The Cincinnati Reds (5-9) have won four of their last five games and will start the first of seven games in California tonight. Before playing against the first place Padres this weekend, they’ll start a three game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers (9-8) at 10:10 PM. The Dodgers started the season 8-2, but they have lost six of seven since (all coming against the Cardinals and Brewers).

Yasiel Puig will make his anticipated return to Dodgers Stadium this evening. He is one of five former Dodgers in the Reds lineup tonight, joining Matt Kemp, Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler and Kyle Farmer.

Starting Pitchers

Luis Castillo is off to a tremendous start to 2019. His first three starts have gone about as good as you could ever hope for. He will have a big test tonight against the mighty Dodgers lineup and against Clayton Kershaw. The one small area of concern tonight is walks. Castillo has walked 8 batters in his first three starts. The Dodgers lead the MLB with 78 walks. They also lead the NL with a 137 wRC+ and 35 home runs.

Castillo has a career 2.19 ERA in 2 starts against the Dodgers (12.1 IP, 1 BB, 17 K). He had a terrific start in Dodger Stadium last May: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K.

Clayton Kershaw will be making his first start of 2019 for the Dodgers tonight. He missed the start of the season due to shoulder inflammation. He made two rehab starts (1 in AAA, 1 in AA): 10.1 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 3 HR, 2 BB, 12 K. This is the first year in a long time for Kershaw that he comes into the year not in the conversation for the best pitcher in baseball. Kershaw’s 2019 projections are still very good, but down from his incredible run of dominance from 2011-2017. His fastball velocity was down from 93.1 MPH to 91.4 last year. That likely had a significant impact on why his K/9 dropped from 10.39 to 8.65.

Kershaw has a career 2.54 ERA in 10 career starts against the Reds (22 BB, 78 K). However, the Reds haven’t faced Kershaw since 2016.

Lineups

Reds Dodgers
1. Curt Casali (C)
2. Eugenio Suarez (3B)
3. Yasiel Puig (RF)
4. Matt Kemp (LF)
5. Jose Peraza (2B)
6. Jose Iglesias (SS)
7. Scott Schebler (CF)
8. Kyle Farmer (1B)
9. Luis Castillo (P)
1. Joc Pederson (LF)
2. Corey Seager (SS)
3. Justin Turner (3B)
4. Cody Bellinger (RF)
5. A.J. Pollock (CF)
6. Max Muncy (1B)
7. Enrique Hernandez (2B)
8. Austin Barnes (C)
9. Clayton Kershaw (P)

This is the Reds first game of the season against a left-handed starter. A few hitters that mashed lefties last season were Eugenio Suarez (169 wRC+), Curt Casalli (164 wRC+) and Matt Kemp (124 wRC+). Joey Votto has his second off day of the season tonight. David Bell said that Votto would have more off days this season to keep him fresh. Votto is 5 for 25 with 2 HR, 4 BB and 13 K vs Kershaw.

Cody Bellinger leads all of the MLB in fWAR (1.8) and leads the NL in wRC+ (258), HR (9), Runs (22), RBI (22), AVG (.424), OBP (.500) and SLG (.909). He isn’t the only Dodger tearing the cover off the baseball right now. Enrique Hernandez (4 HR, 171 wRC+), Joc Peterson (6 HR, 158 wRC+), Austin Barnes (131 wRC+) and Max Muncy (4 HR, 130 wRC+) are all off to big starts. The Reds will really need their left handed relievers to step up in this series. Alex Wood would have been really nice to get a start in this series.

News and Notes

Conclusion 

The next 17 games for the Reds are really tough (3 at LAD, 4 at SD, 3 vs ATL, 3 at STL, 4 at NYM). How the Reds do over this stretch could determine if they will really be competitive in 2019 or not. Go Reds!