Votto, Phillps Out Against Pirates In NL Central Battle-Preview

Michael McKenry has hit .387 with seven home runs and 21 rbi in his last 20 games. (Photo by Keith Allison-Flickr)

After playing their last 19 games against teams with under .500 records, the Pirates head to Cincinnati to begin a stretch against much better competition in the month of August.

Five of the Pirates eight series in August are against teams with above .500 records.  The Pirates have been shaky against lesser competition as of late, but now is the time to start firing on all cylinders again.

The Reds (64-41) are 9-1 in their last 10 games and lead the Pirates by 3.5 games in the NL Central division.  Although Cincinnati has been red hot, the Reds will be without Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips this weekend against the Pirates.

The Pirates are 5-4 against the Reds in 2012.  The Reds and Pirates face each other two more times after this meeting.

Votto has been out for a few weeks, recovering from knee surgery and second baseman Brandon Phillips will miss this weekend with a calf strain.  With Votto and Phillips out, former Bucco Ryan Ludwick has picked up the slack tremendously.  In his last 35 contests, Ludwick has hit .339 with 11 home runs and 29 rbi.

Pirates Hitting Report

The Pirates have still been scoring runs as of late, but something about the production against lesser competition has been unsettling.  Perhaps the recent power slumps of Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez have created that unsettling feeling for Pirates fans.

McCutchen has not hit a home run in his last 14 games and only one rbi in that time span.  Alvarez has not hit a home run or drove in a run for ten games now, but has modestly raised his batting average from .229 to .235 in that span.

Although the Pirates two biggest power threats have been slumping, Neil Walker and Garrett Jones have done their best in picking up the slack.  In the last 12 games, Walker has hit four home runs with 11 rbi.  Over Jones’ last 14 games, he has hit four home runs with 15 rbi and has brought his average up to .272.

Rookie Starling Marte has shown flashes of his power and speed, but has also shown tendencies at the plate that have worried Pirates management.  Every at bat has been different for Marte, as he’s shown some plate discipline, but overall still needs to work on his free-swinging mentality.

Catcher Michael McKenry has hit .387 with seven home runs and 21 rbi in his last 20 games.  Rod Barajas has been slumping, gathering only seven hits in his last 20 games.  Barajas’ batting average has dropped from .228 to .203 and has struck out 15 times in that span.

Pitching Matchups

ROOT SPORTS Friday 7:10 pm Wandy Rodriguez (7-9) 3.82 ERA vs Mat Latos (9-3) 4.17 ERA 

ROOT SPORTS Saturday 7:10 pm James McDonald (10-5)  3.37 ERA  vs  Mike Leake (4-7) 4.444 ERA

ROOT SPORTS Sunday 1:10 pm Erik Bedard (5-12) 4.83 ERA  vs  Homer Bailey (9-6) 3.85 ERA

Pirates Pitching Report

Wandy Rodriguez

Friday night will mark Wandy’s second start since coming over from the Astros.  Last Saturday Rodriguez made his Pirates debut, pitching six innings, allowing three runs and striking out five.  The downfall of Wandy’s first start with the Pirates was his command, as he surrendered five walks.   Don’t expect the high walk total to become a trend, as Rodriguez has allowed more than three walks once this season.

James McDonald

The numbers have not been pretty for McDonald as of late, giving up 19 walks and 20 earned runs in his four starts since the All-Star break.  McDonald is not only struggling with consistency from game to game, but from batter to batter.  McDonald will have a fantastic sequence against one batter, then a perplexing sequence of pitches against the next batter.  Every start McDonald makes from here on out will be highly scrutinized and if he does not straighten things out, could end up on the disabled list or in the bullpen.

A.J. Burnett-NOT Erik Bedard

According to Kristy Robinson of Pirates Prospects, Burnett will start on Sunday, pushing Bedard back to Monday.  Burnett will now start on his normal five days rest and pitch against the first place Reds instead of Monday against the Diamondbacks.  But the story here, is still how Erik Bedard has struggled of late.

Bedard is right next to McDonald in the frustrating-category at this point.  Bedard had an excellent start to the season, then struggled with command and efficiency for a stretch.  Bedard seemed to figure things out again recently, allowing only one earned run in two of his last three starts.  Bedard’s last start not good, as he allowed eight earned runs through 4.1 innings.

With McDonald and Bedard struggling, the Pirates should hope for consistent starts from Burnett, Karstens and Rodriguez, while getting the occasional, dominant start from McDonald and Bedard.

Reds Pitching Report

Mat Latos

Latos has been up and down this season and in mid-June, Latos saw his ERA raise to 5.20 before putting things together.  Latos pitched back to back, one run-complete games in the end of June, which brought his ERA down to 4.13.  Since then, Latos has been solid for the Reds, only giving up more than 2 earned runs once through five starts in July.

Mike Leake

Leake, has the highest ERA (4.44) in the Reds starting rotation and has shown flashes of brilliance, but flashes of ineptitude as well.  On July 24, against the Astros, Leake pitched eight innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out six.  In his next start against the Padres, Leake pitched only 1.2 innings, allowing five earned runs.

Homer Bailey

Bailey had quite the month of July with the exception of his last start, in which he allowed six earned runs in 3.2 innings against the Padres.  Before that start, Bailey pitched into the seventh inning in all five of his starts in July.  Bailey was the Reds most effective pitcher in the month of July, pitching 41.1 innings and allowing only 12 earned runs.

Bailey has owned the Pirates throughout his career with a 6-1 record and a 2.62 ERA.  This season against the Pirates, Bailey is 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA.  In his last start against the Pirates, Bailey was roughed up for six earned runs in three innings pitched.

 (National League-2012)

Cincinnati Reds
450 Runs Scored (7th)
120 Home Runs (2nd)

58 Stolen Bases (14th)


3.37  Team ERA (2nd)

2.59 Bullpen ERA (1st)

Pittsburgh Pirates
431 Runs Scored (10th)

118 Home Runs (3rd)

52 Stolen Bases (16th)

3.56 Team ERA (5th)

2.81 Bullpen ERA (2nd)

*All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs

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About John Friend

NL Central and Pirates writer for Baseball News Source, along with contributor for Slew Footers. Follow me @Slew_John37. Thanks for reading! Find Slew Footers Sports and Baseball News Source on Facebook as well.