LOS ANGELES DODGERS (33-31)
at CINCINNATI REDS (29-32)
First pitch: Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Line: Cincinnati -110, Los Angeles +100, Total: 8
The Dodgers and Reds open up a four-game series on Monday night when they meet at Great American Ball Park.
With the huge expectations that Los Angeles had going into this year, its season so far has been a giant disappointment as the club trails San Francisco, who has the league’s best record, by 9.5 games. The Dodgers have not been getting better either with losses in seven of their past 11 contests while actually pulling out a 2-to-1 series win over the Rockies this past weekend. Their offense scored 17 runs in the three-game set which included a 6-1 win in a rain-shortened game in the finale on Sunday afternoon. OF Matt Kemp (.253 BA) has finally started to come around as he went 5-for-9 with two triples and 3 RBI against the Rockies, which followed a 4-for-38 (.105) slump with 14 strikeouts in his previous 11 games played. Cincinnati has also had a disappointing year, but has pulled off victories in 6-of-9 games coming into this contest; including the past two when facing the Phillies over the weekend. The Reds received two quality starts from their pitchers (Alfredo Simon and Homer Bailey) in those games as they outscored Philadelphia 10-6 in the wins. C Devin Mesoraco (.304 BA) has not been hitting as well since returning from the DL, including an 0-for-14 slide over his past five games. The pitching battle is one of experience versus youth, as 33-year-old RHP Dan Haren (5-4, 3.50 ERA) takes the ball for L.A., while Cincinnati counters with 24-year-old LHP Tony Cingrani (2-6, 4.09 ERA). The Dodgers have been tremendous on the road this year with a 20-12 record (.625) while the Reds have split their 30 games (15-15) when playing at home. This has been a rather close series between these two clubs over the past three seasons as Los Angeles holds a slight 9-7 edge while Cincinnati holds a 4-2 advantage at home in that time. Some trends to keep an eye on for Monday's game include that the Dodgers are 38-22 (.633) over the past two years in road games versus NL teams scoring 4.3 or less runs per game on the season, but Dan Haren’s teams have gone just 3-14 versus teams averaging 2.75 or fewer extra-base hits per game over the past two seasons. Both C A.J. Ellis (ankle) and OF Carl Crawford (ankle) remain on the DL for the Dodgers going into this one, while OF Yasiel Puig (hip) and SS Dee Gordon (hip) are day-to-day. For the Reds, 1B Joey Votto (knee) hopes to make his return from the DL later this week.
Dan Haren has always been a much better first-half pitcher with a 3.55 career ERA before the All-Star break compared to a 3.97 ERA in the second half of the season. He is proving that once again this season, throwing at least six innings in each of his past nine outings, but going 0-3 in his past four. He has seen his strikeout rate drop to just 6.3 K/9 this year after recording at least seven strikeouts per nine innings in each of the past eight seasons. Part of his trouble with getting batters to swing and miss can be attributed to his career-low 87.2 mph on his fastball. Haren has continued to show impeccable control though, walking just 1.5 batters per nine innings. He earned a loss in his last start on Tuesday versus the White Sox, going six innings while allowing four runs on six hits (2 HR) and one walk with only two strikeouts. Haren has now surrendered eight homers in his past five starts (31 IP). In his seven career starts against the Reds, he is 3-3 (3-4 team record) with a robust 5.06 ERA despite an excellent 1.13 WHIP. He has not walked a batter in his past two outings (10 IP) against them. The Cincinnati batters have had no trouble hitting for power off of the veteran, as 2B Brandon Phillips (6-for-18, 2 HR, 5 RBI), OF Ryan Ludwick (5-for-9, 2 HR, 4 RBI), SS Zack Cozart (3-for-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI) and 3B Todd Frazier (1-for-2, 1 HR) have all gone yard against him. The Dodgers’ bullpen is just 4-14 this year while producing a pedestrian 3.74 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, but have converted 19-of-23 saves (83%). Closer Kenley Jansen (3.60 ERA, 17 saves) has blown two saves this year while striking out a ridiculous 42 batters in 25 innings on the mound (15.1 K/9).
Tony Cingrani comes into this game as the loser in each of his past four outings with a 5.16 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in those contests. He’s really had trouble keeping the ball in the park over that time as well, allowing a total of seven home runs over the four losses (22.2 IP). He lasted only 5.2 innings against the Giants in his last start on Wednesday, giving up three runs on six hits (2 HR) and three walks while striking out seven batters. Last season, the lefty made a big splash in his rookie year as he struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings in 23 games (18 starts), but in 2014, he has seen that number drop to 8.7 K/9 while his control has fallen off to 4.6 BB/9. Cingrani has taken on the Dodgers just once in his career, which occurred last July when he put together an amazing performance. The southpaw took a no-decision despite pitching seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball and striking out 11 with only one walk. No current player on the Dodgers’ roster possesses a hit against the youngster, while L.A. stars OF Yasiel Puig, 1B Adrian Gonzalez and SS Hanley Ramirez have combined to go 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts against him. Cincinnati’s relievers have combined to go 4-9 with a 4.16 ERA and 1.41 WHIP this season, and are 15-for-22 (68%) in save opportunities. Closer Aroldis Chapman (1.38 ERA, 9 saves) is 9-for-10 in his save chances since returning from injury and has a 24:3 K/BB ratio in just 13 innings on the mound.