The baseball season isn’t even a week old and already the Cincinnati Reds
have served notice they are the team to beat again in the National League Central Division.
The Reds are off to their best start since they won the World Series in 1990. Cincinnati had outscored its opponents 31-13 in opening 4-0.
The Houston Astros also have made a statement in losing their first four games while getting blown out three times: They are going to be bad again.
Houston opened 0-8 last year on its way to losing 34 of 51 games during April and May.
The Astros turn to Brett Myers on Thursday to get back on track against a Cincinnati club that is 20-7 in its last 27 home games through this past Tuesday. Game time is 9:35 a.m. PT. It’s the third and final game of the series.
The Reds are going with Sam LeCure, who is the team’s temporary No. 5 starter having moved into the rotation after Homer Bailey was put on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
The starting pitching matchup definitely favors Houston with Myers, but it’s been real tough to go against the Reds so far.
Cincinnati led the National League in most offensive categories last year and the Reds are right up their so far this year ranking first in homers and runs. It’s not surprising since the Reds retained virtually their entire team from last season.
It’s worth noting, too, the Reds have drawn 18 walks during their first four games. They finished 10th in the National League in bases on balls in 2010.
The Reds made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years last year in large part by going 49-30 versus NL Central foes, posting a winning record against every division opponent except St. Louis.
Cincinnati opened this season sweeping Milwaukee at home averaging 7.7 runs per game, hitting .350 with a .641 slugging percentage in winning all three games.
Myers gave Houston a quality start in the Astros’ opening game, a 5-4 road loss to Roy Halladay and Philadelphia this past Friday. Myers gave ‘dog bettors hope against Halladay, a 240 favorite, by holding the Phillies to one earned run on three hits and three walks in seven innings.
Unfortunately for Myers, who came out of the game holding a 1.29 ERA, closer Brandon Lyons blew the game for the Astros.
Myers, a 30-year-old right-hander, has been highly reliable pitching at least six innings in 33 consecutive starts. He was 14-8 last year with a 3.14 ERA and had 180 strikeouts.
Myers is 3-3 career-wise versus Cincinnati with a 4.14 ERA. That’s a lot better than how the Astros have fared against the Reds having lost 20 of the past 27 meetings through Game 1 of the series. This includes a 2-12 mark in Cincinnati.
LeCure made the big leagues for the first time last year. The 26-year-old right-hander had a 2-5 mark with a 4.50 ERA in 48 innings. LeCure has thrown seven career innings against the Astros and has a 1-0 mark and a 2.57 ERA to show for it along with six strikeouts.
Houston is 27-61 in its last 88 road contests when facing a right-hander. The Astros have managed only 13 runs in their first four games batting a puny .215 during this span. New second baseman Bill Hall has managed only one hit in his first 15 at bats.
The ‘over’ has cashed during 12 of the last 17 times when the Astros have faced a right-hander on the road. The ‘over’ also has cashed during Houston’s past five road matchups.
Veteran umpire Jim Reynolds will have the plate on Thursday, his second assignment this season. He worked last Saturday's game in Washington, a 6-3 Nats win against the Braves that went 'over' the 7½-run total. The 'over' held an 18-10-1 advantage in Reynolds' plate assignments last season.
Cloudy skies with an increased chance of rain during the late afternoon is in the Cincinnati forecast for Thursday. The Astros return home after this contest for their home opener Friday against the Marlins. The Reds will travel to Arizona on Friday where they begin a seven-game swing out west that includes a four-game series in San Diego.