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The Cardinals are hoping to play three games over the weekend against the improved Reds

They don’t appear as bad as they seem anymore

Arizona Diamondbacks v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The last time the Cardinals faced the Reds, things were different. The Reds started the season 2-11, and ended up taking their third victory in the last game of the three-game series back in late April. Things got worse. Not that a 3-13 start is good, but somehow, things got worse for the Reds. They proceeded to go on a 9-game losing streak. Through their first 25 games, the Cardinals were one of the few games they won. They had also won two games against the Braves. Baseball is hilarious sometimes.

Since that 9-game winning streak, I’m sorry to say things have normalized for the Reds. They won three of their next four series and split the other series. Since May 7th - their first win after the 9-game losing streak - they are 17-15. They have won series against the Brewers, the Guardians, and the Giants, plus the Pirates but you’re probably less impressed by that.

Part of that is their pitching got better. Luis Castillo, tonight’s starter, hadn’t even pitched when the Reds’ losing streak ended. His first game of the season was May 9th. Probably not a coincidence he was missing when they couldn’t win games. Hunter Greene, Saturday’s starter, can mostly blame his poor ERA on games that happened prior to May 7th. Same with Tyler Mahle, who the Cardinals will not see in the series. Vladmir Guttierez, owner of a 7.61 ERA on the season, has made just three starts and is on the injured list right now.

Joey Votto has a 200 wRC+ since May 7th. Kyle Farmer has a 149 wRC+. Journeyman Brandon Drury has a 146 wRC+. Jonathan India has only played in 11 games and got off to a slow start, and his replacement, 31-year-old Matt Reynolds, has a 114 wRC+. Another reason for their success, Tyler Stephenson, was hurt for part of their losing streak, and came back, and has a 128 wRC+ on the year. Unfortunately, he recently got injured and will be missing this series and around a month of play guaranteed.

Onto the matchups

Friday - 7:10 PM

Luis Castillo (3.55 ERA/3.36 FIP/3.22 xFIP) vs. Andre Pallante (1.23 ERA/3.66 FIP/4.04 xFIP)

It doesn’t really feel like Pallante’s success is sustainable, or at least not in the way he’s being successful at the moment. He can improve of course. He’s only 23 and he essentially skipped AAA. The fact that his numbers are what they are is impressive enough. But he has a 15.7 K% and 11 BB% and is nearly entirely reliant on having one of the best groundball percentages in the league at 63.4%. I’m hoping he either starts striking out hitters more and starts walking less. Because it’s a thin line when you have that K/BB ratio. I do think he’ll improve.

Meanwhile, Castillo seems to be essentially the same as before. He’s not at his peak in 2019, but that seems to be more of an anomaly than what to really expect. He gets groundballs, strikes out a fair share of hitters and manages to avoid walks enough to be successful. That formula is working for him this year once again, though getting slightly less groundballs than usual.

My pick: Cardinals (I’m attending so they better win!)

Saturday - 1:10 PM

Hunter Greene (5.40 ERA/5.44 FIP/3.92 xFIP) vs. Adam Wainwright (2.73 ERA/3.67 FIP/4.08 xFIP)

Talk about opposites. You have a 40-year-old grinder who throws his fastball less than 90 mph and on the opposite end you have a uber pitching prospect at 22-years-old who averages almost 99 mph. He throws his fastball on average about 10 mph more than Wainwright does, which is wild. Wainwright and Molina will tie for second with 316 starts as a battery, and are nine starts away from breaking the record.

I’m not saying you should ignore his stats, but Greene since May 7th - an arbitrary endpoint, but with a young pitcher learning to adjust and not irrelevant endpoint - Greene has a 3.41 ERA and 3.67 FIP. So he might be pretty good. He can be prone to blowups. In the six starts in this span, he has allowed 5 runs in 5 innings and 4 runs in 3.2 IP. He’s thrown at least 6 innings in three of his other starts with two earned runs combined. So it depends on which version we see.

My pick: Reds

Sunday - 1:10 PM

Graham Ashcroft (1.14 ERA/3.36 FIP/3.72 xFIP) vs. Dakota Hudson (2.76 ERA/4.25 FIP/4.59 xFIP)

Ignoring whether or not Hudson’s stats are sustainable longer term, I vastly prefer the version of Hudson who showed up in his last start to his first 10 starts. While the results-based analysis was fine, Hudson was dreadful to watch. Slow, lots of walks, slow, more walks, even slower. The Cardinals clearly worked on him to pitch faster, and not only was that better to watch, it resulted in a great start. 7 IP, 6 Ks, one BB, one earned run. More of that please!

Ashcroft came into the season as the Reds #17 prospect according to Fangraphs who had a 5.02 FIP projection by Fangraphs. He made 7 starts in AAA, and had a 1.65 ERA/3.37 FIP/3.94 xFIP. He’s only 24 and he’s risen through the Reds’ system so fast - he pitched in rookie league in 2019, then skipped to High A and only lasted 8 starts before a promotion to AA - that he might actually be good. So Cards might get three good starters from this bad team.

My pick: Cardinals

This feels like a sneakier series than you’d think. The Reds have played like an above average team in their past month+ of games and they have three pretty good starters going against the Cardinals. I don’t know I’m not going to assume an easy series nor an automatic 2-1 series win. I will predict it though because it’s been foolish to bet against Hudson at this point.

Individual game prediction record: 15-14

Series prediction record: 4-4