After losing two of three opening weekend in Colorado, the Dodgers (3-2) bounced back with two strong wins against the Minnesota Twins (2-4). The offense put up seven runs in each game, and Clayton Kershaw made his season debut with seven perfect innings.
The Cincinnati Reds (2-4) are in Los Angeles for the next four games, although their team is significantly different from the one they fielded last season. The Reds had a respectable 83-79 record in 2021, just narrowly missing the playoffs, but unfortunately decided to shed payroll and now do not seem to be competing in the near future. They let All-Star Nicholas Castellanos walk in free agency, as well as Michael Lorenzen, they traded first time All-Star outfielder Jesse Winker, and SP Sonny Gray. Either way, the Dodgers and Walker Buehler should be very happy to not have to face Castellanos or Winker, but it I’m sure it sucks for the Reds.
|7:10 PM||Los Angeles|
|RF||Naquin (L)||1B||Freeman (L)|
|CF||Fraley (L)||SS||T. Turner|
|1B||Votto (L)||DH||J. Turner|
The Dodgers haven’t been red hot to start the year offensively, all though they’ve looked better the last two games, currently sitting tenth in wRC+ at 111, while the Reds have had the second worst offense thus far by wRC+ at 66, just ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks at 63. Hanser Alberto makes his first start as a Dodger tonight, playing 3B and batting ninth, as Lux is expected to start the remaining six games of this home stand against the Reds and the Braves. Thus far, the Dodgers best two hitters as expected have been Austin Barnes (399 wRC+, 1.714 OPS) and Gavin Lux (180 wRC+, .988 OPS). The Barnes thing is just for fun, as wRC+ and OPS over seven plate appearances doesn’t matter but it’s nice to see that when Will Smith has some time off to stay fresh, Barnes might have some legitimate offensive value. Lux meanwhile hit a fly-ball to center field in the first game of the Twins series, which had a .980 expected batting average and would’ve been a home run if it weren’t a cold rainy night in Minnesota. He’s been locked in offensively, and it seems this is the best he’s looked at the Major League level.
For the Reds, their impressive 2021 season was supported by their high level offense, with the fifth highest OPS at .784. Even when adjusting for the hitters friendly Great American Ball Park, their 105 wRC+ was ninth. That being said, their top ten offense lost their two best hitters from last season, as Castellanos had a .939 OPS and 140 wRC+, while Winker was at .949 and 148. Their offense features future Hall of Fame first baseman Joey Votto, old friend Kyle Farmer at short, up and coming catcher in Tyler Stephenon, and the 2021 NL Rookie of the Year, Jonathan India.
Here’s how Buehler and the Reds matchup.
Luis Cessa will start the series opener tonight, with starter Reiver Sanmartin expected to pitch the bulk of innings after Cessa. Cessa hasn’t thrown more than thirty pitches in an outing since the start of spring training, so it seems like best case scenario for him and the Reds is two innings. The right-handed Cessa will face Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner to start, in the hopes that the less experienced Sanmartin won’t have to face the top of the order as many times.
The 25 year-old lefty Sanmartin has made only three Major League starts, and the sample size is minuscule considering that, but he appears to have standard splits, where he’s stronger against left-handed batters. He sits in the high 80’s with his fastball, mixing in a slider and a changeup both in the low to mid 80’s. He gave up five earned runs in his first start of the season against the Braves.
Buehler allowed two runs on four hits and two walks over five innings Friday in his season debut, striking out five and picking up a win his first win of the season. All the damage against Buehler came in the second inning when he gave up two runs on three hits. The now 27-year-old kept the Rockies scoreless for the next three frames, finishing his outing in just 78 pitches. He’s coming off a career-best season in 2021 with a 2.47 ERA and 3.16 FIP over 207.2 innings. It’ll just be something to keep an eye on, and he’s proven he doesn’t need to throw 99 MPH consistently to be a Cy Young level pitcher, but after a career low fastball average of 95.3 MPH last season, in his first start of the year he averaged 94.3. With the abbreviated Spring Training, some starters are just building back up and are all at different levels of readiness. We’ll see after a few more starts how the velocity looks for him. He had a 5.84 ERA in 12.1 innings against the Reds last year, allowing eight earned runs on 13 hits and three walks. Not his best, but like I’ve mentioned, the two most dangerous offensive members of the Reds are no longer on the team.
As previously stated, Lux just has a scheduled day off.
Hopefully Freddie Freeman and the Dodgers have a good home opener for everyone involved.
First pitch is at 7:10 PM PDT on SNLA.