The Cincinnati Reds are on pace to do something that has been done only twice in major league history, and do it fairly easily.
The Reds starters have given up fewer runs than their relievers through the first 17 games.
It's an obscure stat, but one that speaks to the strength of the Reds starting pitchers and the weakness of their bullpen. Cincinnati starters have given up 32 runs (26 earned) in 93 1/3 innings through 17 games, while the relievers have allowed 50 (44 earned) in 52 2/3 innings.
The other two times a team's relievers have given up more than its starters were the 2018 and 2019 Tampa Bay Rays, who used "openers" often.
Seven of the Reds' eight victories on the season have been primarily because of quality starts. They're 7-3 when their starter allows three or fewer runs in at least six innings.
Wednesday's starter, Wade Miley, is scheduled to return to the active roster from the 10-day injured list. He was placed on the IL July 31 with a strained left groin. In his only start this season (July 27), he allowed six runs (five earned) in 1 2/3 innings against the Chicago Cubs.
"The way it was explained to me was that he didn't feel 100 percent and didn't feel great during his start," Reds manager David Bell said when Miley hit the IL. "I think in the hours and days following that, it got worse, and he determined the groin was going to affect the way he pitched. So very cautious but smart move, because as we know, one injury can lead to another."
Miley has had success against the Royals in his career. In seven career starts, he's 5-2 with a 3.38 ERA (17 earned runs in 45 1/3 innings). He has one career shutout, a five-hitter in April 2016.
The Royals will send right-hander Brad Keller to the mound Wednesday. Keller will make his second start after spending the first part of the season on the IL recovering from a COVID-19 positive test.
In his first start, he pitched five scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs. He was helped by nine Royals runs in the first three innings, something he wouldn't mind seeing again Wednesday.
"The way we're rolling right now, I would love it," he said Tuesday afternoon. "Hopefully we do that again tonight, do it again tomorrow and keep it going."
The Royals came into Tuesday's game having won four straight games, all against first-place teams, before losing 6-5 in 10 innings.
With a day off Monday, the five-man rotation gets pushed back a day. Even though he's been to the mound only once, he welcomes the extra rest.
"You always take an extra day no matter when it is," he said. "It's always helpful. When I came off the COVID list, it felt like it was go, go, go, go, go. To actually take a break like yesterday, not throwing, will be nice."
Keller has never faced the Reds in his brief career, but he's 3-3 with a 3.40 ERA in interleague play.
--Field Level Media