It’s been a pretty great few days for the Cincinnati Reds.
After thumping the Rangers to salvage their first Texas series, the Redlegs have won two straight against one of baseball’s very best teams, the last one against one of baseball’s very best pitchers.
The Reds jumped all over Justin Verlander in the first inning, scoring three runs on two dingers, and then also tagged Verlander late, on his second to last batter of the evening (a homer from Kyle Farmer).
Those two one-run wins against one of the best in baseball may just be luck falling in the Reds direction. Surely they deserve it, after losing 15 of those games prior to Monday. Water finds its level, and that. Still, it doesn’t get much easier today, as the Reds face a former long time foe in Gerrit Cole.
Cole, you may remember, pitched many years for the Pittsburgh Pirates and saw the Reds several times between 2013 and 2017 as he raced up the pecking order in the Pirates rotation. Cole was an All Star and finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award balloting in 2015 with a 2.60 ERA. It was the season that the Pirates probably thought, and hoped, Cole had finally arrived on the scene.
That... didn’t really end up being the case, necessarily. He pitched only 116 innings in 2016, before reaching 200+ against in 2017, but finished with a 4.27 ERA in that season. The offseason saw him dealt by the Pirates to the Astros for, uh, reasons?
We Reds fans can appreciate how Gerrit told the Pirates to shove it after the trade. Cole had his best season yet with the Astros, pitching 200 innings with a 2.88 ERA (2.70 FIP), with a career high and Major League high 12.4 K/9, with a 1.033 career high WHIP for good measure. It was the first time in his career he was worth more than 3 bWAR.
Cole is running it back again this season. His 3.67 ERA doesn’t tell the whole story, as it’s inflated by two outings in which he gave up eight and six earned runs. Otherwise, he’s allowed more than three earned runs once this season. Otherwise, he’s leading all of baseball again in K/9 and strikeouts, while maintaining a career best in BB/9 and WHIP.
If there’s one thing that could get Cole in this specific game, it’s the home run ball. He’s allowed a career high 1.5 HR/9 so far this season, averaging a home run per start. Pitching in GABP, that tendency can kill you. He’s not pitched well in GABP in his career (his second most IP in a non-home park), with a 3.94 ERA in Cincinnati.
Tyler Mahle will counter for the Reds in this one. He had... things to say... after being pulled early by manager David Bell his last time out. He has only a 4.33 ERA over 70.2 IP this season, and has been up and down. If he wants to earn his manager’s trust for going deeper into games, he had an opportunity here, but it’s going to be very difficult.
Tyler Mahle is also a stone cold killer. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to watch him take his previous frustrations into this game and go 7 IP with 10 K. He’s just got that about him.