Before starting a critical 10-game stretch against division rivals Milwaukee and St Louis, the Cincinnati Reds have a 3-game grudge match against the Cleveland Indians this weekend.

When the Reds last faced the Indians in late May, Cleveland was sitting on top of the baseball world. They had the best record in all of baseball (.659 WPct), the best run differential at +66, a 7 game lead in the AL Central division, and were already 14 games over .500. At the time, they had outscored their opponents 5.2 to 3.7 runs per game.

The game has played out a bit differently for the Indians since the Reds left Cleveland. Since sweeping the Reds, Cleveland is only 13-22, a .371 Wpct. During that time, they have only scored an average of 3.2 runs per game while allowing 4.8 runs per game. Cleveland dropped into second place in their division yesterday, 0.5 games behind Detroit, and 3.5 games back in the AL wildcard race.

Cincinnati has done much better at scoring runs and preventing runs during that timeframe, but they don’t have the positive record to support that. After getting swept by Cleveland, the Reds are just 17-18 despite scoring 4.5 runs per game during that time and allowing only 4.0 runs per game. The NL Central is a bit tighter race than it was back in May. After games played on May 22, the Reds were in sole possession of 2nd place, 2.5 games behind the Cardinals. Now the Reds are tied for 3rd place with Pittsburgh but just 2 games behind St. Louis and Milwaukee.

On paper, the pitching matchups in this series favor the Reds. Indians Game 1 starter, Justin Masterson, has been the unluckiest pitcher in baseball these past two months. He started the season 5-0 in his first 5 April starts. The team scored 33 runs for Masterson in those 5 starts, while he allowed only 8 earned runs. However, in May and June, Masterson has an 0-6 record in 11 starts. He’s allowed only 27 earned runs in those starts, but the team has scored only 22 runs in those 11 games.

Bronson Arroyo gets the ball for game 1 for Cincinnati. Jason wrote a great piece on Arroyo yesterday. Hopefully, Arroyo bounces back with better health, better luck, and a great second half.

Pitching matchups for this series are:

Game 1:
Justin Masterson, 5-6, 2.98 ERA, 3.58 xFIP, 1.32 WHIP – last outing allowed 0 ER in 6.2 innings but got the loss from 1 unearned run
vs.
Bronson Arroyo, 7-6, 5.01 ERA, 4.10 xFIP, 1.39 WHIP – allowed 4 HR in last start; has done that only 1 other time in Reds uniform – April 2008 vs. Phillies in GABP

Game 2:
Fausto Carmona, 4-10, 5.89 ERA, 4.45 xFIP, 1.42 WHIP – 10 BB and 9 K in his last 4 starts (19.2 innings)
vs.
Homer Bailey, 3-2, 3.86 ERA, 3.55 xFIP, 1.14 WHIP – 5 ER in 5 innings in his last start, his first off DL

Game 3:
Mitch Talbot, 2-4, 4.96 ERA, 4.10 xFIP, 1.65 WHIP – hasn’t won a game since May 31
vs.
Mike Leake, 7-4, 3.89 ERA, 3.68 xFIP, 1.20 WHIP – 6 scoreless innings in last outing; 6 QS in 7 starts since returning from AAA