The last time we saw the Cincinnati Reds, they were on the outside edges of the playoff race but still very much alive in a tightly-packed NL Central.
Since then, the Chicago Cubs have gone on a bit of a run, while the Reds have slid back down into last place in the division and near the back of the wildcard race.
Since taking 3 of 4 from the Brewers at the start of the month, Cincinnati has lost 9 of 12, and the Reds now find themselves 9 games behind the Cubs in the division and 7 games behind the Brewers in the wildcard race, with only the Miami Marlins behind them.
The main issue has been a pitching staff that’s come back down to earth, allowing 10 or more runs in a loss three times and 9 runs in a win in that stretch. The offense that has held them back for much of the year hasn’t gotten any better, scoring more than 3 runs only 5 times in those 12 games.
At least they debuted sleeveless retro uniforms in that time.
Gray turned his season around after a start against the Brewers on June 21st that saw his ERA rise above 4 after surrendering 4 runs in 4.1 innings. Since then, he’s allowed a total of 5 runs in 4 starts, covering 27.1 innings. That includes his most recent start against the Brewers, which saw him throw 8 shutout innings while striking out 12 in Cincinnati on July 3rd. He struck out 8 and limited the Cubs to 2 runs over 6 innings in his last start.
The Brewers have faced Roark nearly every time they’ve faced the Reds this year, with this being his 4th start against them. The last time they saw him, they hit 3 home runs, but those blasts only amounted to 4 runs as the Brewers lost on July 2nd, 5-4. Roark rebounded from a disastrous outing at Coors Field (7 runs on 13 hits in 4.2 innings) to hold the Cardinals to 2 runs in 5 innings in his last start.
Mahle hasn’t won a decision since May 31st, but until recently, a lot of that has been bad luck and run support. He’s had three underwhelming starts in a row, including a nightmare at Coors Field of his own, in which he gave up 10 runs (6 earned) on 12 hits in 4.1 innings on July 14th. He’s coming off a start in which he gave up 4 runs on 7 hits in 5.1 innings against the Cardinals on Friday.
The last series between these two teams happened in the peak (or perhaps the lowest valley) of the Brewers’ midseason slump. The Brewers started July with an 8-6 win over the Reds before losing in walkoff fashion the next night, then getting shut out in back-to-back games to lose the series. Not even a follow-up series against the Pirates could snap the funk at that time.
Since then, the Brewers have rebounded, winning 5 of their past 6 to get their record in July back to 8-9. With a series against the Cubs coming this weekend, a series win against the Reds this week would go a long way in putting the team in good position for another .500-or-better month, despite the way it started.
Player to Watch
After a terrible start to the season, Yasiel Puig has been on fire over the past month.
In the last four weeks, he’s hitting .333/.376/.615 with 6 home runs and 4 doubles over 21 games. That has his season-long OPS up over .800 with a .261/.306/.496 line. Puig went 5-for-12 with 2 home runs in the 4 games against the Brewers at the start of July, and drove in the only run in the 1-0 finale on the 4th of July.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference