Two of the league's best offenses -- the New York Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds -- meet on Monday Night Baseball (ESPN, 7 ET) as interleague play continues. Johnny Cueto, coming off back-to-back outings of seven innings pitched and no earned runs allowed, is scratched and Travis Wood takes his place.
The Yankees lead the American League in runs per game, walks, home runs and slugging and are second in on-base percentage. Despite reports of a shoulder injury, Yankees cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez has been hot in the past month.
It’s believed that the injury occurred during a series with the Rangers May 6-8. He’s hitting 44 points higher since May 10 than he did up until that point and he’s hit more home runs per game since that date.
Ivan Nova will start for the Yankees, and he’s struggled with cleanup hitters this season, allowing 13 hits in 33 at-bats (.394 BA) to the opposing No. 4 hitter.
Jay Bruce Career vs LHP
Jay Bruce has been hitting cleanup for the Reds this month, but he’s hit worse against righties than lefties this season. His performance against left-handed pitchers this season is the best it’s been in his brief career.
Bruce doesn’t have to come to the plate in the first inning for Cincinnati to have early success. Nova has allowed four runs in the first inning this season, but he’s allowed 12 runs in the second inning.
Nova will also have to deal with Joey Votto, who might be having a better season than he did in 2010 when he won the NL MVP award. He’s striking out a lower rate than he did last season and his .449 on-base percentage would tie for the second-best by any Reds player since 1900.
Bruce and Votto anchor an offense that is again among the best in the league in 2011, but the Reds bullpen is on a downward trend. Cincinnati's bullpen ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio have decreased each month this season.
On the other side, the Reds will want to get their damage done against Nova while they have the chance. The Yankees bullpen is first or second in the American League in ERA, opponents' batting average and percent of inherited runners who score. In fact, their 2.81 bullpen ERA would be the lowest for the Yankees since 1981.
-- Jeremy Lundblad and Mark Simon contributed