Image: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

 After what seemed like an unfathomable 27 runs over their final two games against the Kansas City Royals, the Guardians (2-2) travel back to the state of Ohio to begin the 2022 Ohio Cup with a series against the Cincinnati Reds (2-2). 

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday, April 12: CLE – RHP Shane Bieber (0-0) v. CIN – RHP Tyler Mahle (1-0). First Pitch: 4:10 p.m. 

Wednesday, April 13: CLE – RHP Triston McKenzie v. CIN – LHP Nick Lodolo. First Pitch: 12:35 p.m. 

The Ohio Cup

 In 2021, the Ohio Cup was a tie as both teams each won three games, meaning that the Cup stayed with the team who won the series the previous year, that being Cleveland. In fact, it’s stayed in Cleveland for the last seven seasons, with 2014 being the last time the Reds took it home. After losing three of the first four matchups, including being no-hit in the fourth game of the series by then Reds pitcher Wade Miley, Cleveland dominated the Reds, outscoring them 18-5 over the final two games of the annual series. Ever since Cleveland and Cincinnati switched to different leagues, the Guardians lead the all-time series 69-54, with Cleveland being 39-24 at home and 30-30 on the road. Since the new Ohio Cup trophy was introduced in 2008, Cleveland has won it six times, the reds four times and five ties. 

Triston McKenzie gets the nod in the finale

 After pitching in a relief role during the series against the Royals, pitcher Triston McKenzie will make his first start of the season on Wednesday. The Reds will counter with rookie Nick Lodolo, the seventh overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, who will be making his major league debut. McKenzie was one of two pitchers that the Guardians pitching staff considered for the fifth pitcher in the starting rotation, with the other being Eli Morgan. 

Things to watch for

Who plays the most at first base: Owen Miller will get the start at first base for the third straight game after Bobby Bradley got the first two. Miller had five hits over the final two games of the series, which gave manager Terry Francona all the evidence he needed to let him play for the third straight game. This also raises a question; how long does Bobby Bradley really have left with the Guardians? 

Who can continue their hitting streak: Steven Kwan (9-13), Amed Rosario (8-18) and Jose Ramirez (6-16) each come into the series riding a four game hitting streak to start the season, The 1-2-3 punch of Myles Straw, Kwan and Ramirez is going to be looked at to get the back half of the lineup going, and against the Royals, they did just that and that led to them getting two wins. Expect this to be the front of the lineup for the immediate future. 

Where certain players end up in the field: One thing to really keep an eye on is with Josh Naylor expected to return to Cleveland this week, where certain players play in the field. In particular two come to mind, Owen Miller and Ernie Clement. Clement is a utility player, meaning he can be used a vast number of positions. He’s been playing second base, but don’t be surprised if he finds himself getting some time in the outfield later on down the road. Another player is Owen Miller. Miller is playing first base currently and the plan is to have Naylor play in right field when he returns. But here’s the thing, Naylor’s natural position is first base, not right field. With the trade of Bradley Zimmer last week, The Guardians only have three true outfielders on the roster, Straw, Kwan and Oscar Mercado. If Miller continues to hit well like he has, he’ll most likely remain at first, while Naylor plays in right. However, if he struggles, Naylor may be moved to his true position of first base while either Mercado or Clement play as the right fielder. 

How Shane Bieber pitches against the Reds: In his last three starts against the Reds dating back to 2019, Bieber is 3-0 against the Reds and has had at least eight strikeouts against Cincinnati, his most recent outing have 13. He allowed just seven runs in those three games and has been pretty dominant in each start. 

A look at the Reds 

The Reds made some major changes to their roster in the offseason, most notably letting go off their two starting all-stars from last season, Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker. Castellanos wasn’t resigned and eventually signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, while Winker was traded to the Seattle Mariners. Even then, they still have some good talent on the roster. Reigning N.L. rookie of the year Jonathan India is their leadoff man. India received 29 of a possible 30 rookie of the year votes after putting up a batting average of .269, 21 home runs and 68 runs batted in. Six time All-Star and 38-year-old Joey Votto is always going to be a factor in the Reds lineup and is the heart and soul of the team. He’s been the face of their franchise for nearly a decade now and last season had a stretch where he homered in seven consecutive games. The Reds are coming off of a four-game split with defending champion Atlanta Braves and will be having their home opener. Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Joe Burrow will be throwing out the first pitch. 

After this series, the Guardians will have their home opener on Friday, April 15 against the San Francisco Giants. 

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