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Slugging Cincinnati Reds will challenge homer-happy Tigers pitching

The Tigers and Reds will begin a four-game home-and-home series starting tonight at Comerica Park.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

The last time a bottom-dwelling National League Central team came to Comerica Park, things did not end well for the Detroit Tigers. They were nearly swept at home by the last place Milwaukee Brewers, who hit six home runs during the three-game series. Tonight, the Tigers welcome the Cincinnati Reds to town, and the similarities are obvious.

After losing three of four to the Chicago Cubs over the weekend, the Reds are 28-34 and in fourth place in the NL Central. Like the last place Brewers, the Reds do not hit for a high batting average. The Reds are tied for the third-lowest batting average in the National League, while the Brewers are dead last. The Reds get on base more often thanks to an 8.6 percent walk rate, but their .314 team on-base percentage is only league average.

Like the Brewers, the Reds do most of their damage in bunches. Cincinnati has hit 74 home runs this season, the second-highest total in the National League. Their .160 ISO and .404 slugging percentage both rank third in the NL, bringing their team 96 wRC+ up to fifth in the league. They have five players with at least nine home runs this season, though two -- shortstop Zack Cozart and outfielder Marlon Byrd --  are currently on the disabled list.

This could turn out to be a bad matchup against a Tigers pitching staff that has had trouble keeping the ball in the park at times. Anibal Sanchez was rocked for three home runs and seven earned runs by the Brewers, though he has settled in nicely in his last three starts. Lefthander Kyle Ryan has only allowed two home runs in 67 combined innings between Triple-A Toledo and the major leagues this season, but he allowed his fair share of dingers while pitching at Double-A Erie in 2014.

SB Nation blog: Red Reporter

Game 1: Monday, 7:08 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit

Pitching Matchup: RHP Jon Moscot (1-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (4-7, 5.16 ERA)

Moscot 2 11.0 4.09 4.09 1.64 1.36 5.92 5.70 -0.1
Sanchez 13 82.0 8.34 2.74 1.43 1.28 4.26 3.77 0.7

A fourth round pick out of Pepperdine University in 2012, Moscot made his major league debut on June 5, when electric Cuban righthander Raisel Iglesias was placed on the disabled list. Moscot took the loss in his debut, allowing four runs in five innings against the San Diego Padres. He settled down in his last start, holding the Philadelphia Phillies to two runs on six hits in sixth innings to earn his first career win. In nine starts with Triple-A Louisville this season, Moscot is 7-1 with a 3.15 ERA and 4.21 FIP.

Moscot is not a hard thrower, working in the low 90s with his fastball. He has thrown the heater nearly 60 percent of the time in his two major league starts, with more four-seamers than two-seamers. He also features a slider, curveball, and changeup, but has not induced many swings and misses with any of his off-speed pitches. Moscot has not struck out many batters in the minor leagues, but he has pounded the lower half of the strike zone to avoid any hard contact.

Jon Moscot heat map

Game 2: Tuesday, 7:08 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit

Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Lorenzen (1-2, 4.01 ERA) vs. LHP Kyle Ryan (1-0, 2.08 ERA)

Lorenzen 7 42.2 6.12 5.27 1.69 1.43 6.08 5.24 -0.5
Ryan 1 13.0 4.15 3.46 0.69 1.15 4.33 5.13 0.0

Used as a combination center fielder and closer at Cal State Fullerton, Michael Lorenzen is the latest in a line of college relievers drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, only to be used as starting pitchers at the professional level. A supplemental round pick in 2013, Lorenzen was one of the first players in his draft class to reach the major leagues. He made his MLB debut on April 29 in place of Homer Bailey, who has since undergone Tommy John surgery. Lorenzen took the loss, allowing three runs (all solo home runs) in five innings against the Brewers.

Since then, Lorenzen has been much better than his numbers indicate. He held opponents to a 2.97 ERA over his next seven appearances (including five starts), but was knocked around for six runs (five earned) in his last start against the Cubs. Lorenzen has the pure stuff that Moscot does not, but his command has been a major issue so far. Lorenzen has issued 25 walks in just 42 2/3 innings thus far, including at least three walks in each of his past six starts. He has been tough to hit, holding opponents to a .231 batting average, but they are doing plenty of damage once they do make contact, with 17 extra base hits already this season.

Hitter to fear: Todd Frazier (.289/.357/.603 in 261 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Billy Hamilton (.224/.267/.310 in 228 plate appearances)

The Reds lead all of baseball with 65 stolen bases, but that is all thanks to speedster Billy Hamilton, who has 31 steals on 35 attempts this season. Hamilton has as many steals as the Kansas City Royals, a feat made more surprising by his abysmal .267 on-base percentage. He started the season in the leadoff spot, but was moved down to the bottom of the order just under a month ago. In Hamilton's place is second baseman Brandon Phillips, who has slumped a bit since being moved up in the order.

The teeth of the Reds batting order comes right after Phillips, with Joey Votto and Todd Frazier typically batting in the second and third spots. Votto has bounced back from a subpar season in 2014, hitting .298/.398/.557 with 14 home runs and 36 RBI. The 14 home runs already matches the second-best total of his career, but is second on the team to Frazier, who has emerged as one of the premier sluggers in the National League. Frazier leads the NL with 38 extra base hits on the year, including 18 home runs. He is coming off a 29-homer, 20-steal season in 2014, and is close to that 20-20 pace again this season.


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