Pirates vs Reds Series Preview: Elly De La Cruz hits PNC Park for first time in '24

After taking two of three from the Colorado Rockies over the weekend, the Pittsurgh Pirates will take on NL Central-rival Cincinnati Reds this week.
Cincinnati Reds v Milwaukee Brewers
Cincinnati Reds v Milwaukee Brewers / John Fisher/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates are set to welcome the hot Cincinnati Reds and star shortstop Elly De La Cruz to PNC Park starting on Monday night for a three-game series. It will be the first time this season that the Pirates and Reds will meet in the 2024 season.

A season ago, the Pirates won eight of 13 matchups over the Reds despite being outscored in the season series 57-53.

Notably, entering this week's series, the Reds have been strong in June, collecting a 9-5 record, but are coming off a series loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, losing two of three matchups. After their setback over the weekend, the Reds are 34-37, eight games back of the Brewers in the division race and a game back from the last NL Wild Card spot.

In the home dugout, the Pirates are coming off a series win against the Colorado Rockies, taking two matchups, including an 8-2 win on Sunday afternoon. The Pirates enter this week's divisional matchup with an identical record and placement within the division and wild card races. The Pirates, following their series win over Colorado, are now 8-6 in June.

The Pirates will be sending two of their hottest pitchers Paul Skenes and Mitch Keller to the mound, while Bailey Falter will get a start on Tuesday as he looks to regain his May form after allowing eight earned runs over the last two starts (eight total innings).

Pirates vs Reds Series Preview: Pitching Matchups

MONDAY: Carson Spiers (RHP) vs Paul Skenes (RHP)

Spiers is set to make his sixth appearence for the Reds this season on Monday. Last time out on June 9, he did a strong job against the Chicago Cubs, going 5.2 innings and allowing zero runs across four hits. He also struck out seven and issued just one walk.

For the season, Spiers has a 2.33 ERA and 2.53 FIP in 19.1 innings pitched. This will be his first start of 2024.

Skenes will be making his seventh start of the season after a tremendous showing against the St. Louis Cardinals last week, pitching 6.1 shutout innings while striking out eight. Since making his debut in May, the 2023 No.1 overall pick has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball with a 2.43 ERA in 33.1 innings. He has struck out 46 in the process while walking just six.

TUESDAY: Nick Lodolo (LHP) vs Bailey Falter (LHP)

Reds' left-hander Nick Lodolo has been one of the National League's best all season, collecting a 7-2 record with a 2.93 ERA across 10 starts. He's struck out 62 this season while walking just 15. That being said, Lodolo has been a bit wild at times, with a league leading nine hit by pitches. He also led the league in hit by pitches in 2022 with 19.

Falter will be looking to bounce back after a pair of tough starts. Last time out, he allowed three runs on eight hits and one walk across four innings. In his start prior, he allowed five earned runs on eight hits and two walks in four innings. For the season, Falter still sports a solid 3.86 ERA and a 4.56 FIP while pitching 72.1 innings on the year. Notably, he's just 13 innings away from surpassing his career high of 84 innings pitched.

WEDNESDAY: Hunter Greene (RHP) vs Mitch Keller (RHP)

In Wednesday's matinee, Reds fireballer Hunter Greene will take the mound looking to follow up a rollercoaster start against Milwaukee on the 14. He allowed just two earned runs in five innings but walked five in the process. This season, Greene is off to a solid start with a 3.61 ERA and 3.39 FIP across 82.1 innings pitched. However, he has seen his control take a dip this season with 37 walks and nine hit batters.

Mitch Keller's string of strong starts ended last week against St. Louis after he allowed four earned runs on eight hits in six innings. That being said, he has still been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball over the last month. He enters his 15th start of the season with a 3.36 ERA and 3.60 FIP in 85 innings.

A closer look at the Reds' lineup for Pirates fans

At the plate, the Reds have several names to know — the entire lineup outside of infielder Santiago Espinal is truly dangerous and can make an impact.

3B Jeimer Candelario

The 30-year-old veteran third baseman has been very good for the Reds this season with a .252/.310/.492 slash line and 124 OPS+. He is also tied for a team-leading 12 home runs while driving in 35.

SS Elly De La Cruz

De La Cruz has been putting together a strong season for the Reds, owning a .235/.334/.438 line and 118 OPS+. He's tied with Candelario for a team-leading 12 home runs and has driven in 31 runs this season. He also has an amazing 36 stolen bases.

C Tyler Stephenson

One of the better hitting cathcers in the league, Stephenson is posting a .250/.332/.406 slash line with six home runs and 22 RBI.

LF Spencer Steer

Steer has seen a bit of a drop-off from his numbers a season ago but still owns a solid .23/.331/.400 line with a 107 OPS+. He has eight home runs on the season and leads the Reds with 42 RBI. He's a threat on the bases, too, with 12 steals, and has only been caught once.

RF Jake Fraley

Fraley probably deserves more recognition nationally for his effort. While he hasn't posted big extra-base or RBI numbers this season, the right fielder is hitting .283/.337/.364 with a 100 OPS+. He's a threat on the basepaths like Steer with 11 stolen bases in 15 tries.