It has taken nearly half of the 2014 baseball season, but the Cincinnati Reds offense has finally woken up. This is a team that was expected to finish at or near the top of the National League Central due to their strong starting pitching and loaded batting order. However, they have struggled to stay around .500 all season because their offense hasn’t lived up to the expectations that baseball experts set for them. That has all turned around over the last 9 games as the Reds have scored 48 runs and gone 8-1 in the process.
Wednesday’s showdown with the struggling San Diego Padres gives Cincinnati another golden opportunity to gain ground on the division leading Milwaukee Brewers as they send their “Ace” Johnny Cueto to the mound. Cueto has been masterful this season, but has very little to show for it. His 8-5 record is respectable, however an ERA of 1.88, WHIP of 0.84 and 122 strikeouts should equate to a much better record. He’s just a year removed from suffering a lat injury that kept him on the bench for the majority of the 2013 season, but there’s no questioning that he’s been one of the most dominant pitchers in the game over the last 4 years.
He’ll have a chance to pick up his 9th win against a Padres squad that ranks dead last in nearly every offensive category. A team batting average of just .212 shows that this team is at the bottom and in no rush to get back to prominence. Offensively they are led by journeyman Seth Smith. This is Smith’s 3rd stop in his 7 seasons in the big leagues, and perhaps his most productive. He leads the team in batting average, home runs, runs batted in and on-base percentage, yet none of his stats are staggering.
Fortunately for San Diego they do have a solid foundation to work with in their pitching staff. They need something to hang their hat on, and starting pitching is it. They have a team earned run average of 3.33 which puts them 7th in baseball. Three of their best starters are under the age of 30, and that gives them something to work with moving forward. Andrew Cashner is still nursing a shoulder injury, but Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy are holding their own and keeping San Diego from being a complete failure this season. Tyson will take the ball against Cueto and the Reds tonight. That provides the Padres with their best opportunity to stay in the game and perhaps pull out a win.
Being at home may give San Diego a little help Wednesday night, but probably not enough to help against the right arm of Cueto and the red-hot Reds batting order. Baseball predictions have these teams finishing on opposite ends of the spectrum this season, but in terms of 1 game…….anything can happen. Tune in as Ross looks to slow down Cincinnati at Petco Park.