By: Willie Bee
It has been a while since the Los Angeles Dodgers were swept in a series longer than two games, nearly four months to be exact. The Cincinnati Reds can change that, and they'll have a national audience to witness it with ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball crew on hand for the series finale.
Pulling it off means beating LA ace Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers are listed around -130 for the tilt that finds Homer Bailey toeing the rubber for the Reds. The 7 run total favors the UNDER.
Cincinnati beat the Dodgers 4-3 on Saturday with a walk-off single in the 10th, the second time the Reds have topped LA with Zack Greinke on the hill since Don Mattingly's club started its amazing run in June. The victory pushed Cincy within 1.5 games of the St. Louis Cardinals at the top of a tight NL Central race.
Bailey In Midst Of 15 IP Scoreless String
Kershaw is coming off his worst start of the campaign, though his performance last Monday can be attributed in part to pitching in hitter-friendly Coors Field. The southpaw coughed up five runs, all earned, and 11 hits over his five innings, tying his shortest outing of 2013 and setting season-highs in ER and hits allowed.
The Dodgers ace was outstanding in LA against the Reds on July 26, limiting Cincy to just a run in eight frames while striking out eight. Kershaw last pitched off this mound in Sept. 2012, earning a no-decision in a 5-3 win over the Reds with Bailey taking the loss.
Bailey is coming off back-to-back victories over the Cardinals who failed to score in either game. The most recent blanking was Tuesday in Cincinnati where the Texan tossed the first seven innings of a 1-0 duel in which the Reds were -150 chalk. Cincinnati has won six of Bailey's last seven assignments, a stretch that started with that July 26 loss to Kershaw in Los Angeles.
Behind The Plate, Mother Nature & A Pick
Jim Wolf missed about three months this season due to a back injury, and is set to work just his 16th game behind the plate because of the layoff. He is 4-10-1 O/U/P overall after starting with a 1-6 O/U mark. Sunday will be his first game to call balls and strikes at Great American Ball Park since Aug. 2011, and his last two appearances here skipped past the total.
The chance for rain increases as the clock ticks through the day, with forecasters listing it at 30% for a passing t-storm at game time. Look for 80º at first pitch with a 7-10 mph NE breeze (3B to RF corner).
Los Angeles last suffered a broom job mid-May in Atlanta, which was also the last time the Dodgers lost three straight before Saturday's setback. That skid ends Sunday night behind Kershaw; LA as road chalk will be my free pick.
My pick: Dodgers -129 at Bet365
By: Willie Bee
That sets the stage for Saturday's contest that has the top pitching duel on the full MLB betting card. Los Angeles turns to Zack Greinke to even the series while Cincinnati sends Mat Latos to the bump for the 1 PM (ET) tilt, part of a FOX Saturday afternoon doubleheader.
SBR's live MLB odds show the Reds tagged as -120 favorites with a 7 run total that carries a little steeper price on the OVER.
As Greinke Goes, So Have The Dodgers
If you want to pinpoint one player on the Dodgers most responsible for their turnaround, allow me to nominate Zack Greinke. Los Angeles bottomed out at 30-42 in June 21, and Greinke's start in San Diego the next day started the current 53-15 run to help the Dodgers bolt from the basement to the penthouse in the NL West, going 13-1 behind Greinke during the stretch.
That lone loss came to the Reds in LA on July 25, with homers by Jay Bruce and Xavier Paul doing most of the damage in the 5-2 outcome. Greinke is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA lifetime vs. Cincinnati.
Latos was the winning pitcher in that July 25 contest, working into the eighth and surrendering two runs (1 earned). The victory moved him to 3-6 vs. the Dodgers for his career, but with an excellent 2.32 ERA. He's coming off a complete game performance five days ago to beat Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals, the fifth time in six tries that Latos worked at least seven innings in a start.
Behind The Plate, Mother Nature & A Pick
Calling pitches from Greinke and Latos should be Jeff Nelson. The St. Paul native has split his 31 plate assignments 15-15-1 (O/U/P) this year, and has definitely been a friend to the visitors who have won 20 times (10-5 as underdogs).
