Reds still hold the advantage in winner-take-all Game 5

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Momentum, if such a thing exists in baseball, favors the Giants. Thursday’s matchup, Matt Cain vs. Mat Latos, would likewise seem to favor the Giants. And yet the Reds are still the better bet to win Thursday’s series-ending Game 5.

– The Reds have home-field advantage. It didn’t count for much the last two days, but the Reds were tied for the NL’s best record at home (50-31) this season.

– Recent history suggests the Reds have Cain’s number. Including Saturday’s Game 1, in which the Giants ace allowed three runs in five innings, Cain is 0-3 with a 5.50 ERA and six homers surrendered in 18 innings against the Reds this year. Two of those three starts were in San Francisco, too. Overall, Cain was far better at home this year (2.03 ERA, seven homers allowed in 111 IP) than on the road (3.56 ERA, 14 homers allowed in 109 IP).

– Latos is pitching even better than Cain at the moment. He had a 2.41 ERA over the final two months of the regular season. Plus, he’s dominated the Giants. He was 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in two starts during the season. Pitching in relief of the injured Johnny Cueto, he allowed one run over four innings in relief in the Game 1 victory.

– Even though the Reds’ No. 1 starter (Cuet0) faced two batters in Game 1 and their hottest starter going into the series (Latos) hasn’t started at all, the Reds have outscored the Giants 18-12 in the NLDS. They’ve been the better team.

– Since Wednesday’s game wasn’t close, the key relievers on both teams will be rested for Game 5. That favors the Reds, given that Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall are a bit stronger than the Giants’ late-game committee.

– The Reds also have Bronson Arroyo lurking if something truly unexpected happens. It’s doubtful Dusty Baker will be looking to go to him, but he was awesome in Game 2 and he’s actually been quite successful on three days’ rest in his career, going 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in eight starts.

Of course, just about anything can happen in an all-hands-on-deck game, and things will get very interesting if Latos happens to struggle early. I like the Reds in this one, but given that I preferred the Giants a week ago, what do I know?

Marcus Stroman dealing with blister again

Marcus Stroman
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Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman might be headed to the disabled list soon, manager John Gibbons told reporters following Friday’s rain-shortened loss to the Yankees. The righty lasted just four innings on the mound before calling it a night, and gave up five runs, six hits and two walks in a performance that Gibbons claimed was at least partially affected by recurring blister issues on his right middle finger. Now, it looks like he might be removed from the rotation for some much-needed rest and rehabilitation; if so, it’ll be his second such stint this year.

Stroman, 27, has struggled to return the kind of winning record and sub-4.00 ERA that characterized his previous seasons with the club, mostly due to the combined seven weeks he missed with blisters on his throwing hand and chronic fatigue in his right shoulder. In a recent start against the Rays, things got even more gruesome when his blister appeared to start bleeding in the middle of his outing and MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm notes that the wound has constantly interfered with the right-hander’s pitch selection and delivery. When healthy, Stroman has managed a 4-8 record through 18 starts in 2018 with a career-worst 5.27 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 6.8 SO/9 in 100 2/3 innings. This will be the first year since 2015 in which he has not logged at least 200 innings in a single season.

While Stroman may not need an extended stay on the DL before he returns to the mound, it’s not clear what kind of timetable the Blue Jays expect for his recovery. He’s been the second-most valuable starter (behind the now-traded J.A. Happ) in a rotation that currently ranks 17th in the majors with a combined 4.90 ERA and 6.8 fWAR.