“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
If you’re a Reds fan, that quote might be better suited to say “please, someone remember the past so we can repeat it!” The once-mighty Reds franchise that won back-to-back World Series in the 70’s and started the 90’s winning another one, has fallen on pretty hard times since the first digit of the century became a ‘2.’ It was ten years and five managers ago the Reds last had a winning record. The Dodgers, meanwhile, are coming off two straight division titles and four postseason appearances the last 10 years. They are off to a somewhat pedestrian 6-6 start in 2010. So as these once great division rivals match up in Cincinnati the next three days, about the only thing at stake is whether each team can make a statement in regards to the direction they are going in.
The Reds are in the midst of a five-game losing streak and do not have a win by a starting pitcher this season. The Dodgers are coming off a 4-2 home stand that was closed out by a brilliant pitching performance from Clayton Kershaw (7 IP, 4 hits, 9 K’s on Sunday). Overall though, the Dodger pitching has yet to prove itself as capable as last year.
Dodger starter Chad Billingsley (1-0, 5.73 ERA) opens the series against the Reds Homer Bailey (0-1, 6.97). The last starts for both bordered on disaster. Billingsley gave up five runs in 5 2/3 innings in a game the Dodgers would eventually lose. Bailey was racked for five runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Marlins his last time out. On Wednesday, the Dodgers send Hiroki Kuroda (1-0, 1.20) against Aaron Harang (0-2, 7.88). Thursday sees Vicente Padilla (1-1, 8.04) go against arguably the Reds best starter this year, Mike Leake (0-0, 2.63). Leake went 6.2 innings and gave up just one run in his first 2010 start but the Reds didn’t score against the Cubs until after he was pulled. He also pitched well against the Pirates last Friday going seven innings and giving up just three runs, all in the first two innings.
It was pretty much predicted that inconsistent starting pitching would plague the Dodgers in 2010. What was unexpected was how poorly the bullpen would perform. The bullpen was integral to the Dodgers success last season by posting a 3.14 ERA. This season, the bullpen is carrying a 5.93 ERA. Left handed set up man, George Sherrill, who carried a 0.65 ERA as a Dodger in 2009, enters Tuesday with one of 11.37. Veteran Russ Ortiz was recently sent down to the minors after his ERA ballooned to 10.29. Another Ortiz, veteran Ramon, may soon follow taking his 7.71 ERA with him. The bullpen has definitely been hurt by the absence of left hander Hong-Chih Kuo (3.00 ERA in 2009) and right hander Ronald Belisario (2.04). Kuo is expected to heal up soon from yet another injury to his surgically repaired elbow. Belisario just wasn’t ready for the season after missing spring training due to a drunken driving arrest in Los Angeles that delayed his entrance back into the U.S. from Venezuela.
As much as pitching has been a question mark for both teams, offensively the differences are quite clear. The Dodgers lead the majors with a .303 team batting average and are scoring at a clip of 5.8 runs a game. Six of their nine starting position players are batting .324 or better. The Reds rank 27th with a.226 average and are scoring just over four runs a game. First baseman Joey Votto leads the everyday regulars with a .283 average.
Manny Ramirez, who was the hero Sunday with a two-run, pinch-hit home run, is hitting .375 in 2010. His health is in question as he missed two of the last three games with a sore calf muscle. He is currently on a “day-to-day” basis in regards to being in the line-up on Tuesday.
Speaking of a rivalry that has lost its’ luster the last few years, the Dodgers took five of six from the Reds last year and are 22-4 against the Reds since 2006. With the Dodgers having come off a dramatic come-from-behind win last Sunday, this is the perfect series for them to garner some momentum. Of course, that momentum was supposed to come when the Dodgers opened the season on the road against another perennial NL Central bottom dweller, the Pirates. The Dodgers lost two of three.