Key to Reds series: Keep Zack Cozart off base

Key to Reds series: Keep Zack Cozart off base

May 17, 2013, 3:45 pm
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When the Phillies went to Cincinnati last month, we predicted that the Reds’ success would be dictated by how well their two-hole hitter performed. With Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto ranking first and second in the NL in on-base percentage and providing plenty of pop, the Phils needed to keep the man in between them off base in order to have a chance of winning.

They didn’t, and they were swept.

Zack Cozart, who is hitting .208 with a .236 on-base percentage, went 6 for 13 in that series with a homer, two doubles and two RBIs. Most importantly, he scored five of the six times he got on base.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to bat Cozart second – a point we’ll touch on further as we analyze the flaws of NL Central contenders on Saturday – but Dusty Baker continues to do it. On top of not getting on base much, Cozart also pulls the ball far too often, failing to go the other way on the ground to advance a runner from second to third. He’s gone the opposite way just 17 times in 166 plate appearances in 2013.

If the Phillies can force a 3-for-12 series or worse from Cozart, they’ll have a much greater chance of winning, and of making Votto lead off innings, as he’s done 40 times already this year.

Beat Bruce high

Jay Bruce had a terrible April and leads the NL with 54 strikeouts, but his numbers are normalizing thanks to a hot May. Bruce is hitting .379 with seven extra-base hits over his last seven games.

Bruce has burned the Phillies too many times to count. But if you want to count them, he has 10 HRs, 28 RBIs and a .308 batting average in 35 career games against them. When the Phils went to Cincinnati, Bruce went 5 for 11 but had no extra-base hits.

Bruce struggles to lay off high pitches, especially fastballs, as shown by this ESPN.com chart. He’s hitting below .150 on pitches in the upper-third of the strike zone, and few pitchers place a high fastball better than Friday's starter, Cliff Lee.

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