Manager: Bryan Price (2nd season)
Last 10 games: 3-7
Who to watch: 3B Todd Frazier (.285/.344/.602 with 25 HR, 54 RBIs), 1B Joey Votto (.274/.387/.478 with 14 HR, 39 RBIs), 2B Brandon Phillips (.279 with 31 RBIs), RF Jay Bruce (12 HR, 40 RBIs), RHP Johnny Cueto (5-5, with 100 strikeouts, 2.984 ERA), LHP Aroldis Chapman (16 saves, 1.83 ERA)
Season series vs. Nationals: 3-0
Inside the Reds:
When the Reds and Nationals met at the end of May, Cincinnati was suffering through its worst stretch of the season, having lost 10 out of 11 games, which included a nine-game losing streak. But the Reds were able to turn around their misfortunes for a weekend against Washington by sweeping the Nats and outscoring them 21-9. The Reds took advantage of facing a depleted Nationals team and only having to face just one of their high-powered starters in Gio Gonzalez.
Since then, the Reds have continued to struggle and now only sit two games above the Brewers for last place in the National League Central. The Nationals fared only a little better than the Reds since that meeting at Great American Ball Park, going 18-14 while the Reds went 14-17. But that difference has the two teams at very different points in the season with the Nationals leading the NL East by 4 1/2 games and the Red 16 1/2 games behind the Cardinals.
Third baseman Todd Frazier has led this Reds team all season and will represent them in their home stadium by starting at third for the National League in this year's All-Star Game. Frazier leads the Reds in almost all offensive categories, including huge leads with 25 home runs and 54 RBIs. He is tied with Bryce Harper and the Angels' Albert Pujols for second in the majors in homers. Also, his .602 slugging percentage is fourth in the league and his 54 RBIs are seventh. Frazier finished third in overall votes in the NL All-Star ballotinf with 9,233,686 votes, behind only Harper's record-setting 13,864,950 votes and San Francisco catcher Buster Posey's 9,909,668 votes.
The Reds' next biggest threat behind Frazier is first baseman Joey Votto, who has slashed .274/.387/.478 and added 14 homers and 39 RBIs. Second baseman Brandon Phillips posts a line of .279/.316/.375 with only five home runs but 31 RBIs. Two power-hitters, right fielder Jay Bruce and left fielder Marlon Byrd have combined for 26 homers and 72 RBIs, with center fielder Billy Hamilton adding 19 RBIs and a major league-leading 41 stolen bases. So the Reds have a lineup that can put up impressive individual numbers, even though they haven't added up to where they would like to stand as a team. The Reds rank 11th in the NL in runs scored (318), while the Nats are third (358). Meanwhile, Cincinnati is 11th in the league with a 4.08 team ERA, while Washington's 3.59 is sixth.
Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani will get his second start of the season against the Nationals in Monday's series opener. DeSclafani went six innings while giving up eight hits, two runs and two walks and striking out one in a 5-2 win back in May. That was his only decision in four appearances and his first start against the Nats in his career. He has a career 1.86 ERA over those four appearances, but has only pitched 1 2/3 innings at Nationals Park in which he didn't concede a run. DeSclafani is 5-6 with a 3.86 ERA this season, but is fairing better on the road with a 3-2 record and 2.45 ERA.
Johnny Cueto was scheduled to start the series finale in Cincinnati, but missed the start due to elbow inflammation. So this time around he will be making his 11th career start against Washington in the middle game of this three-game series, which will be tied for his second-most starts against a single team not in the NL Central. He is 6-3 with a 4.06 ERA over his first 10 starts against the Nats, including a 2-2 record with a 3.76 ERA in Washington. Although, Cueto has performed much better at home this season than on the road, with a 3-1 record and 1.64 ERA at Great American Ball Park versus a 2-4 record and 3.90 ERA away from home.
Rookie lefty Michael Lorenzen made the start in place of Cueto back in May and is the scheduled starter for this series finale, as well. He has already made 13 appearances and 11 starts during his rookie campaign, but has only a 3-3 record. The start against the Nats was part of a six-game stretch where Lorenzen didn't record any decisions and also included his two relief appearances. Lorenzen pitched 6 1/3 innings in his start against Washington, giving up one hit and two runs while walking six and striking out four. The southpaw throws a 94 mph fastball 69 percent of the time and an 85 mph slider 14 percent of the time. He also mixes in an 80 mph curveball and 85 mph changeup.
The Reds are looking at a tough hill to climb for the remainder of the season. While playing in arguably one of the best divisions in baseball, they might be looking behind them as much as they are looking ahead. The Brewers just swept the Reds to increase their winning streak to eight games and win nine of their last 10 to come within striking distance of Cincinnati. So the Reds might be more concerned with falling to last place sooner than catching the third-place Cubs, who are eight games ahead of them. The Reds' team batting average of .211 with runners in scoring position is the second-worst in the majors. If they don't get enough production as a team at the plate, then they could find themselves at the bottom of the Central sooner rather than later.