RECORDS: Cubs 62-52 Reds 54-58
GAMETIMES: Thursday-Saturday 6:10, Sunday 12:10
TV: NBCSN Thursday, Friday, Sunday, WGN Saturday
SCHOTZIE’S LEAVINGS: Blog Red Machine
Once again, the Cubs will try to take momentum gained from a standout homestand onto a 10-game road trip that could see them, if not put the division to bed, give themselves a healthy cushion. The last time they tried this they stained the floors of each destination to the tune of a 3-6 cough-up. This one sets up even easier as the Reds are still below .500, the Phillies can be anything on a given day, and the Pirates have straight up given up. But with the way things have gone for the Cubs on the road, there simply can’t be any sure things.
One change for the Cubs is that Jonathan Lucroy will meet them in Cincinnati, though as of now Taylor Davis is still listed as the backup. That will change in the next day or two, as the Cubs have seen quite enough of that. Lucroy can’t hit anymore, and his brain might be broken, but he is only a season removed from being a pretty good handler back there, and that itself would be an improvement on Davis. He doesn’t rate highly this year, but maybe the significantly better pitching of the Cubs than the Angels can square that around. Again, he’s not going to hit much, and he hasn’t in three seasons, but he might actually get a hit and the Cubs got Taylor Davis’s annual one in that game against the Cardinals in May.
Everything else stays the same. Cole Hamels should have the training wheels taken off in his second start off the DL. Jon Lester will try to come back down from the stratosphere where the A’s put him on Tuesday.
To the Reds, who remade their team a bit at the trade deadline. Gone is Yasiel Puig from the major league roster, and in his King Galaxy Brain Trevor Bauer, whom the Cubs will see Friday. Bauer is certainly a massive upgrade from Tanner Roark, including the headache department. He’s walking more guys than he has in four seasons, and has had home run problems (who hasn’t?) which won’t be helped by the move south in Ohio. The Cubs will also see Alex Wood for the first time, making his four start spurt before he goes back onto the IL with some sort of arm trouble, given that his left one is made of paper mache at this point. The Cubs have had their issues with him in the past, as he carries a lifetime 2.86 ERA against them.
While the Cubs have had no problem making this offense look like something out of a comic book all season, it’s only lately they’ve done that to other teams. They put up 15 runs in two wins over the Angels earlier in the week. Over the past month everyone in the lineup aside from Votto and Peraza (and Votto has been awful in that span) have put up a 100 wRC+ or better, with Suarez and Ervin particularly molten. The latter of which you already knew about because he murdered the Cubs last trip in there and threw the body into the river rolled up in a rug.
The strength of the Reds, if it’s not the rotation, remains the pen, with Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen and his Farnsworth-pants, and Robert Stephenson currently on great runs. The Cubs haven’t been totally ruined when they’ve had to do work against this pen, but it’s not the optimal path when dealing with this crew.
The Cardinals will have the Pirates at home and the Brewers will be entertaining the Rangers in Milwaukee, so if the Cubs want to hold onto this lead it’s likely not going to be handed to them. The Reds have been cumbersome and a nuisance all goddamn season. If the Cubs have turned any corner, finally getting one over on this side would be prime evidence of that.