Sunday Night Baseball: Detroit Tigers vs. Cincinnati Reds

The NL Central Division-leading Cincinnati Reds (32-26, 17-12 home) get set to host the Detroit Tigers (27-32, 14-16 away) for the final game of a 3-game interleague series today at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio. With game time set to drop at 8:00 PM ET, we’ll break down this match-up and get prepared for the best looking options for online sports betting on tonight’s featured MLB showdown.

In the pitching match-up set for tonight, Detroit will send out rookie Drew Smyly (2-2, 3.71 ERA), who will try to figure out a way to get back on track towards his outstanding form to start off the 2012 season. Having won just one game since April 28th, it seems as though the magic of his incredible six-start run at the beginning of the year has finally started to fade. Leading the American League with a 1.59 ERA through those first 6 games, while allowing more than 1 run only once, Smyly has since been figured out by opposing hitters, as his ERA has more than doubled while in his last 6 starts he’s given up less than 4 runs just once. Fortunately for the young Tigers’ pitcher, his performances have been better on the road this season, posting a 2-0 record with a 3.44 ERA (vs. 0-2, 4.05 ERA at home). In today’s match-up though, he’ll be tasked with changing some unwanted history in Detroit, looking to earn his Tigers their first back-to-back victories in a National League ballpark since 2008. Detroit has long-struggled on the road in interleague match-ups, losing 19 of their last 28 games played against NL teams. In order to reverse history, and overcome his own personal struggles on the mound, Drew Smyly will have to focus on staying sharp through the middle innings, and avoid the big mistake to guys like Joey Votto , who’s currently hitting .567 for the month and looks to build on his career-best 16-game hitting streak.

Fortunately for the Tigers tonight, their chances of getting a rare back-to-back win at a National League ballpark increase with the fact that the Reds have not won an interleague series played at home in their last 4 attempts. On the Cincinnati side of the pitching equation comes a pitcher who has also struggled with consistency, as Homer Bailey comes into tonight’s match-up after getting shelled in an 8-4 loss to Pittsburgh, giving up 6 runs on 8 hits in just 3 innings of work. While Bailey has given up a couple of bad performances this year, Cincinnati could take some solace in the fact that he’s also followed his worst performances of the season (3 with 4 or more runs allowed in 5 2/3 or less innings of work) with a string of 4 straight quality starts. Winning 3 straight games before losing to Pittsburgh, allowing no more than 3 runs in each of those appearances bodes well for a rebound performance tonight for the 26 year old. Also fortunate for him is the fact that he’s faced very few of the Tigers’ hitters (4) over his 5-year career, giving him an edge on the mound tonight. One batter he’ll definitely want to pay particular attention though is Prince Fielder, who has seen him 17 times during his days at Milwaukee, and has gone 6-for-17 against Bailey with 6 walks.

What’s truly surprising about this match-up, is the fact that no one would have likely expected the Cincinnati Reds to be at the top of the NL Central division at this point in the season, and on the flipside, no one likely expected the Detroit Tigers, picked by most to be the winners of the AL Central Division, to be struggling just to get to .500 on the year. While the Tigers’ bats have been decent, they are nowhere close to the levels of production experienced last year, even with the off-season acquisition of Prince Fielder. Where the Tigers are lacking is their ability to actually convert runs from the talented hitters, sitting dead in the middle of the league in run production despite being 7th in batting average and 8th in slugging. There’s no question that the hitting is still there, with 5 players batting over .300 including home-run leader Miguel Cabrera (.317, 13 homers, 51 RBI), Andy Dirks (.328) and Austin Jackson (.321), but for the Tigers to bump up their success especially against teams like the Reds who don’t have efficient hitting line-ups, they have to do a better job of converting base runners into runs on the board, and avoid leaving base runners stranded. On the pitching side of things, Detroit has also taken a nosedive, ranking in the bottom third of the league in just about every category. The two that really need to be addressed in games like these tough is the WHIP (Walks + Hits/Innings Pitched), and opponent batting average. With a 1.36 WHIP among the Tigers’ staff, and opponents hitting .264 off them, Detroit’s powerful offense won’t be able to help give them the upper hand night after night. Guys like Drew Smyly need to be the ones to readjust themselves, focus more on each individual at-bat, and avoid the big, painful inning that puts the Tigers in such a hole that they can’t dig themselves out.

The Reds are near polar opposites of the Tigers in terms of how they are getting by in ballgames, ranking in the bottom third across just about every offensive category, but ranking in the top third in every pitching statistic. That seems very evident to support the case that good pitching wins ballgames. While it’s true that especially into the playoffs, good offense can be the difference maker in any given series, right now the Reds are having success with their pitching staff, which sports a combined ERA of just 3.54. Getting quality starts has also been crucial, with 32 generated from the teams’ 52 games played this year, and it’s evident especially with Homer Bailey, who has been superb whenever he pitches for more than 6 innings. Just once has he given up 3 runs when going at least 6 1/3 innings of work, and is 4-1 when passing that innings landmark. Another critical factor for the Reds, and for Bailey, is avoiding the walks. He is 4-0 when giving up 1 walk or less in a game. This tell us that if Bailey’s control is there, the Reds will win tonight’s match-up at home and break their losing streak in interleague series.

Betting lines for the Cincinnati Reds vs. Detroit Tigers at Bovada Sportsbook.

Homer Bailey and the Reds get the nod as favorites on the betting lines today, with -120 odds set for them to win straight up on the money line. Drew Smyly and the Detroit Tigers are slight +110 underdogs to win their first back-to-back set of games on the road against an NL team in 4 years.

Against the spread, Cincinnati will have to cover 1 ½ runs tonight to pick up +160 odds for spread pickers going with the Big Red Machine. Conversely, those looking to back the Tigers, who have a 1 ½ run cushion, will have to make a bigger gamble with the odds sitting at -190. Keep in mind though that both of the previous 2 games in this series have been 1-run ballgames, with the first contest going into extra innings.

For the total points line at Bovada Sportsbook, 8 ½ runs is the mark set for the over/under. The first series showdown between these two teams saw the runs total broken through, however in last night’s 3-2 win, the under pickers were the ones prevailing. We like the look of the under pick on total points tonight, which sits on EVEN money, as neither team has seen much of these two pitchers so far.

Look for a great conclusion to this weekend’s Major League Baseball Interleague play, and a good opportunity for betting on sports for the lone baseball game being played this evening. You can check out all the odds on tonight’s game by going to our MLB Odds Section, and get the best-looking prices on the betting lines that suit your style of wagering best.

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