|87-63 (1st place, NL Central)
74-76 (3rd place, NL Central)
|Game 1||Randy Wolf (12-9, 3.44)||vs.||Bronson Arroyo (8-11, 5.28)|
|vs. Reds||(0-1, 6.55)||vs. Brewers||(2-0, 2.70)|
|Game 2||Yovani Gallardo (16-10, 3.66)||vs.||Edinson Volquez (5-5, 5.80)|
|vs. Reds||(0-0, 6.55)||vs. Brewers||(0-0, 7.50)|
|Game 3||Zack Greinke (14-6, 3.87)||vs.||Dontrelle Willis (0-6, 5.04)|
|vs. Reds||(1-0, 3.00)||vs. Brewers||(0-0, 3.00)|
This is the final meeting between these two teams in 2011, so it's time once again to talk to our friends over at Red Reporter. Thanks to RijoSaboCaseyWKRP for taking the time to answer these questions:
KL: Obviously, the Reds' playoff hopes are pretty much over. What are your hopes for the rest of this season?
RR: (As of Thursday) You're forgetting about a little thing we like to call the NL Wild Card. If the Braves go on a 12-game losing streak from now until the end of the season and the Reds go on a 13-game win streak, the Reds are in like Larry Flynt. That is, after beating the Braves in a one-game play-off. So I guess technically they need to go on a 14-game win streak. [Also, this will be outdated after tonight]
You're right, the season is pointless from a win-loss standpoint. But there are some individual statistical achievements to track: If healthy, Johnny Cueto can pitch six more innings and win the ERA title. Francisco Cordero can move up another notch on the saves list. Joey Votto can post the league's highest OBP and reach 30 HRs again. Dontrelle Willis can notch his first win.
I'm hoping for encouraging things from the younger players: a strong finish from Homer Bailey, some outings with improved control from Aroldis Chapman, some course correction from Drew Stubbs and a continued look at The New Class who will factor into the 2012 plan: Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier and Juan Francisco.
KL: What does this team need to do to put themselves in a better position to succeed in 2012?
RR: In part, they need some better luck. They've under-performed their Pythag by 5 wins and gotten some poor production in close games and high-leverage situations - including being shockingly bad with the bases loaded - despite being a very good offense that hits well with RISP.
They also need to find solutions for several persistent holes. They still have what I'd like to call starting pitching depth, if such a thing exists, but they need AT LEAST one more option at the front-end of the rotation - especially since Cueto has struggled with injury this season. There may be internal solutions at SS (Zach Cozart), LF (Chris Heisey, Yonder Alonso) and the often-ailing Rolen's caddy at 3B (Juan Francisco/anyone with a glove), but there also might not be, as all of those players are unproven over a full MLB season.
KL: Bronson Arroyo, pitching Friday, leads the NL in earned runs and allowed his 40th home run of the season in his last start. What's different this year from the last two, when he posted sub-4 ERAs?
RR: There probably isn't a better answer to this question that what one of our writers recently posted on the occasion of Arroyo's big 4-0: http://www.redreporter.com/2011/9/12/2416998/bronson-arroyo-and-the-40-home-run-fraternity
Arroyo has suffered a number of ailments, including a bout of mono during Spring Training, which may have contributed to a decline in his fastball velocity. He's also having trouble keeping the ball down. Consequently, balls are flying out of the park, though he may suffering some bad fly ball luck, as he's not getting hit as hard as 40 HRs suggests.
KL: Is this Dusty Baker's last season? If not, should it be?
RR: It's not - and it won't be. He's signed through next year and owner Bob Castellini has confirmed he's staying put. I wouldn't expect him to be fired mid-2012 unless the team really starts to tank hard. I like Dusty Baker - most of Red Reporter does on some level - and think his player's manager qualities have a far more than negligible value, but I've questioned whether he can effectively manage a team that finds itself in close games where tactical blunders like ill-advised hit-and-runs stick out more or bias for veteran playing time keeps younger players from getting a look. Or batting Edgar Renteria second. The question is: what unemployed manager would be a substantial improvement? Dusty Baker presided over the first winning season (and division champ) in a decade, so I don't think there's an need to run him out on a rail just yet.
KL: A quick glance at the numbers shows the left side of the infield has been a pretty significant problem for the Reds this season: Their shortstops and third basemen have hit .238/.283/.321 and 241/.294/.392 this season. What does the future look like at those positions?
RR: I think the future actually looks pretty bright at those positions. Rolen's health is up-in-the-air, but there's been a willingness to limit his time, which could open to one of the young bucks in 2012. Each of those possible replacements has warts (Francisco, Frazier - possibly even Alonso, though they're pushing hard from him at LF), but the depth is good. At SS, the solution hinges on Zach Cozart's recovery from TJ (on his non throwing arm). I more-than-half expect them to make another Renteria-style signing as a fail safe, so even though I like Cozart, I'm more concerned about SS.