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Series Seven: Reds at Marlins Preview

Still reeling from last night's loss (no pun intended) at the hands of Pedro Martinez and his day-glo blue glove, the Marlins prepare to welcome the Reds to Dolphins Stadium tonight, for the first of what should prove to be an exciting three game set. Hopefully they won't be as hospitable of hosts as they were last evening.

Here are the expected matchups:
Game 1 (tonight): Harang (1-1) vs. Burnett (2-1)
Game 2 (tomorrow at 1:05): Belisle (1-1) vs. Willis (3-0)
Game 3 (Sunday at 1:05): Claussen (0-1) vs. Big Moe (1-0)

Today's interview features a longtime hallmark of the Cincinnati Reds, none other than the famous Mr. Red. While we had some choices here with the Reds, as they have two mascots - Mr. Red and the relatively recently introduced Gapper, we went with Mr. Red. Mr. Red embodies much of the history of the franchise, which is something that we really respect. Normally though, we don't think much of the new generation of mascots, but Gapper is one of the exceptions. When the Fish travel to Cinci, we'll probably spend some time with Gapper, as he is - without question - an authority on Great American Ballpark. Let's jump right into our discussion with Mr. Red...

Grover: I'll apologize in advance if I'm a little sluggish today Mr. Red. We Marlins fans are still recovering from last night's debacle.

: Oh - I understand - definitely. That was a tough loss last night. We Reds can certainly empathize with you. Pedro Martinez is a tough pitcher.  Have you seen the starters we've run up against so far this year?

Not even including your aces that we're going to see this weekend, here are some of the guys who have started against us so far this year: Mark Prior and Kerry Wood from the Cubs, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Roy Oswalt from the Astros, Pedro Martinez from the Mets, and Mark Mulder from the Cardinals. That could be the National League's pitching staff for the All-Star game this summer.

Grover: Wow - that's a tough group of pitchers. But the Reds have fared well. They're in second place and enter the series a game above .500.

: It's definitely been an interesting start to the year so far. The Reds haven't played up to their potential - although there's a lot of potential in the lineup. And the pitching has been pretty bad. We're 15th - out of sixteen teams - in the National League in terms of OPS allowed. It's been so bad for our pitchers that Aaron Harang's jersey was misspelled earlier this year. Not his last name, mind you - but the Cincinnati on the front of his jersey was wrong.

Grover: Ouch, that's rough. Let's go back to what you mentioned about the offense. The Reds do have a fun lineup to watch. Walk us through the order a little...

: Sure. The Reds aren't as deep 1 through 8 in the lineup as the Marlins, but the Reds have a considerable amount of power. As has been the case the past few years, when everyone is healthy, they have too many bats for slots in the lineup.

Ken Griffey is healthy - and he's batting second this year. He's been off to a slow start, but I'm curious to see if he'll use his new Nike contacts in the two day games this weekend.  Allegedly they'll help him pick up the ball better - which should translate into hits and power.  Brian Roberts, who's off to such a hot start with the Orioles, is allegedly already using them - and the contacts may deserve some of the credit for his hot start.

Wily Mo Pena has continued to be hot, and he provides a lot of power when they can squeeze him into the lineup. The same holds true for Austin Kearns.  Any pitch those two see could be turned around into a tape measure homer.

Adam Dunn is probably the ultimate three true outcomes guy in the game today - it's even gone so far as to cause the Louisville Slugger folks to make a special sacrifice fly bat for Dunn, since he hasn't had one since July of 2003.

Joe Randa has been the pleasant surprise of the year. He got off to a hot start - and still has an OPS of nearly 1.000. He's even been the cleanup hitter for most of the year - which is saying something in this powerful lineup.

And you can't talk about the current Reds without mentioning the Mayor, Sean Casey. He doesn't have the power that most of the rest of the lineup has, but he's a good contact hitter and he's usually a good on base guy - although he's been off to a slow start this year.

Grover: What are the Reds hopes for this year? Is winning the NL Central realistic?

: Well, hopes are high in Cincinnati this year. But unless the pitching improves significantly, it's tough to expect the Reds to overtake the Cardinals. The Cardinals are just much deeper. Plus, all of the tough division games - where we'll be facing most of those tough starters I mentioned earlier again and again - will make it difficult for us to pile up enough wins to take the wild card. With the team as it's presently constituted, I don't think we can really make a run.  But, if we catch some breaks and are in the race in July, ownership has pledged to spend money to make a move or two.  We haven't had that kind of commitment (or been in a position to take advantage of it) for the past few years.

Grover: Thanks for your time Mr. Red! I hope to see you out at the ballpark this weekend.