|Reds get rare look at Astros' Verlander|
Even for the powerhouse teams in the majors, interleague games can often provide unique challenges and mitigate advantages that come with superior rosters and edges in experience.
Despite having played the Reds hundreds of times, Houston faced Cincinnati for the first time since 2016 Monday and paid its first visit to Great American Ball Park since Sept. 7-9, 2012.
A lot has changed for both teams since they last played in Cincinnati, with the Astros opening this three-game series against Luis Castillo, a right-hander whom none of the Houston position players had seen previously.
That lack of familiarity will be an ongoing theme throughout the remainder of the series for the Astros, who have amassed a combined 15 at-bats against Reds right-handers Anthony DeSclafani and Tyler Mahle, the scheduled starters for Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
Houston had a book on Castillo, who entered Monday second in the major leagues with a 2.20 ERA, but lacked the at-bats to do much more than muster two hits and two runs in his six innings.
"It was our first look at him," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Castillo. "We hadn't had guys that had seen him. I can see why the National League is having a hard time with him."
Astros right-hander Justin Verlander (9-2, 2.41 ERA) will start against the Reds for just the second time in his career on Tuesday. He did not factor into the decision on June 9, 2012, while pitching for the Tigers in Cincinnati after allowing two runs on six hits and three walks with nine strikeouts over six innings in a 3-2 Detroit win.
Verlander has logged consecutive no-decisions despite recording 22 strikeouts against zero walks over 13 1/3 innings. Verlander has allowed six earned runs during that stretch and three home runs. He has surrendered 17 homers in 100 2/3 innings this season.
DeSclafani (3-3, 4.43 ERA) will start opposite Verlander for the Reds. This will mark the first career appearance against the Astros for DeSclafani, who is 3-2 with a 4.27 ERA over nine career starts against the American League. He is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA over two starts this month with nine strikeouts over 10 2/3 innings, lowering his ERA by 0.54 runs.
The Reds improved to 10-15 in one-run games with their 3-2 victory Monday. Cincinnati has been plagued by close defeats this season, improving to 32-38 despite a plus-39 run differential. Defeating a quality opponent like the Astros provides a small measure of validation for the Reds, who are embracing the challenge of facing Verlander on Tuesday.
"It was helpful that we got to face (Nationals ace right-hander Max) Scherzer a couple weeks ago," Reds center fielder Nick Senzel said of a 4-1 loss on June 2. "That's a legend in the sport, and the same for (Verlander). You just want to compete, and when you face guys like that, you want your game to elevate to that level, and I'm sure we're going to do that
"We need to start getting rolling before the (first) half (of the season concludes). We need to get on a little run. We're capable of doing that."
--Field Level Media