It's going to be warm (mid-80s) and a bit humid with a few clouds above, but rain won't interrupt this afternoon's affair. A SW breeze in the 6-8 mph range is also in the mix (RF corner to LF corner).
After not using Aroldis Chapman for nine days in a row, Dusty Baker has called on the Reds closer the last four games which should have the Cuban fireballer sitting this one out. That coupled with Greinke as an underdog has me on the Dodgers for my free play.
My pick: Dodgers +110 at Bet365
By: Willie Bee
It's a huge series with or without Yasiel Puig. But all signs point to El Caballo Loco being in the lineup, and that makes it must-see baseball this weekend when the Los Angeles Dodgers finish off a road trip in Cincinnati against the Reds.
A clash of teams among what appears to be a set quintet for the National League playoffs was bound to make news regardless of Puig's knee, and maybe even more so now given the circumstances. The Dodgers enjoyed a day off Thursday after winning two of three in Denver, Puig pinch-hitting in the Wednesday loss after sitting the previous game with his bad right knee. The electric and controversial rookie is expected to be in the lineup Friday when the clubs open the set.
The Reds, who just took three of four from the Cardinals to begin the week, opened as $1.30 favorites on the overnight MLB odds, and there has been little to no movement on that moneyline. Chris Capuano is on tap for the Dodgers against Cincinnati's Mike Leake, with baseball bettors faced with a decision on a 9 run total which is taxed a little heavier to the low side of the figure.
Dodgers Play Final Series Outside Pacific Time Zone
The schedule maker was kind to the Dodgers in the second half with just two full trips into the Eastern Time Zone plus this stop in Cincinnati following a layover in Denver where LA won two of three. The weekend series with the Reds will be the final games outside the Pacific Time Zone as the final 20 regular season games will either be at home or in Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco.
Los Angeles begins play Friday with a 12-game lead in the NL West, second only to Atlanta's 14-game bulge in the NL East. The Dodgers, an incredible 53-14 (.791) since sitting 12 games under .500 on June 21, trail the Braves by two games for the top record in the Senior Circuit.
A big reason for their surge has been the pitching staff, best in the majors with a 2.42 ERA since the all-star break and No. 1 in baseball with a 3.09 ERA among the starters. Cincinnati, for the record, ranks second in that department at 3.37.
Capuano has been the weak link in the rotation with a 4.41 ERA, but the results have still been there for the Dodgers who are 9-1 his last 10 trips to the bump. Among the victories in that span was a 1-0 win in LA over the Reds on July 28. Capuano hurled scoreless baseball into the seventh before turning things over to the bullpen, who completed the 11-inning shutout.
Reds Will Have One Eye On Pirates-Cardinals Series
Cincinnati knows it needs to take care of business against the Dodgers, but it's also understandable if the Reds are at least taking a peek at the scoreboard to see what's happening in St. Louis between the Cardinals and Pirates this weekend. Just three games behind Pittsburgh for the division lead, Cincy has also closed to with a game-&-a-half of the Cards for the first NL wild card spot.
Leake has fallen on hard times since the calendar moved to August with just one of his last six outings going in the quality start column. The former Arizona State star owns a 7.21 ERA in that span that has seen the Reds go 2-4. Leake missed facing the Dodgers when Cincinnati made its long West Coast roadie after the break, and is 1-2 in three career starts plus a relief appearance against LA, logging a 5.64 ERA in 22.1 frames.
Mother Nature isn't expected to interfere with the weekend series, though we'll keep checking the SBR doppler when the clubs wrap things up on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Friday's game time forecast is the mid-to-upper 70s, mostly clear skies and a light easterly breeze (in from left).
The Reds played well this week when the Cardinals arrived for the start of this 10-game homestand, but Cincinnati also caught St. Louis in a slump on offense. Los Angeles' lineup should give Capuano enough to work with tonight, which is why I'm backing the Dodgers with my free MLB pick in Game 1.
My pick: Dodgers +120 at Bet365