We witnessed tonight what has to occur often if the Cincinnati Reds want to stay in contention with Joey Votto out three to four weeks.
Johnny Cueto threw six scoreless innings, Jose Arredondo and Sam Lecure put up an inning each and Sean Marshall and Aroldis Chapman combined to shut down the Arizona Diamondbacks in the ninth to seal a 4-0 win.
The Cincinnati Reds will rely on pitching to see them through the storm. The Reds are very underrated in this department to begin with, as they carry a team ERA of 3.31 which is good for third best in all of baseball. Cincinnati is one of the last teams to only use five starters in the season. They have been very lucky to avoid the injury bug throughout the season. The rotation of Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey have to be gritty, go deep in ball games and lead a team that will attempt to score a few runs each game.
Taking a look at each of the pitchers, they all bring something different to the table. But two things they all have in common is having success, and appearing to be ready to have even more in the second half of the season.
Johnny Cueto, despite not being an All Star, has a real chance to win the the Cy Young this season in the National League. He currently has the second best ERA in the league (2.28) and is only behind Ryan Dempster (1.86) of the Chicago Cubs. Dempster however will likely be traded away before the deadline to an American League team. Johnny Cueto, of course, is not going anywhere.
Cueto actually has the best ERA of anyone when you combine the last two seasons. It is no secret to anyone that if he pitched in a larger market his exposure would be engulfing. If he played in a larger ball park his ERA could be even better.
The Reds have their ace, but in the off season decided to go for a second. They traded for Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres and paid a pretty penny for him (it seems like half the Padres lineup are former Cincinnati Reds prospects). Latos was AWFUL in April, but has gotten much, much better as the season goes along. When he takes the mound Reds fans now expect big things from him. Confidence was a major issue for him early in the season, that issue has disappeared.
If the Reds do have two aces, it maybe a bit of irony that Homer Bailey is not one of him. This guy was suppose to be the savior of Reds pitching four years ago. Now though, he has been shaky at times and inconsistent always. If he can settle down and pitch like he did Sunday night in front of a national audience he could be an anchor of the rotation.
The three pitchers listed above are hard throwing, strikeout intent pitchers. But the Reds have two others who are more than happy to serve you an 85 MPH pitch and let you roll over it to third base. Mike Leake and Bronson Arroyo have been tagged as brothers. There blond hair and similar built leads many to believe that they have to be related. They pitch similar too, and often hang out with each other between starts.
Mike Leake started his major league career before ever playing a game in the minor leagues. That is unheard of in today’s world. He has since been sent down, however he is likely up for good now. Bronson Arroyo is the longest tenure Red in the locker room. He has a world series ring to his credit in his time with the Boston Red Sox, and is now the leader of the rotation in Cincinnati. It has been said that he has pushed the rotation to be one of the best in the majors, and lately they have been near the top.
It is not just the starting rotation that has been dominate for the Reds, it has equally been their bullpen.
Of course Aroldis Chapman is out there. His story is well told and has been dominate all season long save a week and a half. He is one of the most intimidating pitchers in the league. But it is not only him who have pitched well out of the pen. In fact an AP article admitted that Cincinnati has the best pen in all of the National League. They don’t have the “Bullpen Mafia” mantra that the Cleveland Indians have, but they have been just as good.
Sean Marshall for instance came over in a trade in the off season. He started out as the closer, but Chapman forced him back into the set up role, a role that he has flourished in since. Guys like Jose Arredondo, Logan Ondrusek and Alfredo Simon have also lurk out there ready to give teams fits if they fall behind.
Cincinnati can get by without Joey Votto for a month (but not much longer). They will have to have their pitching be true stars. The talent has been assembled, it is now time for them to take over and keep the Reds competitive.