Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds Preview
Having beaten the Houston Astros 7-2 at home Wednesday, the Cubs (46-70) won their first series in five tries. However, that rare victory was only their fourth in 16 games.
Both teams met each other playing four games at Wrigley Field last weekend. The Cubs lost three of them and are 3-6 so far against the Reds (71-47) this season.
As nearly being eliminated from the playoffs race, the Cubs can act as spoilers facing the Reds who top the National League Central Division with six games ahead of second place, the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, to do so, Chicago needs to improve their offense. Taking their four victories in August out of the equation, they were outscored 27-67 by their opponents.
The offense has been heavily replied on two guys: Anthony Rizzo (.296, 9 HR, 25 RBI) and Alfonso Soriano (.263, 21 HR, 71 RBI). They need others to step up as well, players such as David DeJesus and Starlin Castro who combined to hit 7-for-8 and have three home runs on Wednesday.
The Reds are much stronger offensively although they are without their all-star first baseman, Joey Votto (.342, 14 HR, 49 RBI) who has been out since July 16 because of surgery to his left knee.
Outfielder Jay Bruce has 11 home runs and 30 RBI in 55 games against the Cubs. Ryan Ludwick scored six runs while hitting four dingers and produced six runs in the series last weekend in Chicago. Todd Frazier hit .600 (9-for-15) and also had six RBI in the same series.
The Reds won the first two games in a three-game homestand over the New York Mets before being defeated 8-4 Thursday.
Starting on the mound tonight are Travis Wood (4-8, 4.52) of the Cubs and Bronson Arroyo (8-7, 3.95) of the Reds, the same match-up in last Saturday’s game in which Wood was outdueled by Arroyo.
The Reds ace tossed eight innings allowing two runs while striking out four and walking one to give the Reds a 4-2 win. He is 1-1 with an ERA of 3.21 this season against the Cubs. The right-hander has won five of his last seven starts. He has a career record of 10-9, a 2.94 ERA against the Cubs.
Wood pitched brilliantly in his last start against the Reds allowing one run in seven innings and striking out eight but received only a no-decision. The Cubs were leading 2-1 when he left the game but reliever James Russell blew that lead giving up three crucial runs to the visitors.
Facing his former club, the southpaw is winless in his last six starts with a high ERA of 7.22 and lost five since July 6.
Reds closer Aroldis Chapman has 16 saves in a row, including three against the Cubs last weekend. His last blew save was on June 24.
Note: Soriano is two RBI away to reach the plateau of 1,000 RBI in his career.
By: Patrick Au Yeung