The Cincinnati Reds began their 2016 season with a bit of a bang. They swept their first series (though it was against the ill-fated Phillies) of the season, before coming to Wrigley Field to face the Chicago Cubs just a week and a half ago, with an unexpected 5-1 record still in hand. However, the Cubs would then quickly administer the Reds with a strong dose of reality in the form of a three game series sweep. Since then, the Reds have lost their series with the St. Louis Cardinals and are currently coming off a 2-game series win at home against the Colorado Rockies on the back of an excellent outing by arguably one of their best starters, Rasiel Iglesias.
The Reds will most likely experience a bit of deja vu, on their home field this time, as the Cubs will send their top three starters to the mound at Great American Ballpark for a four game set against the Big Red Machine.
Jake Arrieta vs. Brandon Finnegan will start the series off on the most exciting note Thursday, Finnegan having nearly no-hit the Cubs his last time facing them, before the Cubs erupted late in the game for the comeback win. It’s significantly doubtful that Finnegan will come close to such a feat again, and with Arrieta on the mound, Finnegan will have to keep himself in check early on in order to even entertain the idea of picking up the win.
Friday, it will be a battle of the Jon’s as the Cubs send out Jon Lester to face Reds rookie starter Jon Moscot. Moscot will be making his second start of 2016, and only the fifth start of his major league career. In his last time out against the Cardinals on Sunday, Moscot pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing six hits, three earned runs and two home runs with one walk on the afternoon. The Reds are currently third in the NL in stolen bases, so look for the Reds to play a bit of small ball and test Lester on his new-and-improved pick-off move during Friday’s contest. It’s worth mentioning that the Reds stole five bases in one inning alone against the Rockies on Wednesday.
On Saturday, the Cubs will face an old friend in Dan Straily, who was once in the Cubs organization and pitched 13 innings with the major league club in 2014. He will face John Lackey, who is coming off of a brilliant start on Monday in which he pitched seven dominant innings. Lackey allowed no earned runs and dealt out eleven (!!!) strikeouts matched with one walk. Straily was recently inserted in the Reds’ rotation to replace Alfredo Simon, who was scratched from his start against the Rockies on Tuesday with elbow soreness. Straily has pitched one start this season, on Monday against the Rockies and allowed two hits, one run, two walks with four strikeouts in five innings of work.
And in the series finale on Sunday, Jason Hammel will take the hill for the Cubs, and the Reds will see the aforementioned Alfredo Simon’s return to the mound. In Simon’s last start, which he pitched against the Cubs, the outing went south quickly as Simon allowed five earned runs on four hits coupled with three walks in just two thirds of an inning of work before being replaced by Dan Straily. Simon’s next outing would come out of the bullpen two days later, one in which he would allow three hits, three earned runs and two home runs in one inning of work. This is sure to be an interesting outing for Simon.
What to Watch For
As is natural whenever heading into a series at Great American Ballpark with a team that has as much power-potential waiting to break out as the Cubs do, look for some serious home runs opportunities. With the type of hard contact that Jason Heyward has been making, though it’s not been quite as productive as we’d like, look for him to have a breakout series and perhaps Rizzo, who belted a much needed bomb in St. Louis on Thursday, to continue what we hope will be a hot streak for the series heading into the weekend.
On the Cincinnati side, as I mentioned earlier, look for the Reds to try and rack up the steals against this Cubs team, as their offense is certainly well aware that it’ll be one of the easier ways to gain extra bases when going up against air-tight starters such as Arrieta, Lester, and even Lackey.
Zack Cozart is Cincinnati’s own Dexter Fowler lately, and is currently hitting .432/.435/.568, however he has yet to hit a home run and has only walked once. With an approach such as that, he’ll likely pile up the strikeouts against Arrieta and Lester, and the hot streak may end unless Cozart carefully cherry picks a perfect pitch to hit in this series.
With the Reds’ closer situation a bit shoddy as of late, and their bullpen currently holding the fourth worst ERA in baseball, the Cubs can certainly have the potential to pile on the late inning runs.
Thursday’s game is at 6:10 pm CT and will broadcast on CSN+, Friday will begin at 6:10 pm CT and broadcast on WGN, Saturday will be at 6:10 pm CT and broadcast on CSN, and Sunday’s finale is at 12:10 pm CT and will broadcast on WGN. All games will also air on 670 The Score.
Lead photo courtesy David Kohl—USA Today Sports.