Who's on tap?
April 8th Jeff Suppan (1-0, 2.84 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (1-0, 1.29 ERA)
April 9th Dave Bush (0-1, 10.13) vs. Josh Fogg (0-1, 13.50 ERA)
April 10th Carlos Villanueva (1-0, 3.38) vs. Aaron Harang (0-1, 2.77 ERA)
Who should you watch?
This is going to be a battle through and through, but keep your eye on Adam Dunn. He's one of those guys that no matter how poorly he's doing at the time, he smokes the Brewers. He's 11 for 20 life time against Suppan, and is only batting .143 over the Reds first six games. It doesn't hurt that the right field deck at Miller Park is extremely short, and he's a big boy wielding a big left-handed stick. We can only hope Suppan figures him out this time. I know everyone is going to watch Johnny Cueto after his one run seven inning performance last week, but I'm not convinced yet. I'll be there and let you know what I think.
For the Brewers, keep an eye on Prince Fielder and Carlos Villanueva. Fielder has good numbers this year, but has yet to find his power stroke. After an off day, don't be surprised to see Prince tweak his swing a little bit and get back on the horse. Carlos Villanueva has made a name for himself pitching against the Cincinnati Reds. Villa has only given up 6 runs in 26 innings (2.07 ERA) versus the Reds, giving up only 3 of those in three starts where he went 6, 6 and 7 innings since 2006. The Reds haven't been able to figure him out yet and the team is essentially the same. If the changeup is working inside on right-handed batters, you might see another frustrating day for the Reds.
What are the keys to victory?
This one is a toughy. Neither team has a readily apparent weakness, but we'll give it a shot. With Jose Valentin likely hurt or possibly out this game, the Brewers need to try and take advantage of an aging Paul Bako, or a marred Valentin. Bako is a better defensive catcher, but is 35 now and knees don't last forever, but Valentin is vulnerable if he's hurt or not. Look for Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Tony Gwynn Jr., and Ryan Braun to be on the move at every turn... as long as they do their job and get on base. Aggressive baserunning will throw the pitchers off and open holes as the middle infielders cover second.
For the Reds, it's going to be consistency and quick starts. If teams have learned anything about the Brewers it's that they are going to do everything to keep the pedal to the metal every inning. Cincinnati pitchers cannot take ABs off because they're getting tired. Additionally, the Brewers have yet to show they can play from behind. If the Reds can jump on them early, and the pressure is finally put on them, you might see a young team fold. I don't think they will, but you have to do something to slow down a freight train.
Don't be surprised if Cueto disappoints all of his bandwagon fans. He's got nasty stuff and the Brewers will only have two left-handed bats in their lineup, but this is Cueto's first road trip and while Miller will not be packed because kids are still in school, there will be plenty of heckling. I'll be there to join in the fun, sitting in the right field bleachers. Cueto throws four solid pitches: fastball, slider, sinker and changup. The key, however, is his ability to throw a 95-97 MPH fastball consistently and following this with an 85 MPH change. Everybody seems to be talking about the 'battle' that is going to occur between Prince Fielder and him, and I'll enjoy it, but Prince will take him this time, maybe not next. As for the game, no promises. Suppan gets stung by the Reds a lot, and I kind of expect a 6-5 or 8-7 type game today, probably going in favor of the Brewers since they had an off day yesterday and Cincinnatti is in the middle of a getaway day. Game two is just as much of a toss up. Fogg is a better pitcher than his ERA indicates and Bush has never really been any good against the Reds, especially last year: 5 IP 4 ER, 5.1 IP 4 ER, 1 IP 8 ER. Bush goes 0-2 on the year and Brewers fans will start begging for Gallardo to force Bush out. Thursday is going to be a fun day. The Brewers can't hit Harang and the Reds can't hit Villanueva in what I'm expecting to be a rubber match. Brewers sneak by in a 4-2 game. Cordero gets the save on Wednesday to a rousing of boos because the guy really just disrespected this team.