May 7, 2012: Milwaukee, WI, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce (32) is congratulated by second baseman Brandon Phillips (4) and first baseman Joey Votto (19) after hitting a home run during the fourth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Series Preview: Reds @ Mets

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Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips make their first trip to New York this season to face David Wright and the Mets for a short, two-game set. New York is coming off a split with the Milwaukee Brewers, with their season record standing at 20-16 before they take the field tonight. The Amazins have enjoyed success of late, going 7-3 in their last 10 games despite some ugly losses at the hands of the Marlins and Brewers. The Reds are coming off a split of their own with the Atlanta Braves, and are primed for a long stay in New York as they take on the Yankees for three games after they’re through with the Mets. Dusty Baker’s club comes in 18-17, 2.5 games behind division-leading St. Louis.

How they’re performing:

The Mets team batting average is sitting at .264 (6th in MLB), with their .338 on-base% good for fifth in the league. Coming into this

April 30, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; New York Mets center fielder

series, New York is boasting two starters hitting over .300 (Wright and Daniel Murphy), with Wright leading the NL with a .408 average. Before a hitless game last night, Kirk Nieuwenhuis was also hitting over .300, but he’s now sitting at .294. The Mets have scored 149 runs so far this season, ranked 15th in the Majors; this category is once again, led by David Wright, with 25 runs scored. On the bump, New York has been struggling with a 4.37 team ERA (25th) and 1.41 WHIP (27th). The main offenders for these poor numbers? Dillon Gee, Miguel Batista, Manny Acosta, and Frank Francisco to name a few.

For the Reds, offense has been an issue; Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Ryan Hanigan are the only starters that are hitting over .300, and their team average of .238 is ranked 23rd in the league. Their .302 on-base percentage (27th) hasn’t made things any easier for them to score runs, where they rank 22nd in the MLB (134). Individually, Votto, Bruce, and Drew Stubbs are all tied for the team lead with 21 runs scored. Pitching has been the bright spot that has carried Cincinnati to a winning record thus far. Their 3.41 team ERA (8th) and 1.30 WHIP (18th) have been highlighted by starters Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo. Also, relievers Aroldis Chapman and Logan Ondrusek have yet to give up any runs this season.

Probable Pitching Match-ups:

While the Mets are sending two of their most dependable starters out to the mound in this series, the Reds are sending two of their most inconsistent pitchers to the hill. Fortunately for New York, the short series will prevent Bronson Arroyo from facing them at Citi Field, who has consistently dominated the Amazins in recent years.

Mike Leake (CIN) 0-5, 7.11 ERA vs. Johan Santana (NYM) 1-2, 2.92 ERA

Mat Latos (CIN) 2-2, 4.54 ERA vs. R.A. Dickey (NYM) 5-1, 3.65

Mike Leake was one of the great rookie stories when he broke into the league in 2010, but after a strong campaign last year, he hasn’t been able to put together any solid starts thus far in 2012. Off-season acquisition Mat Latos hasn’t been consistent in consecutive starts this season, and is coming off a tough start against the Nationals.

On the other hand, Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey are primed to put the Mets back on the winning track before they head north of the border to face the Blue Jays. Santana is heading into his start tonight with four straight quality starts under his belt, and even though Dickey was last year’s tough luck pitcher, he’s already registered five wins, and has found ways to win without his best knuckleball in tow at times.

Recent Head-to-Head Meetings:

The 2010 season was a good one for Dusty Baker and the Cincinnati Reds; they surprised everyone by going 91-71, beating out the

Cardinals to take the NL Central crown. Even though the Mets only scored two less runs than the Reds in their six meetings, the Amazins dropped four out of six contests, only winning one game at home and one game on the road. The longest game between the two in 2010 lasted 11 innings, with another 10 inning contest two days later, both of which were won by Cincinnati. Francisco Cordero notched two saves in the season series, and Bronson Arroyo got the win in the finale. Johan Santana helped power the only shutout by either team in these six games, a 3-0 victory in the beginning of July.

However, 2011 was a different story for the Reds, who finished the season under .500. New York and Cincinnati met 7 times last season and the Mets turned their luck around, going 5-2 in those head-to- head match-ups. Terry Collins’ group once again lost two of three at home, but they went into the Great American Ballpark and swept a four-game series. A different pitcher earned the win in each of the five victories, with Jason Isringhausen notching two saves. The Mets scored 42 runs in the seven contests, averaging six runs per ballgame. There was only one extra inning affair last season, a 13-inning marathon that was eventually won by the Reds.

In addition to this two-game set at Citi Field, the Reds will be making another trip to Flushing for a three-game weekend series starting June 15th. The Mets will make their lone trip to the Great American Ballpark two months later to start a three-game set on August 14th.

What to watch for:

Let’s see how MLB’s latest $200 million man fares during his stay in New York. Joey Votto has been hot over the last ten games, hitting .382 and having a 3-homer game against Washington over the weekend. He will have two tough tasks in this series; first, taking on Santana and his changeup, then going right to R.A. Dickey and his lovely knuckleball.

Obviously, the player to watch in this series is David Wright. He leads the league in hitting, and is hitting .436 in his last 10 games. It was four multi-hit games in a row that helped him raise his average from .376 back up to .408. Lucas Duda is another player to watch as the Mets and Reds go head-to-head. Duda has been hot and cold for most of the year, but he’s put together some good at-bats of late, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he started getting on a roll.

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Tags: Brandon Phillips Daniel Murphy David Wright Joey Votto Johan Santana Kirk Nieuwenhuis Mike Leake New York Mets R.A. Dickey Reds @ Mets Rising Apple Series Preview Terry Collins

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