Series preview: Cincinnati vs. Boston


May 4, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) watches the ball as he hits a ground rule double during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

The “Queen City” versus the “Athens of America.” Cincinnati against Boston and the memories flood back to 1975.

Joe Morgan ending it all in the ninth.

Bernie Carbo and that dramatic PH home run.

The Jim Rice factor.

Luis Tiant‘s gutsy game four performance.

Has that Tony Perez home run landed yet?

Ed Armbrister getting a BS call.

Dwight Evans making a catch for the ages.

Pete Rose getting MVP honors.

Carlton Fisk and the forever highlight home run ending game six.

There is a historical connection as the original Cincinnati Red Stockings, with player-manager-owner Harry Wright, opened up the play for pay era, and then moved to Boston in 1871 with virtually the entire team kept intact. In an example of profound creativity Wright named the team the Boston Red Stockings and proceeded to win several championships in the National Association and National League.

That was then and this is now. Both teams are struggling with similar issues, especially the injury parade, and that is particularly dreadful for the Reds. Neither team has approached their 2013 offensive capabilities regarding run production and pitching for both has been rough around the early-going edges.

In the first game of the two game set the Reds (15-16 ) will send baseball’s latest addition to the one percent club, right-hander Homer Bailey (2-2, 5.50 ERA), against Felix Doubront (1-3, 5.70 ERA), for Boston (15-17). On Wednesday night the matchup will be another right-hander for the Reds, Mike Leake (2-3, 3.53 ERA), against Jake Peavy (1-1, 2.87 ERA).

Bailey has been prone to home runitis in the early going by allowing seven to leave the yard. However, in his last outing Bailey worked a solid eight innings to pick up a win against the hot Brewers. Leake, a 13-game winner in 2013, also had a nice outing against the Brewers, but the offense was taking a day off and Leake lost 2-0.

May 1, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey throws against the Milwaukee Brewers during the seventh inning at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won 8-3. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

On the Boston side, Doubront is now doing his yearly Wallendas Family tightrope walk to remain in the rotation. There are several pitchers at Pawtucket that I am quite sure follow each and every Doubront start with the anticipation of the phone ringing for a call-up. Peavy, however, has been a linchpin of the rotation in the early going.

I contacted Doug Gray at and tossed a few questions his way. Thanks, Doug and Red Sox Nation will see you again on 8/12-8/13.

BSI: Boston and the Reds seem very similar in how they are performing. What do you see as the primary factor(s) in the Reds performance?

Doug Gray: At this stage of the game, injuries have played a big part in how the Reds have performed. They had had injuries to Devin Mesoraco, Skip Schumaker, Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton and only the latter two are back. Devin Mesoraco has actually hit the disabled list twice already this season. When he was healthy, he was literally the hottest hitter in the game, posting a .468/.509/.787 line in 53 plate appearances. On a team that came into the season looking at Jay Bruce and Joey Votto as the only above-average hitters on the team, not having Mesoraco in there every day has hurt even with backup Brayan Pena hitting well. While the pitching has been outstanding and the offense has struggled, it is still the pitching that has been the larger issue as it relates to the results thus far. The team is 3-9 in 1-run games this season and the bullpen has largely been a mess, missing their 7th, 8th and 9th inning guys from the year before to start the year. To a lesser extent early, though there should be long term concerns, the complete lack of offensive value given by Billy Hamilton, Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart in April is a big issue.

BSI: Which prospects in the Reds system do you feel may contribute significantly in 2014 or 2015?

Doug Gray: In the 2014 season, there probably won’t be anyone who comes up and becomes a difference maker. In the 2015 season there could be some intrigue with top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson or perhaps 2013 supplemental first round RHP Michael Lorenzen. From the offensive side of things, perhaps later in the 2015 season there could be some outfielders on the verge of the big leagues between Yorman Rodriguez, Jesse Winker or Phillip Ervin.

BSI: It is still early, but the Brewers have surprised. How do you see your division and the NL leader board finishing up for 2014?

Doug Gray: I still believe that the Cardinals are the cream of the crop in the division. They are the deepest team offensively and if they aren’t the top pitching team, they are second in the division. The Brewers are off to a great start, but their pitching staff is going to come back to Earth at some point and they are going to fall back some. With their incredible start maybe they can compete with the Reds for second place in the division in that 83-87 win range, but I can’t see them winning 90+ games to overtake the Cardinals. The Pirates just seem like more of an 80-85 win team for me. They are solid, but I don’t see them as a very good team. Then of course there is the Cubs. No explanation required.

BSI: Put on the GM hat. You get to select two players from the Boston roster to solidify the Reds. Who would you take?

Doug Gray: While it certainly helps that it also fills a Reds weakness, I would probably grab Xander Bogaerts no matter what team I were picking for, even if I already had an elite shortstop. That the Reds need a shortstop makes him the easiest pick in the history of the world. If it were just for one season I would grab up Dustin Pedroia quicker than Billy Hamilton can run to first base, but the contract wouldn’t work on the Reds at all given their future commitments, so I will go with Jon Lester even though the Reds already had a full rotation. You can never have enough pitching and his contract expiring at the end of the year would play well with the team’s budget moving forward.