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Series Preview: Pirates at Reds

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Los Angeles Dodgers v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

After a dismal series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, which resulted in a three-game sweep, the Pirates look to get the ship back on course with a trip to visit the Cincinnati Reds.

Two games separate the Pirates from the last place Reds and if Pittsburgh wants to further remove themselves from the basement of the National League Central, the pitching staff is going to have to shoulder most of the load.

The Pirates offense managed 11 runs in the three games against the Dodgers but were never really in any of the games because their pitching staff imploded early.

This will prove to be an interesting challenge as the Reds pitching staff has allowed the fewest runs in the NL (the third fewest in all of baseball). The offense needs to get the bats going as they did in game three against the Dodgers, where they scored almost twice as much as they had the first two games.

The big story will be the debut of pitching prospect Mitch Keller, who will start game two of the doubleheader Monday night. Can the youngster provide a spark for the other pitchers?

Through his last seven AAA starts, Keller is 5-0 with a 3.05 ERA and 47 strikeouts.

Schedule

Monday (Game One), 1:10 p.m. — Nick Kingham (1-1, 8.76 ERA) vs. Luis Castillo (5-1, 2.38 ERA)
TV: AT&T SportsNet-PIT

Monday (Game Two), 7:10 p.m. — Mitch Keller (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Sonny Gray (1-4, 3.78 ERA) TV: AT&T SportsNet-PIT

Tuesday, 6:40 p.m. — Jordan Lyles (5-1, 2.81 ERA) vs. TBD
TV: AT&T SportsNet-PIT

Wednesday, 12:35 p.m. — Steven Brault (1-1, 7.11 ERA) vs. TBD
TV: AT&T SportsNet-PIT


Reds Notes

Offense

-The Reds are +32 in run differential, mainly due to their strong pitching staff (thanks to Derek Johnson) keeping games within reach.

-Veterans Eugenio Suarez and Derek Dietrich anchor the offense with 27 of the teams 74 home runs in 2018. Jose Iglesias leads the team in batting average and Deitrich is best in wRC+ (152).

-The two big stars on the Reds, Joey Votto and Yasiel Puig could also be their worst performers thus far in 2019. Having those two perform at their best would mean a much different Reds team this year.

Pitching

-Leading off the doubleheader is Castillo, who is one of the better overall pitchers in baseball. His 30.5% K-rate and an 84% strand rate will make him tough to beat if the Pirates can’t get the bats going.

-Castillo will be in tandem with game two starter Gray, who is much improved in 2019. He has the second-best WAR (1.3) and FIP (3.18) of all Reds’ starters. If Gray shows any vulnerability early, it would behoove the Pirate hitters to jump on him quickly and aggressively to give the young Keller plenty of breathing room.

-The Reds bullpen is pretty decent, headed by Michael Lorenzen (2.54 ERA) and Amir Garrett (1.61 ERA). Garrett is a strikeout machine (38.4% K-rate) but can get a little wild (11.8% BB-rate). Lornezen may allow a base runner or two, but tends to get out of trouble pretty easily (86% LOB-rate)