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Series Preview: Reds vs. Blue; a look at the Los Angeles Dodgers

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Will the Reds stretch their losing streak to 10?

Los Angeles Dodgers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Game times and Probable Starters

Dodger Stadium

Monday, May 23, 2016: LHP Brandon Finnegan vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw

Tuesday, May 24, 2016: RHP Daniel Wright vs. TBA

Wednesday, May 25, 2016: RHP Dan Straily vs. LHP Scott Kazmir

The Reds will be bring a seven game losing streak into the first of a three game series again the Dodgers. They're very likely to lose their eighth straight, as they'll be welcomed right off the airplane by Clayton Kershaw.

Look, I'll keep this short: Clayton Kershaw has been every bit Clayton Kershaw thus far this year and he's cruising toward a fourth Cy Young Award if he keeps it up. Kershaw's pitched 70 innings through nine starts; he's struck out 88 and walked just four. This is what the Reds are dealing with while trying to put an end to their longest losing streak of the season.*

*thus far, stay tuned

We'll have to wait and see what the Dodgers throw out there Tuesday. Ross Stripling was originally slated to go, but he was pressed into emergency duty in last night's 17 inning affair in San Diego. Stripling threw 38 pitches over three innings. Could we possibly see a familiar face as the starter opposite Daniel Wright Tuesday night?

Wednesday the Reds will see the biggest acquisition the Dodgers made this past offseason when Scott Kazmir takes the hill against Dan Straily (who's been the biggest Reds acquisition thus far). Kazmir, meanwhile, hasn't lived up to much of the promise. His ERA sits at 5.23 with a FIP that suggests it's not a hard-luck mid five. In fact, a BABIP nearly 40 points lower than Kazmir's career mark suggests that harder times may be still to come.

Lineup

(Based off of playing time, probable lineup from Baseball Reference)

C Yasmani Grandal
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B Chase Utley
SS Corey Seager
3B Justin Turner
LF Enrique Hernandez
CF Joc Pederson
RF Yasiel Puig

A quick perusal over the familiar names in LA's lineup would lead you to believe that this is a stout lineup, stacked from top to bottom with capable or better hitters. That's not entirely true, as several essential cogs are not playing up to their potential (or, in at least one case, potential hype).

The forever enigmatic Yasiel Puig is getting on base just over 28% of the time so far this season, and if his current 174 plate appearance sample is indicative to how the rest of 2016 will go for the 25 year old Cuban, it'll be the worst of his big league career. Since busting onto the scene in a big way in 2013, Puig has regressed every year. So far this year, Puig's plate discipline has gone out the window. His walk rate is half of his career average, and he's swinging at a lot of stuff he can't get to. It's nothing groundbreaking, but the way Puig is being pitched is giving him fits.

Even worse, Yasmani Grandal has not acquitted himself well after dealing with several maladies to begin the season. In the winter, the 27 year old catcher had surgery to repair the AC joint in his right shoulder, but apparently came into spring training with no limitations. Thereafter, though, Grandal began dealing with a sore forearm that was initially thought to be nothing. It ended up being more than nothing, and Grandal missed the first couple weeks of the season.

Honestly, I think he just has too much Reds stank on him to be spared from getting hurt.

Grandal raced out of the gates to ta .965 OPS through his first 33 PAs but has since fallen into a major slump, slashing .111/.125/.259 for the month of May while being held back due to his previous forearm issue and, more recently, a balky ankle. He's split time fairly evenly with backup catcher AJ Ellis, who sports a not-much-better 75 OPS+ from behind the dish.

Adrian Gonzalez is still valuable, of course, and the 34 year old first baseman is still doing plenty of things well, as indicated by his .364 on-base percentage. The problem thus far, though, is that Gonzalez is suffering from a serious power outage. A .399 SLG and .118 ISO would both be career worsts for Gonzalez. According to Fangraphs, the 11 year veteran has been worth only 0.1 fWAR.

But, Reds fans can sympathize with struggling first basemen.

Chase Utley's been good, but I don't care to talk about that much. Joc Pederson appears to have put his abysmal second half behind him as he currently boasts a 142 OPS+ and leads the team with eight home runs. Rookie Trayce Thompson went to the Dodgers in the trade that sent Jose Peraza to the Reds and Todd Frazier to the White Sox. The change of scenary has done him some good; in 102 PA, Thompson trails Pederson by only one home run while besting him by three points in OPS+.

One series after playing brother Kyle, the Reds will see heavy doses of Corey Seager in this one. Seager's been as good as advertised, even if he's not blowing the whole league away.

Bullpen

Kenley Jansen
Joe Blanton
Pedro Baez
Chris Hatcher
Louis Coleman
Adam Liberatore
J. P. Howell
Chin-hui Tsao

Kenley Jansen has been brilliant yet again this season, but when you look at the rest of the collective, it's not hard to see why the Dodgers were ready to ship (presumably) Jose Peraza to the Reds for Aroldis Chapman. 35 year old Joe Blanton is still enjoying new life as a reliever. He's gotten the most work of this group, throwing 22.2 innings of 2.78 ERA ball. Adam Liberatore has made the most of semi-limited action, notching a 271 ERA+ over 12 innings pitched, though he's walked over four per nine innings pitched to get there.

Otherwise, there's not a lot here to write home about. Louis Coleman has had decent results, as well, but he's walking more people than Liberatore. Chris Hatcher has an ERA of 6. The group as a whole is tied for second in the league in blown saves, non-Cincinnati Reds division.

They're in a lot better shape than the Reds, of course. And they still only have a batting average against of .214. Still, it's not hard to see how much Aroldis Chapman could've made the difference between a borderline pen to a great one.

But, we can sympathize with that pain, too.

Outlook

It's not hard to see the Reds leaving the Left Coast having lost 10 straight. I don't know what to say about tonight. Just hope and pray to whatever deity that you hope and pray to that the Reds don't get no-hit again tonight.

Tomorrow will be interesting, depending on what the Dodgers end up doing with their pitching situation. Then again, the Reds will be sending out their own middling, AAAA that'll inevitably only make it through four innings before turning it over to a dumpster fire bullpen.

So, if they're going to do it, Wednesday looks like the best bet. Kazmir's not been good, and Straily has been the de facto ace of the Reds. If they can get a win in that one, they can head into the travel day with the long losing streak behind them, ready for partners-in-dwelling Milwaukee on Friday.

But, first things first: work on getting a damn hit tonight.

Further Reading: True Blue LA