Somebody, anybody, break up the Reds! I’ll take “phrases I didn’t expect to hear at the beginning of the season” for 500, Alex.
Following a very poor start to the season for Cincinnati, the team has seemingly gotten things together as they are the hottest team in baseball in the previous 10 games. This spree of winning continued last night in Atlanta as the Reds downed the first-place Braves in a surprising result.
The Braves will look for revenge on Wednesday night as they will get one last shot at stopping the surging Reds.
How is Cincinnati, a team who started so poorly, doing so well in the league lately? Well, you can give almost all the credit to the offense, who is on an absolute tear in the past week. Over the course of the last 7 days, the Reds have a grand total of 13 home runs and an overall team batting average of .294, which is second best in the league.
This production isn’t just top-heavy either as all types of Reds players are getting in on the action. In the past week, 10 Reds players have at least one HR. Three Reds have 2 HRs in this time period: Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, and Jesse Winker.
Pitching wise, the Reds have looked decent recently, ranking 12th in the league in team ERA in the past 7 days. In this period, the Reds’ starting pitchers also lead the league in wins with 6.
Despite having a 3.5 game lead for first place in the NL East, the Braves looked extremely average as of late. In the past 10 games, the Bravos have a 5-5 record, which looks even worse when you consider their competition: the San Diego Padres who are last in the NL West, the Toronto Blue Jays who struggled all year, the Baltimore Orioles who are awful this season, and the NL Central bottom-feeding Cincinnati Reds.
Some attribute this mediocre stretch of games to the youth of the team in general, as the Braves are the 8th youngest team in the majors (AVG age: 27.7). A 162 game season could become monotonous for a team so young, but it can’t get in their heads. Sitting 3.5 games behind them is Max Scherzer and company in Washington and the experience that the Nationals have in making the postseason (paired with the Capitals bringing a cup to D.C.) could prove to be fatal for the Braves’ chances in October.
One Braves player who will try and step up and lead this young squad is RF Nick Markakis. Markakis is ranked 4th of all Braves’ batters in terms of HRs (8), and comfortably leads the team in hits (101). Markakis was surprisingly the first player in the National League this year to get 100 hits and has proven to be a solid leader and offensive catalyst for the young team.
Sean’s secret weapon is his ability against left-handed batters.
An interesting pitching matchup is on tap tomorrow afternoon in Atlanta as the Braves’ Sean Newcomb goes up against Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo. This matchup features two seasons that are going in very opposite directions: one good, one bad.
Castillo has struggled this year with a record of 5-8 and a sky-high ERA of 5.70. Even in his previous game, which was a win over the Cubbies in Cincy, he still managed to give up 3 runs in just 4 hits for Chicago. With these stats and Castillo’s lack of confidence lately, you can bank on the Atlanta lineup pounding runs on him early on.
This offensive onslaught by the Braves vs. Castillo will be met with great pitching from their own Sean Newcomb. Sean’s secret weapon is his ability against left-handed batters. Newcomb simply knows how to retire them as southpaw hitters are a measly 9-50 against him on the season. 5 of the Reds 9 starters are left handed hitters.
Atlanta’s win tomorrow over Cincinnati will stem from a multitude of hits from their lineup and multiple-run-home runs.
Atlanta is ranked 3rd in the majors in hits with 705 and one of their big bats, Freddie Freeman, is a dominant hitter with runners on as he has 6 homers on the year and a .388 batting average when his teammates are on base.