SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Reds are reaching the end of a long season that is smack in the middle of a long rebuild that this season has been defined as one of baseball’s worst pitching staffs.
Up, relatively speaking. The Reds are coming off a series in which they were swept by the Cardinals, so they certainly aren’t on a crazy hot streak or anything like that. However, they did sweep the Pirates before that and had won five of their previous seven games. That makes them .500 over their last ten games, and for them that is playing over their heads.
9/22: Rick Porcello vs. Sal Romano, 7:10 PM ET
Porcello controls his own destiny as to whether or not he will get a postseason start and, if he makes it, where he’ll slot into a playoff rotation. The good news is that he’s been a bit better of late, and he’s coming off arguably his best outing of the year. The lineup he’ll be facing on Friday isn’t the most intimidating he’ll ever see, but it will be a nice test for whether or not he can piece together two consecutive strong starts and get on a legitimate hot streak.
Romano is a 23-year-old rookie who made his major-league debut back in April. That debut was a one-game stint, but he came back up in early July and has been up ever since. Though he hasn’t gotten many headlines, the rookie has been impressive in his first run through the majors. The righty has been particularly strong of late, posting a 2.09 ERA over his last eight starts with 29 strikeouts and 11 walks over 38 2⁄3 innings of work. Romano is largely a two-pitch pitcher with a mid-to-high-90s fastball and a slider.
9/23: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Robert Stephenson, 4:10 PM ET
Much like Porcello, Rodriguez has a couple starts left to try and solidify himself as the third best starter in the Red Sox rotation. He’s been a little more consistent of late than Porcello and he’s also had higher highs in 2017, so one would imagine he has the inside track in the battle between the two. However, a couple of bad starts can change that. He’ll have to stay consistent, and efficient, in this start against the Reds.
Stephenson is a former top prospect who made his major-league debut last year and has been up in the majors for much of this season. He’s in the rotation right now, but he’s spent the year bouncing between the starter role and the bullpen. He’s an interesting young arm, and at 24 years old he has plenty of room for growth. On the one hand, he has a solid base on which to build considering he has legitimate swing and miss stuff and is striking out ten batter per nine innings. On the other hand, his command has some serious lapses and it results in a ton of walks and fairly significant home run problems. He’s kept the ball in the yard of late, though, with only one home run allowed in August and a 2.52 ERA in that time despite the control issues still being there. Stephenson throws a mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup, a slider and a curveball.
9/24: Doug Fister vs. Jackson Stephens, 1:10 PM ET
Fister has had a pretty significant fall from grace of late, and if we’re being honest we probably should have seen this coming. Many of you did, though I will admit to having some rose-colored glasses on. I didn’t expect him to continue to be an ace, but the implosions in each of his last two starts have been discouraging to say the least. At this point I’d have to think he’s on the outside of the playoff roster looking in, though there is still a little time to change that. If he dominates in Cincinnati, things could change. Maybe.
The Red Sox will face yet another young pitcher on Sunday, their third of the series. Stephens is the least experienced of the bunch as the 23-year-old rookie has just five career appearances under his belt with just two of them being starts. His first start came back in July for a spot start and he looked impressive striking out eight over five innings. His last start was his last outing earlier this week, and he allowed five runs and only lasted 3 2⁄3 innings. The righty doesn’t really have any standout qualities and was never really much of a prospect. Stephens features a mid-90s four-seamer, a mid-90s two-seamer, a slider and a curveball.
Bronson Arroyo is the lone old friend on the Reds roster, but he’s a fairly significant one. The pitcher hasn’t made much of an impact on the league in recent years, but he is, of course, the last member of the 2004 Red Sox that is still hanging around. He’s spent much of this season on the disabled list and, based on how he’s spoken of late this will likely be his last year in the league. This will be our last chance to relive that 2004 World Series with an active player, so let’s cherish that opportunity.
Joey Votto just might be the best hitter in baseball, and if he’s not he’s certainly in the conversation. The dude is just a robot at the plate as he does everything well and in the most consistent way possible. He has absurd plate discipline, legitimately plus power and possibly the best bat-to-ball skills in the league. He’s going to give Red Sox pitchers some trouble, is what I’m saying.
Zack Cozart might sound familiar to you as a potential third base trade target from July. That never came to fruition, largely because he got hurt right before the deadline. He’s back and healthy now, and he’s experienced a breakout year in which he’s improved across the board at the plate. Oh, and he’s a plus shortstop, too.
Billy Hamilton is not a very good hitter, but he’s still one of the funnest players in the league. When he gets on base no one is even close to him as a threat on the bases and he’s also in the conversation for best defensive center fielder in baseball. He hasn’t been playing lately, but he could be back for this series.
Jesse Winker is an exciting rookie outfielder with great contact skills, good patience and surprising power in his major-league debut season.
Scooter Gennett has been one of the faces of the power outburst around the league this year and is enjoying a breakout season that’s included a four-homer game.
Eugenio Suarez doesn’t get enough love but is a solid power hitter who plays a good third base and has added some needed patience to his game at the plate.
Adam Duvall doesn’t walk much and strikes out a whole bunch, but he also has significant power.
Tucker Barnhart is a solid hitting catcher who relies on his approach at the plate to create his production.
Scott Schebler is a lot like Duvall except with slightly better plate discipline and worse defense in the outfield
Raisel Iglesias might be the best closer in baseball that nobody talks about. After trying him out as a starter for a couple years to start his career he’s been in the bullpen all year in 2017. He’s been fantastic in this role racking up a ton of strikeouts, keeping the ball in the yard and limiting walks enough to get by. He probably won’t try starting again any time soon.
Michael Lorenzen is another converted starter who doesn’t have the high ceiling that Igleisas possesses but has a big groundball tendency that helps limit major damage.
Kevin Shackelford has some command issues in his first year in the majors but he has some strikeout stuff that could bode well for his future.
Wandy Peralta is the top lefty in the Reds bullpen and he relies more on weak contact than strikeout stuff.
Devin Mesoraco has never been able to stay healthy in his career and his most recent injury was a foot injury that could keep him out for the rest of the year.
Anthony Desclafani has been out all year with an elbow injury and isn’t expected to return in 2017.
Brandon Finnegan has only been able to make four starts this year in what was supposed to be an important developmental season and he’s not likely to make another.
Scott Feldman went down with a knee injury last month and it resulted in season-ending surgery.
Drew Storen went down with an elbow injury just a couple weeks ago and will have to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Nick Travieso never got a chance to pitch this year after an elbow injury shut him down for the season.
Austin Brice has been up and down as a reliever all year before going down with a lat injury in August.
Arroyo is also hurt, as discussed above.
It’s looking like it should be a really nice weekend in Ohio, with temperatures getting into the 90s and the skies staying clear.