For the Milwaukee Brewers (44-47), July has been a month of tests so far. As we’ve noticed, the Brewers have gone 4-2 after the All-Star break, but should be 6-0 as they let two games slip away from them. Heading into the Great American Ball Park tonight to play the Cincinnati Reds (52-40) only adds to the test. The Brewers’ season is by no means shot, but in order to keep it away from there, they must sweep this series. On the other hand, the Reds are in a firefight for first place in the NL Central and it something they do not want to see slide by. The Reds head into this series without one of their star players, Joey Votto, but look to continue on in front of their home crowd.
For this preview, I asked Steve Engbloom of Blog Red Machine a few questions. Blog Red Machine is FanSided’s Cincinnati Reds’ blog so be sure to check them out by clicking on the link!
RtB: Johnny Cueto has been a huge surprise this season. What’s the reason behind his success?
Steve: To many Reds fans, Cueto’s performance this year isn’t a surprise. We have seem him mature as a pitcher over the past two seasons. A couple of reasons for his success are that he simply “gets it”. He’s not afraid to pitch to contact and let the defense help him. He has less reliance on the strikeout. Oh, he can still get one if he needs that, but he knows it’s not a necessity
The other reason is he pitches extremely well at Great American Ball Park, a notorious hitter’s park. His home/away splits for this season are for lack of a better word, insane.
Home: 6-1, 2.03 ERA, 1.050 WHIP, slash against – .232/.287/.325
Away: 5-4, 2.47 ERA, 1.247 WHIP, slash against – .258/.320/.338
RtB: How will the Reds fare without Joey Votto for these next few weeks?
Steve: That’s the big question right now. Over the past three games, the answer would be not too well. The offense had holes prior to Votto having his surgery for a torn meniscus. Now, there’s a gaping hole that, quite honestly, cannot be filled. If the Reds can play .500 ball without Votto’s services, things to look better. You can only maintain.
RtB: Given the Reds past two seasons, what must they do to avoid what happened in 2011?
Steve: Losing Votto for a month does not help this cause. That said, the starting pitching has been solid, but nothing spectacular. Spectacular might now be needed. The bullpen has fared well. If you can point at one area that could prove to be pivotal is that the Reds are unbalanced as far as bats are concerned. Way too many righties. They called up Xavier Paul, but he is far from the answer. GM Walt Jocketty now has to show his in-season mettle and pull off a trade to correct that imbalance.
Steve: Such a loaded question. I’ve always taken the stance that four-for-one deals seldom, if ever, work in favor of the team receiving the one. In essence, the Reds sent three first round picks and a former All-Star. Honestly, you cannot judge this trade based on the “here and now” as so many tend to do. It could take years to finally grade this deal…and even then, it might not be a high grade.
If want to know the fans opinion, check out Twitter during a game in which he’s pitching. They will tell you. Not hard to miss.
RtB: What are some things the Reds will want to be cautious of in this series with the Brewers?
Steve: Everyone wants to avoid Ryan Braun…with good reason. I simply can’t understand why opponents are even pitching to him. I know he recently had a groin strain, but it appears he’s good to go for this series. Strain or not, he’s dangerous. Do not let him hit with men on base unless you’re up by about a dozen runs.
In the past, Rickie Weeks has absolutely bashed Reds pitching. He has struggled this season, so there’s no sense waking up that bat.
Corey Hart’s bat has seemed to come a little more alive, too, with his 12 game hitting streak.
Aramis Ramirez has fared well against the Reds. Not this year. Same goes for ARam that I said about Weeks, don’t awake his slumbering bat.
Yes, it is the offense as the Reds will miss Zack Greinke (thank goodness).