The Astros open a three game series with the Reds tonight at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. The Reds have had Houston’s number lately, winning 28 of the last 40 meetings between the two N.L. Central rivals. Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt owned the Reds, but those days are long gone. Now, a new group of up-and-coming stars are set to help the soon-to-be A.L. Astros reassert themselves against the Reds.
Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez have helped the Astros offense exceed expectations to this point in the young season. Altuve is coming off three straight multi-hit games in Milwaukee and currently boasts a .377/.429/.551 slash line. Altuve is among the league leaders in all three categories and has some company in teammate J.D. Martinez (.313/.432/.507). Martinez has also driven in 18 runs in the Astros first 19 games. The two youngsters have come a long way since being called up from AA Corpus Christi in the middle of last season. I’ve never been the first one to give Brad Mills credit, but it looks like the skipper knew what he was doing when he gave starting roles to these two guys. The Astros are off to a 7-12 start but have outscored their opponents 89-81. Altuve and Martinez, along with leadoff man Jordan Schafer, have done most of the damage.
Dusty Baker’s Reds are 9-10 and tied with the Brewers for second place in the division. The Cincinnati offense is led by the dynamic duo on the right side of their infield: Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto. Phillips has been banged up a bit this year, missing six games with assorted injuries. Votto has yet to hit his stride since inking a huge multi-year contract and could be poised to break out this weekend. The Reds are hitting only .237 as a team for the season.
Cincinnati signed Free Agent closer Ryan Madson during the offseason to take over at the back of their bullpen. But the former Phillie suffered an elbow injury early in Spring Training requiring Tommy John surgery. Left-hander Sean Marshall assumed ninth inning duties and successfully converted his first four save opportunities. Marshall blew his first save of the year yesterday, taking the loss against San Francisco.
The Reds upgraded their starting rotation by trading for Mat Latos over the winter. Astros #5 starter Kyle Weilannd’s is nursing a sore shoulder and his turn in the rotation will be skipped.
Series Pitching Matchups
Sunday 12:10 p.m. CDT – Bud Norris (1-1, 5.84) vs. Mat Latos (1-2, 5.64)