October 7, 2012
NLDS Game One Recap: Reds 5, Giants 2
From game one to game 162, the Reds rotation stayed perfectly intact. The only time a sixth man started was in August, when Todd Redmond was called up for a day to work the second game of a doubleheader. That durability turned a rotation that was merely pretty good into a huge asset.
In the first inning of the postseason, however, that run of good health ended. Johnny Cueto struck out Angel Pagan, got two quick strikes on Marco Scutaro, established what seemed to be a pretty swell partnership with the home plate umpire, and then… that was it. He left with back spasms, and everything you might have read about this series became stupid and outdated.
Or did it? It’s hard to know, particularly after the Reds won 5-2 in the first game of a five-game set. Let’s iron out what this injury means. In the short term, the Reds smartly dipped into their deep bullpen while giving Mat Latos, replacement “starter”, plenty of time to warm up on his own schedule. Latos wasn’t completely sharp—a combination of good defense and at ‘em balls helped—but for this staff, the starters are really just a bridge to the bullpen. Latos, pitching on three-days rest, was due to start Game Three. He won’t start Game Three now.
The Reds are “hopeful” that Cueto will be back for Game Three. If he can’t go, Mike Leake would pitch. Over the course of six innings, Leake is about a run-and-a-quarter worse than Cueto. If Leake is needed as a replacement, Cueto wouldn’t be eligible to pitch in the NLCS either; it’s unlikely, but conceivable, that the Reds could opt instead to go with an all-bullpen game to avoid that problem. It always seems impossible that 11 pitchers won’t be enough to get a team through a five-game series (with an off-day!), but I suppose this is why so many teams carry their fifth starter on the roster, just in case.
Latos, then, would pitch Game Five. Per six innings this year, Latos has been about a half-run worse than Cueto. So if Cueto is able to pitch again, the Reds will lose perhaps a half a run in the shuffling. If not, then they give up two or two and a half.