Robert’s Baseball - Reds-Cardinals best rivalry

May 17, 2011 6:00 AM

After losing two out of three games at St. Louis last month, Cincinnati came storming back with a three-game sweep of St. Louis over the weekend to take a 1½ game lead in the NL Central.

The Reds were favored in the first two and then bet to the favorite on Sunday, where Chris Carpenter took the mound.

Carpenter was once a workhorse and model of consistency, but the bettors were spot-on in going against him. He gave up eight runs in 6.1 innings of work. This continues a long line of mediocrity on the season for Carpenter who didn’t get his first win of the season until his eighth start.

In his last four starts, Carpenter has now given up 21 runs in 26 innings which will cause him to be the underdog in quite a few games for the next month.

  We’re so used to seeing him be reliable that’s its hard to pass on the good prices set on him, but it may be best to wait until seeing a good one. Even against the likes of Jeff Francis (0-5) at Kansas City this Friday, who has been one of the best "bet againsts" Carpenter is a tough sell.

  As far as the rivalry between the Reds and Cardinals, it’s got to be one of the best going in baseball right now. There is a real hatred between the two teams that stems over from last season where the Reds won the division with Brandon Phillips and Yadier Molina inciting a brawl and it carried over to this year.

In the ninth inning of Sunday’s game, reliever Francisco Cordero plunked Albert Pujols as somewhat of a statement and exclamation point to the weekend.

  The two teams don’t meet again until July 4 in St. Louis, but you could lay a light price of -300 that the Reds best hitter, Joey Votto, gets the retroactive retaliation in the first inning of that game to set off some early Independence Day fireworks.

Teams on the Rise

Take a strong look over the next few weeks at both the Mets and White Sox. Both teams have underachieved all year, but each showed signs of life last week. The main cause for the White Sox turnaround has been their bullpen. Despite all their early season woes, the starting pitching hasn’t been too bad and should continue to perform well.

For the Mets, they have got steady pitching, outside of R.A. Dickey, and the bats have come to life. This week the Mets face Florida, Washington and then visit Yankee Stadium. The White Sox play all seven games this week at home with two each against the Rangers and Indians before welcoming the Dodgers. A 5-2 record for the week from both of them wouldn’t be a stretch.

  Bullpens

 

The worst bullpen in baseball is Houston, which should help explain the worst record in the NL. The Astros had 15 save opportunities and blown 10 for an MLB save percentage low of 33%. The shocking part is that the next three worst teams all have winning records. The Cardinals have blown 9 and are still searching for the right closer, while the Angels and Braves are tied with 8.

  The bad beat of the year came on a blown save by the Angels last Wednesday when the Angels had a 4-1 lead over the White Sox in the eighth inning. Fernando Rodney, Jordan Walden and Kevin Jepsen combined to blow the save and lose the game 6-4 in the 10th inning. Jepsen’s wild pitch on an intentional walk attempt that allowed the winning run to score was a new way to blow a save. The play was so unique that it topped ESPN’s list of bad plays of the week.

Until these teams find a closer who can finish a game off, they should remain teams to bet against rather than betting for.   

AL vs. NL Play

With Interleague play starting this weekend, it’s important to note that the AL has had quite the advantage over the years since its 1997 debut, holding a 1,806-1,652 record overall through 2010.

That doesn’t even tell the tale of the whole story. In the last six seasons the AL has gone 847-664 against the NL with an all-time best of 154-98 in 2006.

There’s really no definitive reason for the dominance except that the AL perhaps has an edge at home when the DH is used because they have defined players for that role. Not surprisingly, the New York Yankees have the best all-time interleague record (144-102), nor is it a shock that the Pirates have the worst (73-123).

What may make some take a second look is how Florida has the best NL record at 127-107. The top two teams last season in interleague play were the White Sox (15-2) and Rangers (14-4). The Sox did it with pitching (2.76 ERA) while the Rangers did it with their bats, most notably Josh Hamilton who hit .472 in the games. Each of those teams reeled off 11-game winning streaks.

Although the Mets-Yankees Subway series will receive the most attention, the battle of Ohio will have its first meaningful games as both the Reds and Indians are in first-place.

The Rangers visit Philadelphia with a great pitching duel between C.J. Wilson and Roy Halladay on Friday night. As always, the other geographical matchups always are fun to watch whether it’s the Bay Area smackdown, the fight for Florida or the I-70 showdown in Missouri.

Initially, I was against interleague play because of Bud Selig’s motivation for doing it. Coming off the strike year and trying to win fans back, I was like, "How dare he have the nerve to change the one sacred game in America in an attempt to make us forget his error in losing a World Series."

It’s the same kind of  "don’t ask, don’t tell" Selig that had him turn the other way as McGwire and Sosa were hitting all those home runs.

  Anyway, I’ve grown to like seeing all these teams play each other. It really doesn’t matter what teams they are either. It could be a non-historical matchup between the Pirates and Mariners and I’ll still find it interesting. The only thing I would change is to allow the DH only in the NL parks. This would give fans in every city a chance to see their team play under the visiting teams rules.