It would hardly be odd if the Cincinnati Reds were thrilled to be coming to Pittsburgh to open a four-game series on Thursday against the Pirates.
Not only are the Pirates a fellow National League Central team with a losing record, but the Reds also hadn’t had much success against any team until facing Pittsburgh visited last weekend.
Of Cincinnati’s seven wins, two came last weekend in a three-game set.
The Reds, last in the NL, responded to their first series win last weekend against Pittsburgh by winning another against NL Central leader Milwaukee, taking two of three, including a 14-11 win Wednesday.
“At the beginning of the year there were a lot of challenges. It just builds character,” Reds outfielder TJ Friedl, who was 3-for-4 with three runs scored Wednesday, told MLB on YouTube. “We won our first series against the Pirates, and now we’re building off that momentum.”
Cincinnati has been banged up most of the year but is coming out of its early-season funk.
“We just continue to take it day by day and, once we get healthy, get this thing rolling,” Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson, who was 3-for-5 Wednesday with two doubles and four RBIs, told MLB on YouTube.
The series loss in Cincinnati didn’t seem to dampen Pittsburgh’s desire. The Pirates bounced back to take two of three from the NL’s top team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, including a 5-3 win Wednesday.
“It’s a resilient group,” infielder Josh VanMeter, who homered and tripled and scored twice Wednesday, told AT&T Sportsnet. “That’s a big series win right there, especially after the series in Cincinnati. I think it shows a lot about this group.”
Daniel Vogelbach, who hit a tiebreaking homer Wednesday, stuck up for his Pittsburgh team as well as the Reds.
“I don’t think we necessarily think we played bad in Cincinnati,” he said. “Cincinnati just beat Milwaukee in a series, too. It’s the big leagues. Everybody’s getting paid to play the game. There’s no easy series.
“That’s all it is, is a series win (against L.A.) because we’ve got to come back (Thursday) and we’ve got to play good baseball against a really hot Cincinnati team.”
In the series opener, Cincinnati right-hander Connor Overton (0-0, 2.53 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Pittsburgh right-hander JT Brubaker (0-2, 5.68 ERA).
Overton, a former Pirates prospect, will be making his 12th big-league appearance and sixth start.
It will also be his second straight start — and second of his career — against Pittsburgh. Overton was the beneficiary of an odd set of circumstances in the opening game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Pirates when Pittsburgh had to resort to VanMeter as its third-string catcher.
Overton pitched 5 1/3 innings Saturday, matching his career high, giving up two runs and a career-high-tying six hits. He also matched a career high of four strikeouts and issued no walks before the Reds scored a comeback win.
Brubaker is riding a string of three straight no-decisions. That includes Saturday in the doubleheader opener at Cincinnati, when he gave up two runs and three hits in five innings, matched his career best of nine strikeouts to go with two walks.
He could easily be seen as the victim of circumstance in that game, given the situation with the catchers. Starter Roberto Perez left with a hamstring injury and backup Andrew Knapp was ejected in the sixth inning and VanMeter struggled as the emergency option.
Against the Reds, Brubaker is 1-2 with a 4.62 ERA in five career starts.
–Field Level Media