RED MONDAY | Off the mat, Lodolo details, more NL East, Phillies preview

RED MONDAY | Off the mat, Lodolo details, more NL East, Phillies preview

Welcome back to Red Monday at Reds Content Plus, where you can count on clear-eyed analysis of how the team is doing and where it’s headed.

Last Week | Off the Mat

The Reds opened the season winning a three-game series over the Washington Nationals.

  • Thursday The Reds rolled to an 8-2 win on Opening Day. New starter Frankie Montas was sharp, pitching six shutout innings and giving up only four hits and no walks. He struck out four. Nick Martini was the offensive hero, blasting two home runs, driving in five. Elly De La Cruz had a hit and a walk and scored two runs. Spencer Steer singled and doubled, knocking in two. Hometown boy Brent Suter pitched in his first Opening Day and threw two clean innings with four strikeouts.
  • Saturday The Reds played poorly in the season’s second game, losing 7-6. Start with the bullpen giving up five runs in 4.1 innings. The main culprit was Alexis Diaz who surrendered two hits and two walks and recording just one out. Lucas Sims gave up a solo homer in his inning of work. The Reds also turned in a lousy defensive performance, allowing two pop-ups to fall in. Christian Encarnacion-Strand dropped a sure pick-off out at first. Hunter Greene, who pitched OK, botched a ground ball back to the mound. Base running mistakes also plagued the Reds. Will Benson got picked off first and Elly De La Cruz over-slid second. Luke Maile hit a two-run homer. Nick Martini pinch hit and drove in two with a double.
  • Sunday The Reds won the series with a dramatic, 9th-inning comeback. Down two runs, with two outs, two strikes and no one on, Jonathan India gutted out a 10-pitch at bat against the Nats closer for a double down the left field line. Will Benson and Christian Encarnacion-Strand followed with home runs to give the Reds a 6-5 win. Nick Martinez started and gave up three runs in five innings. Lucas Sims and Emilio Pagan had clean relief innings. Fernando Cruz was the bullpen hero, inheriting a bases-loaded, no-out jam and limiting the Nationals to one run. Run expectancy from that situation is 2.44 runs (h/t Matt Habel). Buck Farmer and Tejay Antone had relief appearances that raise questions.
This Week | More NL East

The Reds go from Cincinnati to the City of Brotherly Love for the first road series of the 2024 season. The three-game series with the Phillies starts tonight. The Reds won three of the seven against the Phillies in 2023.

The Phillies were 90-72 last year, finishing second in the NL East. After defeating the 104-win Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, they lost a seven-game series to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLCS. The Phillies payroll stands at $246 million. Seven Phillies players are making more than $20 million in 2024.

While David Bell’s team was taking on the Washington Nationals, the Phillies spent their opening weekend tangling with the powerhouse Braves, winning one and dropping two.

Weather forecasts show rain every day of this series.

  • Monday (6:40 pm)
  • Tuesday (6:40 pm)
  • Wednesday (1:05 pm)

Then the Reds return home for a three-game weekend series with the New York Mets. The series opener will be the team’s first City Connect Friday of 2024.

  • Friday (6:40 pm)
  • Saturday (4:10 pm)
  • Sunday (1:40 pm)
Next Week | Lo-Do-Lo!

Pitcher Nick Lodolo threw 77 pitches over five innings in his first rehab assignment for Triple-A Louisville. Lodolo gave up two hits (one home run) and three walks while striking out eight. At one point, he struck out six consecutive batters. Lodolo threw 39 fastballs averaging 93.6 mph. Pitching for the Reds in 2022, Lodolo’s four-seamer averaged 94.4 mph. His fastball produced 18 swings and 8 misses for a 44% whiff rate. Yesterday, he threw 20 curves, 12 changeups and six sinkers. His curve drew eight misses on 11 swings.

Lodolo’s stats against Triple-A batters are less important than his health and how he feels afterward. If he stays on track, Lodolo is expected to make one more rehab start before joining the Reds rotation on April 10 against NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers.

Phillies | Position Players 

Kyle Schwarber (Middletown, OH) belts a homer last postseason

The Phillies return the same lineup that finished in the top ten in every offensive category last year, including home runs and stolen bases. The numbers in this table are projections for 2024 from FanGraphs.

Bryce Harper anchors the lineup, batting third. Harper didn’t start or pinch hit in yesterday’s win. According to the Phillies, it was a scheduled day off and not due to the fall he took into the dugout chasing a foul ball. Expect him back in the lineup today. Shortstop Trea Turner is looking to bounce back for a subpar (for him) 2023 season. Kyle Schwarber posted a .197 batting average in the leadoff spot. He also hit 47 (!) home runs and walked in 17.5% of his PA for a .343 on-base percentage.

Phillies | Pitchers

Phillies ace Zack Wheeler

Christopher Sanchez (27, LHP) made his Phillies debut in 2021 and logged 22 starts since then, including 18 in 2023. He started Game Four of the NLCS against the Diamondbacks. Projected for a 4.20 ERA. Filthy changeup that gets a 43% whiff rate. His 92-mph fastball is a sinker which explains Sanchez’s extreme ground ball rate (58%) good for the 95th percentile. His walk-rate (4%) is also elite, landing in the 98th percentile. As a lefty, he doesn’t face too many left-handed batters.

Spencer Turnbull (31, RHP) threw a no-hitter for the Detroit Tigers in 2021. Turnbull had been a second-round pick for the Tigers in 2014 out of the University of Alabama. He’s made 60 major league starts but was derailed by Tommy John surgery after 2021 that caused him to miss all of 2022 and limited his 2023 to seven big league starts. The Tigers non-tendered Turnbull and he signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Phillies. Philadelphia targeted him for the bullpen until Taijuan Walker hit the IL with shoulder discomfort. Turnbull is projected for a 4.94 ERA. His portfolio is four-seam (41%), sinker (19%), slider (22%) and changeup (9%). The slider is his out pitch. Ground-ball pitcher. Below average strikeout rate.

Zack Wheeler (33, RHP) the Phillies’ ace inked a three-year, $126 million extension in early March that runs from 2025-2027. Wheeler is projected as one of the top couple pitchers in MLB this year, along with Spencer Strider of Atlanta. In 32 starts last year he posted a 3.18 xERA, fourth best in baseball. Wheeler’s strikeout rate was in the top 75% and walk rate in the top 93%. He kept a lid on hard-hit balls, with an average exit velocity of 86.9 mph (top 88th percentile). He threw a 96-mph fastball more than 60% of the time. His secondary pitches are a sweeper to right-handed batters and a cutter and curve to lefties. Wheeler faced the Reds once last year, in the first week of April. He’s already made one start in 2024, shutting out Atlanta for six innings, allowing no walks and only five hits.

[Photos: Reds Facebook]

Steve Mancuso

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.

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