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Series preview: Oh look, it’s the Reds again

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We just watched the Reds, so, naturally, let’s watch them again.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Cincinnati Reds Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds just saw each other. Like, just saw each other. They finished up a four-game series on Monday and, hey, hi, hello there.

This is kind of like when you hang out with a new friend for the first time, and then text them the next morning saying you should go on a weekend trip to Joshua Tree. Slow down there buddy, what’s the rush?

Regardless, the Reds are here, and they bring with them a remarkably similar record (16-22) to what the Giants are sporting (16-21). The teams split their four games a week ago, with one of the Giants wins being that remarkable eight-run comeback.

Don’t expect the Giants to be able to do that in this series. Despite playing half their games in the Great American Ballpark, the Reds have been the best pitching team in the National League, even by the traditional metric that cares not for any level of park adjustment.

The Reds lead the NL in ERA at 3.44 (median is the Giants at 4.29). They lead the NL in a much better pitching metric, FIP, also at 3.44 (median: 4.34). They lead the NL in pitcher fWAR at 6.2 (median: 3.4). They’re second in the league in strikeouts, with 9.69 per nine innings, and, remarkably, they lead the NL in home runs allowed (0.85 per nine innings), despite, and I repeat myself, playing half their games at the Great American Ballpark.

In other words, the Giants may have scored six runs per game in Ohio, and popped six balls out of the park, but don’t expect those things to happen now that the teams are meeting in the vast expanse of Oracle Park.

If the Giants can take any solace, it’s in the fact that Cincinnati’s offense is . . . what’s the word I’m looking for . . . bad. As a team, the Reds wRC+ (weighted runs created, 100 being average) is 77. They hit 77% as well as the average team. Ignore the fact that the Giants are at 74, and the Reds being the 12th-best offensive team in the NL is good news!

The Giants and Reds combined for 23 runs in a single game, just a week ago. I would not be surprised if their combined total this series is fewer than that.

Hitter to watch

Yasiel Puig. Puig is not the same player who destroyed pitchers in 2013 and 2014. He’s not even the same player who was a quality outfielder in 2017 and 2018.

In fact, he hasn’t even been a good player. He’s hitting just .197/.252/.346, which is worse than Brandon Crawford. I mean no disrespect to one of my all-time favorite Giants, but right now Crawford is a pretty good barometer for “struggling offensively.”

Regardless, Puig is still Puig. He’s a highlight machine with the bat and the glove. He’s hated by Giants fans (excepting this one), and will be booed every time he bats. He has a flair for the dramatic, and a remarkable ability to piss off Madison Bumgarner, who is pitching on Sunday.

Pitcher to watch

Luis Castillo. My my, Castillo sure would look good in a Giants uniform these days. But that ship has long sailed.

Castillo has been tremendous this year, with a 1.97 ERA and 2.87 FIP. He’s struck out 10.55 batters per nine innings this year, and my math tells me that’s not great news for the Giants.

But he’s fun. He’s a whole lot of fun.

Prediction

When two relatively even teams meet, give me the home squad. I say the Giants take two of three, with the loss being ugly and the wins being . . . kind of ugly, too.