Postseason play is among us and with it comes questions for every team in every series.
The Cincinnati Reds bring their 97-65 regular season record and the No. 2 seed in the NLDS to the bay shores of San Francisco. It is here that they begin a five-game series against Buster Posey and the Giants. With two teams that are so evenly matched battling it out, every last advantage or disadvantage could mean the difference between a win or a loss.
It's in this type of environment that questions are bound to arise. So let's look at five key questions surrounding the Cincinnati Reds and their success during this upcoming showdown.
Can Joey Votto and Jay Bruce ignite the anemic Cincinnati offense?
Questions have surrounded the Reds' offense all season, but now that the playoffs have arrived these questions must finally be addressed. The Reds may maintained a 32-16 record in the absence of Joey Votto due in large part to the emergence of their bats.
Those bats however have since sank to the deepest depths of the Ohio River. Votto has batted .316 in 76 at-bats since his return yet has produced a mere seven RBI. This is due in large part to the ineffectiveness of those batting before him.
So what can we expect from Votto and Jay Bruce? This question really boils down to what can we expect from one, Jay Bruce. Joey Votto is going to be pitched around. Like it or not this is going to happen. This means Jay Brice is going to have to be the man who steps up and becomes Cincy's premiere run producer. Will he get on one of his hot streaks and carry the offense?
Jay Bruce can do it, but he is going to need some help. This leads us to our next question...
Zack Cozart needs to improve upon his sub-.300 OBP during postseason play.
Zack Cozart has been at the top of the order all season and it has netted him the second worst on-base percentage in the NL at .288 (behind only Drew Stubbs' .277 OBP). He was recently joined by Brandon Phillips at the top of the order. Sad thing is, Phillips hit only .198 in September and has produced only a .202 BA and .254 OBP from the leadoff role this season.
It seems as though the Reds are simply cursed at the top of their order. Regardless, if the Reds' offense is going to produce then these guys need to be setting the table for Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.
So can they produce? They can produce enough to win as their 4-3 record vs San Fran this year attests, but their inconsistency definitely puts more pressure on the pitching staff.
Look, Bronson Arroyo is a competitor and can win games. But knowing that your team could enter that matchup a game down, wouldn't you want to guarantee yourself a win in game two?
OK, so maybe you can't guarantee a win, but you can come very close to doing so by placing Mat Latos on the mound. All he has done is go 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA while allowing only six hits in 16 innings pitched vs the Giants this season. It sure beats the fact that Giants hitters batted .348 against Arroyo over two starts.
Did we mention that Latos also hates the Giants?
Giant hater, Giant killer, and bully, Mat Latos.
So this picture has nothing to do with this slide other than it was taken in Great American Ballpark. Just thrown in here to reinforce the previous slide—look at that bully.
Can the Reds return to Great American with at least a split? Yes! And they will. Look folks, the Reds pitching staff is just that good. Even if the anemic offense is well, anemic. They will find a way to eek across just enough runs for at least one win.
Providing Giants hater/Giants killer/playground bully, Mat Latos the opportunity to do his thing in hitter friendly GABP means shutting down the Giants.
Aroldis Chapman and Co. will look to maintain their dominant ways.
You may think it is the offense, but it's not. It's pitching, pitching, and more pitching. It was pitching that allowed the fewest runs in the NL and that led the Reds to a 97-65 record—they are just that good.
This pitching staff may have been overlooked by the media and the rest of America during the regular season, but prime-time television and the national playoff stage is about to introduce them to the world.
Cincy has the most balanced pitching staff in baseball. All four possible postseason starters can dominate a game at anytime and the relief corps has done just that all season.
You can follow Josh Ramsey on Twitter @JRamCincy