Records: Reds 70-80 Cubs 81-68
GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday 7:05
TV: NBCSN Monday, WCIU/ESPN Tuesday, WGN Wednesday
NOT READY FOR FULL-TIME DALTON YET: Blog Red Machine
Note: Due to scheduling and traveling, there isn’t a Reds Spotlight today. Picture one in your head if you must. Maybe Votto’s regression or Aquino’s 12 wRC+ in September. Choose your own adventure.
After 47 runs in three games and thoroughly burning any sense of self-worth the Pirates might have thought about having, the Cubs will look to keep it going against the Reds. The challenge with the Reds is they have one real live pitcher starting a game this series, and a couple ones in the pen, neither of which the Pirates can claim right now. And the Cubs might be without their linchpin.
We all are holding our breath to hear news of Anthony Rizzo, which will come down after this goes to print. Everyone’s expecting the worst, because when a player is helped off the field that generally means a week or two, maybe more. The Cubs don’t have two weeks or more, and face the apocalyptic seven games with the Cardinals. As if the Reds haven’t been enough of a headache. The simplest solution is a lot of Victor Caratini at first, though you may see some of Happ and Bryant there too. The latter gets David Bote’s bat into the lineup, though Caratini and Contreras both being in the lineup doesn’t leave you offensively short either. It just leaves you short of what Rizzo would provide.
Of course, another wonderful aspect of a Rizzo absence is more debate about the leadoff spot,, which has become the Cubs’ TIF funding. Rizzo moved there for the Pirates series, suddenly they turned into Loyola-Marymount, but now they have to figure it out again. Mostly you can count on Zobrist being there, and he can at least be representative. It’s basically a “So What Don’t You Want?” situation. Heyward has proven he can’t do it and doesn’t like it. They won’t try Bryant there, especially as he’s rediscovered some of his power over the weekend (if results against the Pirates even count). Contreras is another candidate against lefties, as long as we never see Almora there again. Go down the list and you see there aren’t a lot of answers.
Still, time moves on, and the Cubs have games to win. And as you know, the Reds are a spikier outfit than the Bucs. They’re coming off taking two of three from Arizona, seriously denting their charge to the wildcard. And they’ll have no compunction about doing the same to the Cubs. At least the Cubs will duck Trevor Bauer and Luis Castillo. But they’ll get Sonny Gray, who’s been one of the best starter in the NL and especially of late. Gray has quality starts in 11 of his last 13, and he had a 0.74 ERA in August. His two September starts have seen him give up four runs…so he’s slowing down? Maybe? We’re trying here. Needless to say it would behoove the Cubs to get Monday and Wednesday and consider anything off of Gray a bonus.
The rotation is another problem the Cubs have to solve. All of Quintana, Hamels, and Lester have been backing up for weeks now, and while they got to save the relievers who matter (such as they are) due to the offensive supernova against Pittsburgh, they don’t want to go to that well any more than anyone’s stomach can handle. Hamels doesn’t look healthy, and Lester might just be running out of racetrack in his career. They are wheezing to the finish line and have to find something this series and in the season’s last two weeks, even if it’s just a death rattle.
It’s only two games now. It’s one and a half behind DC while one ahead of Milwaukee. But if the Cubs can at least hold that two games behind St. Louis, that basically puts it all on the seven games they have left together. Let’s do that.