The Reds, fresh off a sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, are set to open a series against another NL West contender on Friday night: the San Francisco Giants. If this matchup sounds familiar, these two teams made headlines last month when Reds outfielder Tommy Pham slapped Giants outfielder Joc Pederson over a fantasy football dispute. Pham might not be over it yet, but the Giants have bigger goals: fighting for the NL’s final wild card spot. Meanwhile, David Bell’s squad makes the trip to the Bay Area hoping for better luck with rookie starter Graham Ashcraft facing a struggling Alex Cobb.
Let’s take a look at starting lineups, betting odds, and predictions for Friday’s matchup.
Cincinnati Reds Vs. San Francisco Giants Betting Odds
The Giants are favorites on the money line at -178, and the only reason they aren’t even greater favorites might be Alex Cobb’s rough season. You can’t fault the Giants for having a tough time this week against the Braves, who are playing like they’re determined to win another World Series. San Francisco went into Atlanta on a 7-2 stretch, with series wins over the Dodgers, Royals, and Pirates. Hosting a Reds team that’s lost seven in a row, it’s tough to bet against the Giants.
Cincinnati Reds Starting Lineup
2B J. India R
3B B. Drury R
LF T. Pham R
1B J. Votto L
SS K. Farmer R
DH M. Moustakas L
CF N. Senzel R
RF A. Almora R
C A. Garcia R
Cincinnati Reds Vs. Alex Cobb
Along with Carlos Rodon, Alex Cobb was part of the Giants’ plan to replace Kevin Gausman this past offseason. Farhan Zaidi gave Cobb a 2-year, $20M deal, but the veteran starter has yet to live up to expectations. Cobb enters Friday’s start with a 5.62 ERA over 9 starts (41.2 IP), plus a 1.464 WHIP. He allowed 13 earned runs in a two-start span last month and has made one start since returning from a brief stint on the IL with a hamstring injury. However, I’m here to tell you better days are ahead. They have to be. Cobb has a strong 3.28 FIP, which indicates his ERA has been inflated by plenty of bad luck. Cobb is actually averaging a career-best 10.6 Ks per nine, and his walk rate is down from the last two seasons. If the analytics movement has any credibility, Cobb will see better results going forward.
If any team can help him get on track, it’s the Reds. Cincinnati is hitting just .213 with a .595 OPS on the road this season, down significantly from their numbers in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark. With Tyler Stephenson and Tyler Naquin out, the stars are aligning for Cobb to finally put it together. Unless Tommy Pham is so motivated to beat Joc Pederson that he puts the team on his back, this should be an uphill battle for the Reds.
San Francisco Giants Starting Lineup
RF M. Yastrzemski L
SS B. Crawford L
3B E. Longoria R
LF J. Pederson L
1B B. Belt L
2B T. Estrada R
DH T. La Stella L
CF A. Slater R
C C. Casali R
San Francisco Giants Vs. Graham Ashcraft
Graham Ashcraft, a 6th-round pick by the Reds in 2019, debuted in May and has a solid 3.51 ERA through six major-league starts (33.1IP). Ashcraft has a 3.88 FIP and 1.17 WHIP, and he’s mostly pitched to contact with an average of less than 3 strikeouts per start. The Giants aren’t a high-contact team, sitting 23rd with 8.72 strikeouts/game, so Friday could be an opportunity for Ashcraft to start hunting some K’s. He could use it – his last two starts have been a bit of a nightmare. Ashcraft allowed 9 hits and 4 runs in 4.2 innings against the Cardinals on June 12, and he was hit even harder by the Brewers for 6 runs last Saturday. Bouncing back from this rough patch will be the first major test in the rookie’s big league career.
The Giants hover near the middle of the pack in AVG and OPS, but they’re fifth in runs per game thanks to some timely hitting. Surprise rookie Luis Gonzalez was placed on the IL with a back issue Thursday, which deals a blow to the Giants’ offense. Gonzalez had a .978 OPS over his last five games and has a .360 OBP over 49 games this season. Joc Pederson, one of baseball’s streakiest hitters, has started to get going again – he has 3 home runs in his last 7 games. The Giants recorded 14 hits in two of their last three games, so their offense seems to be trending well heading into a home matchup with a rookie starter.
Cincinnati Reds vs. San Francisco Giants Picks & Prediction
My pick: Giants -1.5 (+116 on FanDuel)
I’m always hesitant to automatically rule out a team on a long losing streak. The Reds have lost seven straight, but that can’t last forever. A win is coming eventually. I just can’t see it on Friday. Alex Cobb is primed to find some traction against a bad road offense, and the Giants have been hitting well enough that it’s tough to trust an inexperienced Ashcraft. The Giants are looking to bounce back themselves – they need some wins after dropping three of four in Atlanta. I think they put it together with the Reds in town.