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Cincinnati Reds Series Preview: So, uh, let’s play two in one day

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These guys seem awfully familiar. Almost like we just saw them last week.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals were one of the teams hit hardest by COVID-19 throughout summer camp, losing two starting pitchers, their starting catcher (plus seemingly every other catcher in the organization) and their starting right fielder in addition to a few more. But outside of a scare with Bubba Starling, they haven’t had any issues yet. Until now, only its not their fault as their two-game set become a one-day doubleheader because of a positive Reds test. Anyway, this’ll be the end of their home and home season series after they traded one-run victories in Cincinnati. The Reds starting pitching has been stellar, their bullpen weak and their offense inconsistent, but I still think they have a shot to go on a run and win the whole thing if they can get some of their issues sorted out.

Royals vs. Reds Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Reds
Category Royals Reds
Winning % .391 .450
Team wRC+ 96 103
Team xFIP 4.58 3.63
Run Differential -10 -6
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 0.7 Sonny Gray, 1.2

Reds Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Shogo Akiyama CF 59 .231 .322 .308 10.2% 27.1% 76 0.0
Nick Castellanos RF 85 .267 .353 .680 9.4% 29.4% 166 0.8
Joey Votto 1B 74 .233 .378 .417 18.9% 8.1% 117 0.2
Eugenio Suarez 3B 79 .123 .278 .246 16.5% 31.6% 52 -0.2
Jesse Winker LF 64 .365 .484 .712 12.5% 21.9% 216 1.0
Mike Moustakas 2B 53 .244 .327 .489 11.3% 18.9% 114 0.2
Matt Davidson DH 21 .263 .333 .632 9.5% 23.8% 150 0.1
Freddy Galvis SS 63 .268 .349 .536 9.5% 17.5% 134 0.6
Tucker Barnhart C 37 .167 .189 .278 2.7% 27.0% 19 -0.1

Reds Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Curt Casali C 37 .156 .270 .375 8.1% 24.3% 74 0.1
Josh VanMeter INF/OF 29 .080 .207 .240 10.3% 37.9% 24 -0.1
Kyle Farmer INF 33 .233 .303 .300 6.1% 15.2% 67 0.1
Phillip Ervin OF 28 .136 .321 .136 21.4% 17.9% 48 0.0
Travis Jankowski OF 13 .083 .154 .083 7.7% 38.5% -34 -0.2

Reds Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Raisel Iglesias 6 6.2 1 1 46.2% 0.0% 4.05 1.30 0.3
Amir Garrett 8 7.1 0 0 37.0% 11.1% 3.68 3.24 0.0
Nate Jones 9 7.2 0 1 32.3% 9.7% 3.52 3.37 -0.1

Probable Pitching Matchups

August 19, 4:05pm - Luis Castillo vs. Brad Keller

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Luis Castillo 4 23.0 0 2 30.7% 7.9% 3.91 3.02 1.0
Brad Keller 2 11.0 2 0 23.8% 11.9% 0.00 4.20 0.3

The Reds, having not played since Friday, are able to reset their rotation (though it would have been Castillo’s turn to pitch anyway). Castillo will get his second straight start against the Royals to start this series. He didn’t have a great start, though he only allowed one earned run over six innings. What struck me about his last start is that he only got 10 swinging strikes after having at least 16 in each of his first three starts. While his changeup was effective against the Royals, something that surprised me a bit is that he only got whiffs on about a quarter of the swings on it. The previous lowest whiff percentage of the season on his changeup was 46 percent, so that’s worth noting. The Royals found their success against the hard stuff, hitting .417 with a .583 SLG in 12 at bats ending on either his four-seam fastball or his sinker. I imagine the changeup will be back to its previous levels, so they’ll have to continue to hit the hard stuff. Ryan O’Hearn seemed to have some of the best swings against him in Cincinnati, so watch out for him.

Brad Keller will face the Reds for a second straight time as he tries to extend his season-opening scoreless streak beyond the 11 innings it’s currently at right now. He’s just been really good with an improved slider and what seems like some improved command, even with a few walks in his first two starts. Even those walks aren’t that concerning to me as two of them came after a random, long delay when the home plate umpire broke his finger and had to be removed. That’s a long time to sit for a guy and after throwing 30 pitches in the first, he threw just 60 in his final five innings, looking in command the whole time. That slider, to me, is a big key for Keller. The Reds are hitting just .159 with a .274 SLG on sliders, so if he can break out the new high-spin pitch, he might be able to find his way through another good start.

August 19, 7ish pm - Trevor Bauer vs. Matt Harvey

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Trevor Bauer 3 19.1 2 0 46.4% 5.8% 0.93 2.12 0.9
Matt Harvey (2019) 12 59.1 3 5 14.7% 10.9% 7.09 5.45 -0.3

The last time Trevor Bauer pitched at Kauffman Stadium, the final ball he threw landed over the center field wall, but it was by his arm, if you’ll remember. He then got traded to the Reds and continued on with his mediocre season. And truly, while he’s had a successful career to this point, only once has he been as good as his reputation, and that was in 2018. He did crack 200 innings for the first time last season, but it seemed like it might just have been a precursor to him being even better in 2020 than he was in 2018. So far this year in three starts, he’s struck out 32 in 19.1 innings and walked just four. If he can maintain that, he’s going to be just fine. Worth noting probably is that his velocity is down a bit this year, from 94-95 to a tick or two below that. But his slider is better than ever with a spin rate approaching 3000 rpm after sitting at just under 2800 last year. It’s a small sample, but righties are just 2 for 32 against Bauer, so maybe this is a good chance to get Jorge Soler a day off?

Matt Harvey gets the call for his Royals debut in this one and he gets to face one of his former teams, so that’s...something I guess. I honestly don’t really know why the Royals signed Harvey other than to protect the young arms they haven’t already brought to the big leagues in a case where one of their established starters went down with an injury, like Junis did. I’ve definitely doubted the Royals in the past on bringing in veterans and they’ve proven me wrong, so hopefully this is another situation like that. There isn’t a ton to like about the way Harvey threw last year with his fastball dropping all the way to 93 with not nearly enough movement and while he got swings and he misses on his slider and curve, they also got hit hard. Let’s just say I’m not optimistic about this one.

Prediction

The Royals are back to their offensive struggles from the first week and a half of the season while the Reds are just in a weird spot after missing a weekend’s worth of action. I think the safe answer here is a split of the series and the season series, but the Reds pitching is tough enough that I could see that being a problem to get that one win. Still, I’m predicting a split.

Poll

Two games against the Reds...who takes the series?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Royals Sweep
    (9 votes)
  • 15%
    Reds Sweep
    (6 votes)
  • 55%
    Split
    (21 votes)
  • 5%
    Series Gets Postponed
    (2 votes)
38 votes total Vote Now