The Cincinnati Reds (37-37) embark on a 10 game road trip beginning at Wrigley Field tonight against the last place Chicago Cubs (31-42). It’s the third meeting of the season between these two clubs and the Reds second trip to Wrigley. We covered each of these early season series back in April. The Cubs are still in last place with essentially the same roster as we saw in April, but they have been winning more recently than they had back in the first month of the season.
Prior to dropping two of three to the Pirates over the weekend, the Cubs won 4 of their 5 previous series against the Marlins (twice), Mets, and Phillies, leading to a 11-9 record so far in the month of June. Heading into Saturday’s game, Bruce Levine noted that the Cubs had the best National League record over the past month.
LAST YEAR ON WGN?
This may be the last year to watch Chicago Cubs baseball on WGN. Currently, Cubs games are split between Comcast Sports Network (CSN) and WGN. The CSN deal ends in 2019 and the Cubs opted out of their WGN contract in the hopes of starting their own network in 2020. However, that leaves them with a gap for the next few seasons, as CSN can’t take the extra games and Cubs ownership and WGN have, so far, not settled on the right short-term deal. Half of next season’s Cubs games may be restricted to local multicast TV outlets.
As for this week’s series, Monday’s game will air on WCIU, Tuesday’s on CSN, and Wednesday in Chicago and nationally on WGN. In the Cincinnati market, all three games will be on FOX Sports Ohio.
The Reds have scored 3.92 runs per game (22nd in MLB) while the Cubs are just behind them at 3.84 runs per game (24th). The only major offensive injury for the Cubs is center fielder Emilio Bonifacio. Junior Lake and Ryan Sweeney have been getting most of the starts in centerfield with Chris Coghlan playing most days in left field.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo (.278/.398/.502) and shortstop Starlin Castro (.287/.330/.481) appear to be in the midst of career years. They play almost every day, batting 3rd and 4th, respectively, in the Cubs lineup.
Like their offense, the Cubs aggregate pitching and defense (3.96 runs allowed per game, 12th in MLB) is just a little behind the Reds 3.86 runs allowed per game (9th in MLB).
With Jeff Samardzija turning down a recent contract extension from Chicago, he may be making his last few starts in a Cubs uniform. Fangraphs took a look at what an extension should cost Chicago or the acquiring team with comparison to Homer Bailey and his recent deal.
Jake Arrieta is making his 10th start of the season after starting the year on the DL with a shoulder injury. Arrieta is pitching better than he ever has before, and Fangraphs attributes it to dropping his four-seam fastball for a cutter:
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s never used the cutter more than 15% for a season, and now heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s doubling that number regularly all of a sudden. Maybe we can believe his improved walk rate.
In his last three games, Arrieta has thrown his cutter 34%, 43%, and 32% of the time, respectively.
Mat Latos is making just his third start of the season, and has only struck out 4.6 batter per 9ip compared to 8.3 K/9 over his career.
On the other hand, Edwin Jackson has struck out 7.0 per 9ip over his career and is at a career high 9.0 K/9 so far this season.
This is a team that the Reds have and should beat. They’ve had a great deal of success against the Cubs, especially at Wrigley Field. However, this doesn’t appear to be the “good for what ails” you team of the past couple of seasons, and it looks like the Reds will be facing the Cubs best starting pitchers. The Reds are going to have their work cut out for them to break above the .500 mark.