Even with the upturn in offense for the Astros (five runs scored or more in eleven of our last thirteen!), there is no question that the Reds have the superior lineup, even if the greatest offensive force overall might be wearing the Houston colors.
But any advantage the Reds might have with the bat is negated by the decided differential in pitching. While sixth in ERA, the Astros come in first in the NL in WHIP, first in strikeout to walk ratio, and third in OPS against.
While I usually just furnish the lineups, I'm providing a matchup by matchup comparison of the pitchers for this series for the preview chart, 'cause they're gonna be at least as important. Stated bluntly, if the Astros are gonna win this series, it will be because of terrible Reds starting pitching.
Kicking off the series for Cincinnati is the best proof so far that yours truly is quite the idiot. Although I'm not gonna bother to track the quote down, I know that I opined somewhere on the net prior to the season that I thought the Eric Milton signing was a good one.
So much for my prognosticating skills: Eric Milton has probably turned out to be the absolute worst signing of the year. $5.3 million spent for a 7.70 ERA and a 3 - 9 record is not what the GM's write home to Mama about.
Because of Milton's inflated ERA--which in turn is due to his having given up 27 (twenty-seven!) homers--I'd say Brandon Backe might have a shot tonight. Backe has been lousy himself, unable to rely on his curveball, then grooving his fastball when hitters are sitting on it. But tonight could be a rehab start for him: aware that he should get some support, he can stay with the curve ball a little longer, and try to re-master the bugger.
I'm going with the Astros, 9 - 6.
|x||Brandon Backe||5.31||.794||P1||7.70||.989||Eric Milton|
|x||Andy Pettitte||3.25||.664||P2||8.35||1.000||Luke Hudson|
|Wandy Rodriguez||6.86||.936||P3||4.11||.700||Aaron Harang||x|
|x||Roger Clemens||1.50||.503||P4||3.97||.793||Brandon Claussen|
|.567||Brad Ausmus||C||Jason LaRue||.770||x|
|x||.841||Lance Berkman||1B||Sean Casey||.784|
|x||.831||Craig Biggio||2B||Rich Aurilia||.715|
|.661||Adam Everett||SS||Felipe Lopez||.894||x|
|x||.934||Morgan Ensberg||3B||Joe Randa||.875|
|.591||Chris Burke||LF||Adam Dunn||.942||x|
|.690||Willy Taveras||CF||Ken Griffey Jr.||.837||x|
|.773||Jason Lane||RF||Wily Mo Pena||.908||x|