The last time the Giants rolled into Cincinnati, they were high off a series win against the Dodgers in LA that ended with a 4-1 win in 11 innings. They were also just 11-18. But they had hope! The Reds quickly disabused them of that hope with an overwhelming sweep. They absolutely clobbered them. Just embarrassed the Giants.
That three-game series was early enough in 2017 that Giants fans still thought things couldn’t get much worse than losing Bumgarner. But by the end of it, Grant had a firm grasp of where it was all going:
If you came here for objective analysis, I can’t apologize enough. I’m sorry, but this is abuse, in other words. The Giants were just swept by the rebuilding Reds, who might be better than them, and I’m awash with emotions. None of them are positive. They were outscored 31 to 5 in the series, but it never felt that close.
Somehow, two team doubles and a four-run outing just wasn’t enough for the ol’ Giants, who teased us with a series win in Los Angeles, but are almost certainly a bad team. Looking forward to the July speculation that ends with them trading absolutely no one.
They kept Chad Gaudin for no reason in 2013, remember. Eduardo Nuñez will be here forever.
Anyway, it’s a beautiful day outside. I’m going to put dead animal flesh on a heat source and think about what I’ve done wrong. I implore you to do something similar.
Sure, maybe he didn’t foresee 98 losses and no positive surprises, but that series was a worm-turner, a paradigm-shifter, and a... uh... depression-maker.
With that in mind and with the Giants losing tonight’s originally scheduled starter, Dereck Rodríguez, indefinitely to a grade 1 hamstring strain (he’s on the 10-day DL, but who knows about hamstrings), this weekend’s series has the potential to be the worm-turner, paradigm-shifter, and odds-destroyer series for the 2018 season. The good news is the Reds are still pretty bad and have lost 4 in a row at home.
Cincinnati entered August 48-59 which both looks and is bad, but comes with the caveat that they started the season 7-22. They made the rare move of firing their manager, Bryan Price, just 18 games into the season (they were 3-15 at that point), a decision rife with controversy because it calls into question the front office’s due diligence during the offseason and even Spring Training. Then again, rudderless rebuilders like the Reds tend to create problems in addition to all the other issues that have befallen them on the field.
Say what you want about the Giants’ organizational consistency, at least it’s consistent.
Since they made that move, though, the Reds have been a lot better. The in-season turnaround was spurred by the arrival of interim manager Jim Riggleman (49-54 with him as manager) and better pitching overall. They lowered their team ERA from 5.32 to 4.67 over a 78-game stretch of May through July.
But they’ve hit the skids here again in August, posting a 4-10 record including a 4-game losing streak. They’re fresh off a 3-game sweep by Cleveland and their offense is struggling. The team’s OPS is .679 in 14 games this month (season average .734) and they’ve scored just 46 runs (3.29 per game average). They’re not struggling as much as the Giants (.627 team OPS, 51 runs scored in 13 games), but they’ve struggled against tough teams.
Pitching-wise, the numbers look like a typical Reds-level mess: a 5.55 ERA with 17 home runs, 47 walks, and 132 hits allowed across 120 innings. The bullpen has above average and interesting arms in Raisel Iglesias, David Hernandez, and Amir Garrett, but the rotation looks like somebody puked on a pile of puke. No starter has an ERA+ above league average (100), nobody has a FIP under 4.00 and they’ve combined to allow 90 home runs in 450.1 innings (19.99% rate).
This is a favorable matchup for the Giants.
Pitcher to watch
The Giants will get their first look at former farmhand Luis Castillo, who was part of the deal that netted them #ForeverGiant Casey McGehee not so long ago. One way to look at the situation is by acknowledging that Giants gave up a power pitcher (he averages 96 mph with his fastball and has 120 strikeouts in 126.2 innings this year) for a dude they had to cut just so he couldn’t break the single season record for double plays hit into by one player.
Another way to look at it is by considering the ripple effect holding onto Luis Castillo would’ve been. Without that trade, there’s a very good chance Dereck Rodriguez never joins the organization. Without that trade, maybe Matt Duffy doesn’t get traded later on and the series of events that causes the team to take a flyer on Pablo Sandoval don’t happen and the Giants don’t take a flyer on Pablo Sandoval, which means the Giants might not have drafted Joey Bart. Are you suggesting that the Giants should’ve avoided the temporary pain of losing out on a 24-year old power pitcher who won’t be eligible for free agency until 2024? If you are, then you’re also saying that you don’t want the two most promising players in the Giants system at the moment.
But without all those considerations, let’s see what we’ve been missing out on. His ERA+ this year is 82 (down from 141 a year ago) and he’s allowed 22 home runs in those 126.2 innings (including 3 over his last 3 starts). Still, over his last 3 starts, he has struck out 19 and walked only 4 in 18 innings and the only other extra base hits he’s allowed are 2 doubles.
Hitters to watch
Joey Votto feels like a given. Eugenio Suarez is their best hitter in 2018, but I’m not going with him, either. Scooter Gennett’s bat has been cold in August, but nope, not him either. Billy Hamilton has a .348 on base percentage in 46 August plate appearances but it also feels like the hassle he’ll provide on the basepaths (he has 7 stolen bases in 13 games) is also a given, so, I’m going with outfielder Phil Ervin, who I did not even know existed until I started working on this preview.
The 26-year old right handed hitter was the Reds’ 1st round draft pick (#27 overall) in the 2013 draft and has been filling in for Scott Schebler, who’s been on the disabled list with a shoulder injury and could be activated on Sunday. Before that, though, I’ve decided that he should be the hitter to watch. Ervin isn’t a home run threat like Duvall — his minor league numbers suggest a high contact (singles and doubles) player with some speed.
He’s played in just 41 games this season, but he has a solid .775 OPS in 114 plate appearances. However, in August, he’s posted an .835 OPS, including both of his home runs this season, over his last 40 plate appearances. He’s been cold on this home stand for the Reds (2-for-14 with 1 extra base hit, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts), but the Giants have never seen him before and that just might give Phil Ervin the advantage.
The Giants rally around their fallen rookie and win 2 out of 3.