San Francisco will try to turn around what's so far been a miserable road trip while Cincinnati will seek to bounce back from its own woeful trek in Monday night's series opener. San Francisco (39-42) has hardly looked like a contender for much of this season. The Giants had dropped six straight - their longest skid in three seasons - and seven in a row on the road before Sunday's 5-2 win over Colorado. Cincinnati (46-36) lost eight of 11 and went 2-6 in their visits to Arizona, Oakland and Texas.
The Reds send Bronson Arroyo (6-6 3.61) to the hill this evening. Given the recent rough road trip the Reds encountered you know they have to feel fortunate to be back at home despite falling to 3rd place in the NL Central 5.5 games behind the streaking surprising Pittsburgh Pirates. Arroyo is coming off a loss where he was lit up against Oakland giving up 7 ER on 7 hits in a 7-3 defeat at the O Coliseum. Arroyo has allowed 12 runs combined over his last four starts despite recording only one loss thanks to run support during the majority of his starts. If you remember these same Giants were in a position to be eliminated in the NLCS but wound up sweeping the final 2 road games at the Great American Ballpark en route to a World Series Championship.
Arroyo faces a lineup that despite faced with the misfortune of playing in a pitcher's ballpark is hitting .270 overall despite belting only 56 HR as we approach the midway point. You have to love Bruce Bochy's style of small-ball trying to manufacture runs especially at AT&T Park which is by far one of the league's pitcher friendly venues. The same however cannot be said for the Great American Ballpark and this is quite the opportunity for SF to make things difficult for a struggling Arroyo. Buster Posey (.322 12 48) is 5th in the NL in hitting and leads the club in RBI. Free-swinging Hunter Pence (.284 13 42) has become a fan favorite and also leads Frisco in stolen bases with 13 in addition to his team leading 13 HR. You have to feel that it's only a matter of time before Pablo Sandoval, who just came off the DL with a strained foot comes out of his current 1 for 19 slump which has slowed down his production (.274 8 37). Brandon Belt (.263 8 34) had a productive June and Marco Scutaro (.319 2 18) has done a fine job of setting the table early in the lineup with some timely hitting.
Arroyo might have a chance to get back in the win column if Giants rookie Mike Kickham (0-2, 10.57) continues to struggle. The left-hander allowed six runs over 5 1-3 innings in his second major league start, a 6-5 loss at the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday. He was called up from the minors the previous day for the second time this season because of Chad Gaudin's elbow injury. Kickham has struggled with the transition to starting in the majors, posting a 10.57 ERA in 7 2/3 innings over two starts. Gaudin is expected to come off the disabled list July 6. Kickham faces a Reds lineup that has represented anything but a machine hitting just .248 collectively with 85 HR. Jay Brice (.278 18 56) has such a quick bat and has been hitting pitches on the nose, almost so much that he registers hard outs directly at fielders or we may be talking well over 20 HRs at this point. Joey Votto (.326 14 38) is just ahead of Posey 4th in batting and gives the Reds a power source at the top of the lineup as well as a consistent hint of instant offense. Brandon Phillips (.268 11 61) just encountered a 3 for 32 slump but is still putting up rather impressive numbers while just returning from the paternity list. Shin Soo Choo (.268 12 26) helped his team snap a 22 inning scoreless streak by homering on the first pitch of Saturday's 6-4 win at Texas.
We get a bit of a pricey line this evening,but when you're a home or opposing team at the Great American Ballpark, more times than not expect balls flying out of the park due to open spaces and favorable hitting dimensions to virtually all fields. Add to the fact that you have a rookie pitcher yet to find his identity against a veteran who has anything but impressed over the last few weeks. Cincinnati should be able to provide some offense throughout a lineup that most expected more from, while San Francisco may need a boost from it's supporting cast if they plan to jump back into the NL West race despite only being 3 games back at the moment. Best of luck however you play!