The Reds begin a nine-game homestand tonight when they take on the second-place San Francisco Giants (9-7,Ã‚Â $118 million) in aÃ‚Â three-game series,Ã‚Â Tuesday (7:10), Wednesday (7:10) and Thursday (12:35).
The Reds (7-9,Ã‚Â $76 million)Ã‚Â were 5-2 against the Giants in 2011 and outscored them 37-14.Ã‚Â The Reds sweep of the Giants at Great American Ball Park last July was the one bright spot in an otherwise disastrous month. In 2011, the Giants finished in second place in the NL West with a record of 86-76.
Here is your Redleg Nation preview of the series:
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
- Tue:Ã‚Â Matt Cain (1-0, 1.88 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (0-2, 8.22 ERA)
- Wed: Barry Zito (1-0, 1.77 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (1-0, 2.91 ERA)
- Thu: Ryan Vogelsong (0-1, 3.38 ERA) vs. Homer Bailey (1-2, 3.86 ERA)
As has been the case in recent years, the Giants rely on their pitching. Their team ERA of 3.20 was second in the National League in 2011, with four Giants starters receiving Cy Young votes. While the Reds do avoid two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum (who has never beaten the Reds, pictured left) and 22-year old phenom Madison Bumgarner, they still face challenging starters in this series.
After pitching a one-hit shutout against the Pirates in his most recent start, Matt Cain combined with Cliff Lee to throw 19 scoreless innings in an epic, historicÃ‚Â pitchers’ duel. Cain was also in the news recently when the 27-year old agreed to a six-year contract extension with the Giants, paying him $127.5 million through 2017, the largest contract ever signed by a right-handed pitcher. Against Cain, Dusty Baker will be so eager to play for one run that he may call for sacrifice bunts with no one on base.
Left handerÃ‚Â Barry ZitoÃ‚Â won the Cy Young award in 2002 while pitching for the Oakland Athletics. Zito is in the next-to-the-last year of his 7-year, $126 million contract, which is widely regarded as one of the worst contracts of all time. Zito will make $19 million this year, more than the entire Reds starting rotation. Zito pitched so poorly in 2010 that he did not make the team’s World Series roster. He started nine games for the Giants last year, compiling a 5.87 ERA. But given how the Reds struggled to generate any offense on Saturday against Cubs’ lefty Paul Maholm, Zito’s southpaw curve ball could present serious problems for the Reds.
Ryan Vogelsong was one of theÃ‚Â best stories in the major leagues last year. After having been out of the league since 2006, the 34-year old pitcher not only got the call to pitch for the Giants last April, replacing an injured Barry Zito, but Vogelsong then posted a 13-7 record (2.71 ERA) and was named to the NL All-Star team. There are already questions about whether he can repeat that performance in 2012. For example, an analyst at FangraphsÃ‚Â points to a significant drop in Vogelsong’s fastball speed.
STARTING POSITION PLAYERS AND LIKELY LINEUP
- Angel Pagan (S) – CF
- Melky Cabrera (S) – LF
- Pablo Sandoval (S) – 3B
- Buster Posey (R) – C
- Nate Schierholtz (L) – RF
- Brandon BeltÃ‚Â (L) – 1B
- Brandon Crawford (L) – SS
- Emmanuel Burriss (S) – 2B
Yep, that’s three switch hitters at the top of the Giants batting order. Apparently, someone forgot to tell Bruce Bochy (the Giants manager who did win a World Series) that the catcher has to bat eighth and the SS has to bat first or second, or that you have to separate your LH hitters.
The Giants scored the fewest runs in the National League last year. That was partially attributable to losing Buster Posey, their catcher and 2010 NL Rookie of the Year. Posey missed four months of the season after suffering a gruesome broken ankle from a collision while blocking home plate (story/pictures, video).
Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval not only has a uniqueÃ‚Â handshake for every Giants teammate, he is also the team’s hottest hitter, riding a 16-game hitting streak. Against Mat Latos tonight, Sandoval will attempt to break the San Francisco record for a consecutive game hit streak at the start of a season — a record he now shares with one Willie Mays, who accomplished it in 1960.
BULLPEN (Fear the beard no more)Ã‚Â
In recent years, the bullpen has been one of the primary strengths of the Giants. It was expected to be that way again this year until last Wednesday when Brian Wilson and hisÃ‚Â beardÃ‚Â found themselves joining Ryan Madson in Tommy John’s Sad Clown Hospital Wing for Shredded Elbow Ligaments.
The Giants still have several dominant arms to close out games in Sergio Romo (RHP), Santiago Casilla (RHP) and Jeremy Affeldt (LHP). But it’s not clear who will be the closer or if any of them will be effective in that role. Clay Hensley (RHP) actually earned a save Friday after Casilla blew a one-run lead against the Mets. The Giants didn’t have a save opportunity in either game yesterday against the Mets.
NEW ADDITIONS TO THE ROSTER
- Melky Cabrera – In November, the Giants traded starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to the Kansas City Royals for former-Yankee Cabrera.
- Angel Pagan – In December, the Giants traded centerfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez to the NY Mets for Pagan.
- Ryan Theriot – In January, the Giants signed free-agent infielder Theriot to a one-year, $1.25 million contract.
GIANTS ON THE DL Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
- Brian Wilson – The Giants lost their All-Star closer for the season, as Wilson had Tommy John surgery on Thursday.
- Freddy Sanchez – Sanchez, who used to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is on the 15-day DL recovering from shoulder surgery.