Cincinnati Reds (44-49) @ Milwaukee Brewers (51-41)
Who's on Tap?:
July 11th: Josh Fogg (1-2, 8.39 ERA) vs. Manny Parra (8-2, 3.65 ERA)
July 12th: Edinson Volquez (11-3, 2.36 ERA) vs. Seth McClung (5-4, 4.15 ERA)
July 13th: Homer Bailey (0-3, 8.76 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (7-8, 3.79 ERA)
Who Should You Watch?:
Remember when Homer Bailey was the one of the most tauted pitching prospects in baseball? That's kind of dissipated... completely. Instead the surprise of the year is Edinson Volquez, who has the Cy Young lead at the half way point this season, at least in my book. Prior to this season, Volquez had only pitched in 20 games as a big leaguer and the results weren't all that impressive. As a result, he was shipped from the Rangers to the Reds for Josh Hamilton. After further review, a change of scenery does work for a player. Just ask Brad Lidge. As for Volquez, he's been tearing up opposing teams, and is the one true bright spot on this Reds squad. Unfortunately, he's pitching the one game I will not be at, but that's what television is for. In the box, the Reds are filled with tons of pop, but I marred with the same inconsistencies as the Brewers, carrying a team OBP Of .325 as well and striking out 60 more times than the Crew. The two big trouble bats for the Brewers are going to be Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips. Phillips has been a Brewer killer for years, batting .348/.390/.512 against them in 40 games. Joey Votto, on the other hand, hasn't received a lot of playing time over the years because of his Dusty Baker infection. But Baker finally gave the youngster a shot after a couple of weeks and it's paid off. Votto is hitting .284/.354/.475 for the Reds with 13 bombs and a 40 RBIs. Not bad for only 300 ABs.
The Brewers offense is heating up, and with Harang going on to the DL last night, they have the opportunity to keep it up. Unfortunately, the Brewers take on another soft tossing location pitcher. Look for Russell Branyan to pick up some of that slack. He hasn't gotten a lot of playing time recently as a result of an overwhelmingly amount of lefty pitchers. As a result, he hasn't look that sharp, but three games of starts at third should help him get back into the swing of things. Keep your eye on Ryan Braun as well, who is slowly heating up after chilling out at home for a while. It's almost like these guys are partying too hard on the road and just get bored at home and focus on baseball. Who knows? Toeing the rubber tonight is Manny Parra, who is pitching basically on eight days rest, though he did pitch an inning of relief as a way to stay sharp. Manny is on his way to pitching more innings than the Brewers ever expected him to, so a few days may help him. But the question is did that bullpen keep him sharp or will he fall off a bit? I have feeling with the lefty heavy Reds in town, he'll be just two. Speaking of lefty and heavy, the CC excitement has calmed down a bit, especially after the Cubs trade for Harden. But with 43,000 people showing up to see Dave Bush pitch yesterday's game, there's obviously still a lot of buzz. CC will have to calm his emotions and pitch his game if he wants to be successful, so monitor that closely.
Keys to Victory:
If the Reds plan on stealing a win this series, they're going to have to stay patient and pound out some offense. Volquez gives them the best shot for winning a game, but he's been tailing off a bit as of late, and may be vulnerable. Nevertheless, the Brewers are making a big move to try and catch the Cubs and Fogg and Bailey will likely give up their fair share of runs. It's not like the Reds are a harmless bunch at the plate. They carry five regulars with double digit home runs and Dunn has a whopping 24. The lefty lefty match up won't be an easy one for the Reds, but they'll have to work it out somehow.
The Brewers are going to need to rely on something other than the long ball to score some runs this weekend. Volquez has given up only four homeruns in 111 innings this year. Fogg won't give up many either unless he leaves a ball up. I really think the most important thing this weekend will be the defense, but to win this series and perhaps sweep it, the Brewers will need to think like Gabe Kapler did yesterday: Gap to Gap. Kapler had three doubles yesterday, one to straight left, one to left center and one to right center. He was willing to go with the pitch, which will be important with Bailey and Fogg on the mound. When Volquez gets up their, they'll need to keep that mentality and be willing to take a few pitches. Volquez will walk you (54 in 110 innings), so don't be afraid to get caught looking at strike three. That may not seem conventional, but they'll need to get him out of the game as quickly as possible.
Predictions and Notes:
- After the Gledon Rusch game, I think the Brewers may have been a little disheartened and then insulted. They showed they're very very vulnerable against breaking ball pitchers and then came back and destroyed Jorge De La Rosa. The Brewers are going to break that trend tonight, at least for now, and really put Fogg on the ropes. Look for Parra to have a lot of success against the lefty heavy Reds (Dunn, Votto, Bruce, Griffey) and finally get his ninth win. Game two should be very interesting. McClung has struggled mightily and the Brewers have yet to see Volquez pitch. I want to say the Brewers will win, but if they do they'll have to do it against the bullpen. McClung is going to struggle again with his command, but this time it'll bite him harder, and the Reds won't need many runs to take the victory. And finally, look for CC to be dominant on Sunday and get standing O after standing O. I'll be there field level and will be the first one to stand up every time. Should be a blast.
- If you didn't hear about it, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel went off his rocker at Ned Yost yesterday. I don't know what Tom was trying to do, but he went for the throat yesterday and printed the reactionary quotes rather than what he said to instigate Yost's tirade. In the end Ned said, "Look Tom, I'm not going to argue with you about this." It was unprofessional and pretty disappointing. I was proud of Ned for standing his ground and even prouder to find out that Mota and Maddux were watching tape together for two hours yesterday before warm-ups. Ned was right to defend Mota in this one because Tom went after him and said, "He's lost us three game." The fact of the matter is that Mota gave up two infield singles and a walk in the loss in Arizona. The 4-1 blow up against the Rockies in Colorado was the only really awful one. And then Wednesday's struggles can be attributed to more than just Mota, and you can't blame a loss on a guy when he came in with a one run deficit in the eighth. Sure he took away the opportunity to win, but the Brewers should have never been in the position anyways. Ned's quotes are often pretty hideous and clearly baited by McCalvey and Haudricourt. I'm happy to hear him take the bait and put it in their ear for once.
- With the Cubs and Cardinals losing yesterday, the Brewers have taken a half game lead in the NL Wild Card race and are back to four games behind the NL Central leading Cubs. But before you get too excited, don't forget about the New York Mets and Florida Marlins. They're only three games back of the Brewers in the Wild Card. This isn't a two team race like we all thought. There's plenty of folks nipping at their heels, making every win more and more important.