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Red Sox vs. Reds Series Preview

The Red Sox take on the Sox-less Reds for a quick two-game set.

Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds
Hunter Greene
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Red Reporter

The opponent in one sentence

The Reds started off the post-lockout period by trading away some of their top talent and then having ownership respond to reasonable fan complaints by saying, “Where else will you go?” and things have only gotten marginally better from there, if at all.

Record

16-31

Trend

Up, for really the first time this season. The Reds were looking like one of the worst teams of all time through the first month of the season — their record was 3-22 on May 5 — but have since been merely regular bad. And actually more recently, they’re playing pretty well, having won four of their last five and winning two of three from the Giants most recently.

Pitching Matchups

5/31: Michael Wacha vs. Luis Castillo, 7:10 PM ET

The Red Sox just played five games against the Orioles, a series that went disappointingly, and Wacha was the only member of the rotation who did not get a start. As such, he’ll be starting off this series against the Reds. This is the righty’s third start since coming back from the injured list, and he’s struggled a bit in his previous two outings. His last start against the White Sox in particular was a struggle as he allowed five runs without completing the fifth inning. He’s also allowed a homer in each of the last two outings, which matches his total from his previous five starts. The good news for Wacha is that the control was there as he didn’t issue a walk, but when he threw strikes they were hit around, only striking out two batters. Wacha is reliant on weak contact, and he can do plenty to induce it, but it’s the kind of profile that is inherently liable for ups and downs.

When the Reds were selling off players prior to the season, many thought that Castillo would be among them. He instead has been kept on the roster and is once again just having a confusing season. The righty is consistently very good peripherally, and that is the case this year with a 3.38 FIP, but the results haven’t always matched. This season he’s pitched to a 4.35 ERA. We should mention he missed the first month or so of the season with a shoulder injury, and has only made four starts so far this season. In that sample, his strikeouts are down, but the control and home run prevention is still good. He’s also looked particularly strong his last couple of starts. Castillo will feature a pair of mid-90s fastballs to go with a changeup and a slider.

6/1: Garrett Whitlock vs. Hunter Greene, 7:10 PM ET

Prior to his last start, Whitlock was in what was really his first slump as a major-league pitcher as he’s struggled a bit in adjusting to the rotation. His pace was slowing down, and the command just wasn’t there with the consistency we saw in the bullpen. That’s not to say he was bad, to be fair, but rather not dominant as we’d gotten used to. He wasn’t dominant in his last start either, but he looked better against Baltimore when he went six innings allowing only a couple of runs. When he pitches with confidence and works quickly, he’s done a better job of keeping offense off balance and painting corners. We need to see more of that from here.

On the other end, the Red Sox face one of the most exciting young pitchers in the game. Greene entered the majors as a potential two-way star, but the Reds quickly had him focus on pitching, and it’s hard to argue with that once you watch him. Greene is all about pure power, regularly hitting triple digits throughout his starts and also featuring a big slider. But despite the prospect status and big fastball, he’s been hit around pretty badly this year with a 5.89 ERA and an even worse FIP. He’ll get his strikeouts, but the fastball is frankly pretty straight, and for all of its velocity major-league hitters can punish it even in triple digits. The key for the Red Sox will be to avoid falling behind, because if they can get into fastball counts they should be able to do damage.

Notable Position Players

Joey Votto is one of the best pure hitters of his generation, but is on the back nine of that career and off to a slow start in 2022. The power that he’d shown in recent years as subsided early this year, and he’s striking out much more than we’d expect from Votto. All together he’s been 25 percent worse than league-average by wRC+.

Tommy Pham is in the news of late after being suspended for three games because he slapped Joc Pederson over fantasy football and/or a gif, but he’ll be back on the field this week. He’s been a league-average hitter this year with solid plate discipline but a bit less power than he’d expect.

Tyler Naquin has somewhat quietly turned into a really solid outfielder the last few years. He won’t take many pitches, but when he connects he can hit for big power from the left side.

Nick Senzel has never really been able to make good on his former top prospect status, and once again is struggling mightily this season.

Tyler Stephenson emerged last season as a very good young catcher, and he’s off to a hot start this season with a 131 wRC+, though that’s partially thanks to a .400 batting average on balls in play.

Brandon Drury has spent his career bouncing around as a utility man, but he’s recently found some power that we’d never seen before and has been one of the Reds best hitters this season as a result.

Kyle Farmer isn’t going to hit for a ton of power and doesn’t really draw many walks, but he’ll make enough contact to provide solid offense towards the bottom of the order.

Mike Moustakas has fallen a bit out of favor in the Reds lineup, and this year he’s really not hitting for the power he needs to in order to carry his value.

Albert Almora Jr. is mostly known as a defense-first backup, but he’s been thrust into playing time recently and is off to a nice start with his season.

Bullpen Snapshot

Art Warren started the season as the nominal closer and is tied for the team lead in saves, but he also has displayed terrible command and has a 7.27 ERA.

Alexis Diaz has been the best reliever in the bullpen so far this year, working around walk issues with a ton of strikeouts and a lack of homers.

Tony Santillan is the one tied with Warren in saves, and while he hasn’t been quite as bad he’s still been plenty shaky thanks to rough control.

Weather Forecast

The first game of this series shouldn’t present any issues whatsoever, but there is rain in the forecast on and off throughout the day on Wednesday. A lot of that rain is expected in the middle of the scheduled game, so keep an eye on the status of this game throughout the day on Wednesday.


A big thank you to FanGraphs, and particularly their Roster Resource tool, as well as Baseball Savant for research.