Series Preview: Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago Cubs
To find out what Reds fans feel about this series, mosey on over to Red Hot Mama's blog. We haven't heard from RHM in a while, but she was always a spunky Reds fan until Dusty Baker broke her spirit.
Do you remember where you were when you found out that Dusty Baker was going to become the manager of the Reds? Do you remember how good it felt? Tony LaRussa aside, the NL Central has had more than its share of idiot managers. Unfortunately those days are ending, though as the Brewers freed themselves of Ned Yost last year.
But unfortunately for the Reds Dusty's probably going to keep his job for the duration of the year. He's like Teflon - once you commit to him, he sticks until the last bitter day of his contract. Consequently the Reds are a young, talented team with the wrong players in the lineup. They're a team with some incredible pitchers who get over-used and obliterated. And I don't feel good about it. I remember all-too-well the sickening feeling that Dusty left in my gut. I wouldn't wish that on any team, but I'm thankful that the Reds are a non-factor based on the way they are managed. One less worry.
That said, Cincy owned Ted Lilly last year. I can't explain it. But Roosevelt was 0-4 against the Reds with an 8.15 ERA. Perhaps not coincidentally, 8 of Joey Votto's 24 homeruns came against the Cubs last year. It was brutal. Anyway, the match-ups:
April 21st Micah Owings vs. Rich Harden
Micah Owings. 26 years old and in his first year with the Reds. Young Micah has only pitched one game so far this year, and Dusty limited him to 89 pitches. But now that he's had the chance to stretch his arm, the gloves are off. I'm predicting 110+ pitches unless Owings gets into early trouble.
Rich Harden has some interesting numbers so far. He's thrown 9 innings and struck out 18. Between all those strikeouts though are 8 hits, 6 walks, and 5 earned runs. He was unhittable in his first outing, he was chased after 3 innings in his second, he has to be looking for consistency in his third.
April 22nd Johnny Cueto vs. Ted Lilly
Johnny Cueto. 23 years old. As a rookie he started 31 games, threw 174 innings, and still managed to toss 110-or-more pitches 8 times - and he threw 109 pitches twice more. Already in 2 starts this year Cueto has had an outing in which he threw 109 pitches - his first of the year on April 11th. I pity Reds fans because Cueto's first big injury is only a matter of time and I'm betting he misses a big chunk of either 2010 or 2011.
Psycho has something to prove. In 17.2 innings last year against the Reds, he allowed 18 hits, 10 walks, and 16 earned runs. Subtract his season against the Reds and Ted Lilly was 17-5 with an ERA of 3.71. You don't need a Colin Wyers to tell you that such a dramatic difference between Lilly v. The League and Lilly v. The Reds is bizarre if not flat-out fishy.
April 23rd Aaron Harang vs. Carlos Zambrano
In 2007, Harang was a 16-game winner with 218 strikeouts. In 2008, he might have done the same. Then, Dusty very famously used him between starts to pitch 4 innings of relief against San Diego. His season turned to mush after that and he finished '08 with 17 losses and an ERA of 4.78. So far in '09, Harang is averaging 105 pitches a game, he's tossed a complete game against Pittsburgh, and his ERA is 2.70. Is he back? Is he healthy? Is it just a matter of time before Dusty sends him to the DL again?
Carlos has something in common with pretty much every Cubs starter in '09 -- he's yet to find consistency. He's had great games and terrible games and that's an impressive feat since he's only thrown three games all year. In 2008 Zambrano was 4-0 against the Reds with an ERA of 1.20. I'm sure he'll work to continue that level of success.
Only a game separates the Cubs and the Reds in the standings, but probably nobody - not even Red fans - expect Cincy to keep up all year long. It's not the fault of the way the team's been built - on paper, I'd expect the Reds to win more than they lose. The problem is that the genius running the team is a certifiable baseball idiot.
He's got a decent team if only he didn't insist on batting lead off a guy who's never walked more than 36 times in a season. He's got a rotation that mixes fantastic youngsters with talented veterans, except you'd win a lot of money if you could accurately guess which one was heading to the DL first.
And most shocking of all, Dusty's got a job in baseball. I'll never understand that one. For that reason alone, I expect the Cubs to sweep each and every time they play the Reds.
Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online
Most online brokers and marketplaces in the secondary market charge a service fee during checkout regardless of what you are purchasing, such as Chicago Cubs tickets or anything else. Typically you can walk through the first few steps of checkout to find out if there will be any additional charges.. From your friends at Neco.com, the home of transparent pricing.