher on the staff the second half of last season, his rookie year, and was good in his first three starts this year until suffering a meltdown in his last start against Pittsburgh.

RHP Sam LeCure, a plug-in when RHP Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto went down at the end of spring training, was the team’s most consistent early-season starter until he gave up four home runs in his last start against Arizona in a 5-4 loss.

THREE KEYS TO THE SEASON SO FAR

MVP Joey Votto is off to another MVP-type season, despite the fact opposing teams are treating him more like Albert Pujols and not giving him good pitches to hit in crucial situations.

After solid starting pitching got them off to a 5-0 start, the rotation suffered a meltdown and seldom have any of them survived beyond the fifth inning.

While the top of the order (Drew Stubbs, Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto) and the bottom of the order (Ramon Hernandez, Paul Janish) have done their parts, the important middle of the order (clean-up hitter Scott Rolen, Jay Bruce) is sagging and preventing the team from having big innings.

THE REDS WIN THE SERIES IF:

The starting pitchers can hold the Cardinals down in the early going, especially in the first inning, and the middle of the batting order comes alive and drives in some runs.

THE REDS LOSE THE SERIES IF:

They are unable to handle the Cardinals talented rotation and they don’t get solid set-up work from RHP Nick Masset and LHP Aroldis Chapman, along with RHP/closer Coco Cordero.