When pundits turn in their predictions in the coming weeks for this year’s version of the MLB postseason, our guess is the Reds aren’t going to be crowned as champions by many scribes.
Maybe part of that has to do with the club’s lack of playoff experience, and maybe part is based on Cincinnati’s generally lackadaisical attitude toward the team. Others will point to the Reds’ starting rotation, which is now without stud rookie Mike Leake and probably the least talented among baseball’s playoff-bound teams.
Cincy’s three-man October rotation will most likely consist of Bronson Arroyo, who has a 4.05 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 30 starts this season, Johnny Cueto, 12-5 with a 3.31 ERA in 28 starts, and, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Edinson Volquez.
Volquez spent a large chunk of the 2010 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and serving a 50-game suspension for a positive PED test. But he threw seven shutout innings and struck out 10 batters last week against Pittsburgh and allowed just six hits and fanned seven in 6 2/3 innings today against the Diamondbacks.
“He’s throwing it as well as anybody we have right now,” Reds manager Dusty Baker told the Enquirer Thursday. “That’s a positive sign. … His endurance is up. His velocity is up. … His tempo, rhythm and overall delivery are
better. He’s not forcing it. He’s letting it flow.”
The Reds are currently eight games up on the Cardinals in the National League Central. Within the next week or two, they will be celebrating the organization’s first playoff berth since 1995.
The Red Sox have some tough decisions to make in advance of the World Series next week; namely, what to do with some of their hottest-hitting players once the series shifts to a National League park — and National League rules. During a press conference on Saturday, manager Alex Cora said he’d be open to the idea of starting All-Star right fielder Mookie Betts at second base when the club’s regular DH, J.D. Martinez, is forced to play the outfield during away games.
The Red Sox carry home field advantage through the Fall Classic, so Games 1 and 2 will be played at Fenway Park — as well as Games 6 and 7, should those become necessary. Depending on the outcome of NLCS Game 7 later tonight, World Series Games 3 through 5 will be played at Dodger Stadium or Miller Park. That’s when Betts might take over the keystone from Ian Kinsler and Brock Holt, both of whom have shared second base duties over the course of the 2018 postseason.
The idea isn’t without merit. Betts and Martinez comprise two of the team’s top talents at the plate and, should the Red Sox need to stave off elimination in Games 4 and 5, sitting either of them doesn’t make sense. The 26-year-old Betts led the team with a staggering .346/.438/.640 batting line, 32 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and career-best 10.4 fWAR over 614 PA, while Martinez posted some career totals of his own, slashing .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs, a 1.031 OPS, and 5.9 fWAR in 649 PA. This wouldn’t be the first time Betts has taken reps at second, either, as he’s logged 15 games at the position over the course of his five-year career, most recently during a 4-1 win over the Yankees in August.
Whether or not Betts is considered a lock for all three games is another question, one to which Cora didn’t give a definite answer. “I don’t know, man,” the skipper told reporters Saturday. “[Betts] already played second during the regular season, so there’s always a chance, I guess.” He later added that while Betts would be taking ground balls at second, it’s part of the routine he’s maintained all year — so nothing should be read into it until a clear decision has been announced.