RECORDS: Cubs 24-14 Reds 18-23
GAMETIMES: Tuesday-Thursday 5:40pm
TV: NBCSN Tuesday and Thursday, WGN Wednesday
THEY ACTUALLY EAT THAT CHILI: Blog Red Machine
PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP
Jason Heyward – CF
Kris Bryant – RF
Anthony Rizzo – 1B
Javier Baez – SS
Kyle Schwarber – LF
Daniel Descalso – 2B
David Bote – 3B
PROBABLE REDS LINEUP
Nick Senzel – CF
Joey Votto – 1B
Eugenio Suarez – 3B
Jesse Winker – LF
Yasiel Puig – RF
Derek Dietrich – 2B
Jose Iglesias – SS
Tucker Barnhardt – C
After swatting away their closest competitor over the weekend, the Cubs head to the bouncy castle that The Great American Ballpark is to face the NL Central’s wooden-spooners. But this isn’t the normal Reds team you might be accustomed to, and you might not need to prep for the normal diet of 12-10 games that we got on the reg on the river in the past.
For one, the Reds can’t hit for shit, and the main story is that Joey Votto has been a baseball succubus. It’s almost inexplicable. Votto is hitting .206 with a .293 wOBA and a 79 wRC+. He’s walking less than he ever has and striking out more. More worryingly is his line-drive rates and hard-contact are down as well. He’s actually hitting infield pop-ups, which he literally never did before. Judging by his anemic numbers against change-ups and curves, one might get the impression he’s cheating more and more on fastballs at 35. But he’s not even doing that much with those. He could be carrying an injury, and Reds fans are going to have to hope so because he only has 74 more years left on his contract. Still, this is Joey Votto. He’s only a season removed from a 131 wRC+ and two from a 164. You’re going to have to show us more than just six weeks of bad Votto before we believe Votto is bad now.
It wouldn’t be so glaring if the Reds were getting any help from anywhere else, but only Derek Dietrich and Cubs-murderer Eugenio Suarez have bothered to remember to take a bat with them to the plate. Yasiel Puig, who we were all convinced would show up in the NL Central and torture us for a good few years because of course, has been eaten by the BABIP Dragon and is hitting .226. Jesse Winker has been ok, but only that. They were never getting much offense out of short or catcher, and it’s caught up to them. They’ve gotten prime prospect Nick Senzel into center for now, but he’s still got a huge learning curve to manage. They are decidedly pop-gun.
The Reds would be total shit (and then spread on spaghetti as is their way there) if they’re rotation hadn’t been glittering so far, but lucky for them that part of the machine has kept them within touching distance of .500. Luis Castillo, whom the Cubs get on Thursday, has been everything they could have hoped. When you’re striking out 31% of the hitters you see and getting nearly 60% grounders on the contact you do give up, you’re going to slap some motherfuckers upside the head. So has been the tale. Sonny Gray was perhaps just happy to get out of New York, as in terms of FIP he’s been just as good as Castillo. He’s getting far more grounders than he did in pinstripes, and hasn’t seen every fly ball he gives up land in Vinny from Queens’s beer hey yo. Gray has also gone to a cutter far more often this season with his top class curve. Tyler Mahle doesn’t walk anyone, Tanner Roark does but somehow dances around it, and Anthon DeSclafani is striking everyone out. This is not an easy negotiation.
In the pen, Raisel Iglesias hasn’t been terribly happy with his usage, but is still striking out a ton of hitters though been a bit homer-happy. You’re probably not maximizing Iglesias by not using him in something of a Hader-method as they have before, as he’s been a straight closer so far. Amir Garrett and David Hernandez have been heavy K/heavy walk style as well, but have barely given up anything. The uber-jacked Michael Lorenzen and his tight pants are still here as well. The pitching has saved the Reds and if they ever discover someone else who can actually not pass out at bat they could make a serious move in the division. They’re not ready to contend yet, but you can see where they will be one day soon.
For the Cubs, they’ll hope Anthony Rizzo‘s one-day backiotomy is just that. They’ll try and get Darvish to throw strikes against a team that can’t hit, but that didn’t work last time. Getting though on Gray and Castillo the last two games here is going to be a real trick, but that’s what’s ordered.