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Series Preview: Reds look to party like it’s 1990, beat Athletics

Maybe even sweep them again!

Oakland Athletics v Texas Rangers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Game Times and Probable Pitchers

Great American Ball Park

Friday, June 10, 2016, 7:10pm EDT: RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Anthony DeSclafani

Saturday, June 11, 2016, 4:10pm EDT: RHP Kendall Graveman vs. RHP Dan Straily

Sunday, June 12, 2016, 1:10pm EDT: LHP Sean Manaea vs. LHP John Lamb

Sonny Gray has not been himself this season. After pitching seven innings of one run ball on Opening Day, the A’s ace only made it through seven innings one other time in April. The wheels really came off in his final start of that month; a two inning, four earned, four walk affair against the Detroit Tigers had people really wondering, “What’s going on with Sonny Gray.”

Gray made four starts in May good for a 9.61 ERA before he landed on the 15-day disabled list with what the team described as a trapezius strain. Hoping the rest and relaxation would be all it took to get Gray back on tract, he returned on June 5th to toss five innings of one run ball against the Astros, while scattering five hits and striking out five. Maybe it was just what the doctor ordered, or maybe the hot hitting home team can bash him again.

On the other hand, the hot hitting home team just allowed Adam Wainwright to look like vintage-Wainwright in a season where he's been anything but.

Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea, on the other hand have been downright bad this season without the disabled list trips or strained back muscles. Both are pieces of major trades (Graveman came over in the Josh Donaldson deal and Manaea in the Ben Zobrist deal). Graveman got 21 starts and 115 innings last year for Oakland and pitched fairly averagely, posting a 98 ERA+. But he’s not taken the requisite steps forward this year like I’m sure the Athletics management had in mind.

Most recently he only made it 4.1 innings into the A’s matchup with Houston allowing five earned runs. In fact, he’s failed to make it through the seventh inning in any start this year, and has only made it into the seventh inning twice.

Sean Manaea has been even worse, though this is his very first taste of the majors and is going through some considerable growing pains. The highs include a 6.2 inning effort against the Rangers where the 24-year-old towering left hander allowed only one run. The lows include a 2.2 inning crapfest where he gave up 10 hits and 8 runs to the Red Sox.

If all this seems familiar, it should. These pitching matchups (save for Dan Straily) are almost a mirror of one another. Both of these teams are bad, and bad/missing starting pitching is no small part of it.


C Stephen Vogt

1B Yonder Alonso

2B Jed Lowrie

SS Marcus Semien

3B Danny Valencia

LF Khris Davis

CF Billy Burns

RF Josh Reddick Chris Coghlan Coco Crisp?

Josh Reddick has been on the disabled list since fracturing his thumb toward the end of May. I suppose you could say that that was a bit of the turning point for the A’s season; they'd been bad, but they were only five games back and it was early yet. Then Reddick went down for 6-8 weeks. The next day, they put Sonny Gray on the DL after his aforementioned disastrous start and, just like that, the two best players in the organization on each side of the ball are no longer available.

Chris Coghlan, acquired from the Cubs this past offseason, had been filling in for Reddick in RF. Yesterday, the Cubs reacquired Coghlan from Oakland, so I’m not entirely sure who they plan to plug in there. It likely won’t matter much, because no one currently on their bench is doing much of anything at all.

Danny Valencia is bashing heads at third base, but he's the only bat in the everyday lineup that you’d consider anything above average. Stephen Vogt is having a down year (95 OPS+) after two solidly good years from behind the plate, and old friend Yonder Alonso’s change of scenery has done him no good: his numbers are all at or close to career lows. Jed Lowrie is getting on base at a .358 clip, and Khris Davis is doing exactly what you'd expect him to do (14 home runs, .265 OBP).

The Athletics are last in the AL in OBP. They’re second to last in SLG.


Ryan Madson

Ryan Dull

Fernando Rodriguez

Sean Doolittle

Marc Rzepczynski

John Axford

Daniel Coulombe

Ryan Madson continues to pitch well after having blown up his arm before he could pitch a single inning with the Reds in 2012. The dominoes that fell after that have been much discussed, but it’s still hard not to wonder what could’ve been in regards to Madson in that bullpen with Aroldis Chapman in the rotation.

This bullpen is good. Only two of them have an ERA over three. Three of them have WHIPs under one, four of them are striking out 9+ batters per nine innings pitched, the best of which is Doolittle’s 11.8. He Dooalot if you ask me.

The average ERA+ from the seven guys mentioned here is 147. I think this is, collectively, the best bullpen I’ve described in this space in the short time I've been doing these previews, in the sense that there is, at least from a macro-level, no obvious weak link.

Too bad they don't really have anything to save.


The most important thing to watch for coming out of this series is going to be Anthony DeSclafani’s health. If he makes the start tonight and comes out on the other side feeling well, that’s a big enough win in my book.

But, in reality, the Reds should be favored in this series. If for whatever reason the odds makers decided to go in favor of Sonny Gray tonight, I guess it would be defensible. Otherwise, with the way the Reds have been hitting the ball lately, there isn’t any reason why they can’t or shouldn’t take Graveman and Manaea to the woodshed.

Of course, that's why they play the game. I wouldn’t be at all shocked to watch Gray return to form and no hit the Reds tonight, because it’s 2016 and we’re not allowed to have nice things.