The Chicago Cubs come to town for a three game series in much the same way that the Reds left them in Chicago earlier this month. The Reds left Wrigley on May 5th after pushing the Cubs losing streak to 4 games. The Cubs are in the midst of another 4-game losing streak, fresh off a 3-game sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Sandwiched in between the losing streaks, the Cubs went 7-4 against the Rangers, Cardinals, Nationals, and Mets. The wins temporarily catapaulted the Cubbies into 4th place until the road trip into Pittsburgh. The Cubs stand just a half game out of last place in the NL Central.
WHERE TO WATCH
According to the Reds twitter feed, there is limited ticket availability at the stadium this weekend. Seats for Friday and Sunday are sold out, with standing room only tickets now available. Tickets still remain for Saturday’s game.
On TV, Friday’s and Saturday’s game is available nationally on WGN. In the Cincinnati market, all three games will be televised on Fox Sports Ohio. For those of you in the Chicago television market, Sunday’s game will be on CSN.
SINCE THEY LAST MET
The biggest news from Chicago was the big 7-year contract for Cubs first basemam Anthony Rizzo. With team options and player incentives, the deal could go as long as 9 years and as much as $73 million.
After the last Reds/Cubs series, the Cubs optioned former Red Dave Sappelt to AAA. Ryan Sweeney was promoted to replace him.
The Cubs best midseason trade chip, Matt Garza, was activated from the DL earlier this week and is scheduled to make his second start of the season on Sunday. Carlos Villanueva was moved from the rotation to the bullpen.
The Cubs also have made a number of changes to their underacheiving bullpen. Reliever Kyuji Fujikawa was activated from the DL. Kameron Loe and Michael Bowden were designated for assignment. Shawn Camp was placed on the DL. Reliever Rafael Dulis was called up from AAA to round out the bullpen transactions.
PROBABLE BATTING LINEUP
It’s the same lineup as they’ve been using all season. Manager Dave Sveum is a proud member of the Dusty Baker Lineup Club. The centerfielder hits leadoff, the shortstop hits 2nd, and the first baseman hits #3. If a bench player starts, he hits in the same spot as the player he’s replacing.
However, changing the batting order isn’t going to elevate the Cubs too much past their current MLB ranking of 24th in runs scored per game.
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
|Fri. 7:10pm||Scott Feldman||2.19||4.09||1.16||.236||0.9||3.3||7.1|
|Sat. 4:10pm||Travis Wood||2.24||4.57||0.93||.193||0.7||2.8||5.8|
|Sun. 1:10pm||Matt Garza||0.00||3.41||0.80||.091||0.0||5.4||9.0|
The Cubs starting rotation has been a strong point for the club this year. They have the 6th best starting pitcher’s ERA in all the majors. Unfortunately for them, they share a division with the top two starting rotations in baseball (St. Louis and Cincinnati, as ranked by ERA.)
Scott Feldman has thrown 5 straight quality starts and has allowed just 1 run over his past three starts (19.2 innings.) That stretch includes 7 shutout innings against the Texas Rangers. This will be his first matchup against Cincinnati this season. This is also Bronson Arroyo’s first start against the Cubs this year. Arroyo is coming off back-to-back shutouts against Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
All nine of Travis Wood’s starts have been quality starts, though he appears to have an unsustainably low BABIP so far this year. Wood allowed 2 runs in 6.1 innings against the Reds in GABP back in April. Homer Bailey shutout the Phillies for 7 innings in his last outing. Over his last two games, Homer has thrown 16 innings, allowed 11 hits, 2 run, 1 walk, and struck out 13.
Matt Garza is making just his second start of the season, having spent the beginning of the year on the DL. Garza tossed 5 shutout innings against Pittsburgh earlier this week. This is also Johnny Cueto’s second start since coming off the DL.
The Cubs relievers have not been able to retain the leads given to them. The bullpen ERA is ranked 21st in MLB. As noted above, they have been trying to make improvements here.
Kevin Gregg has been shifted to the closer’s role for the past month and has not allowed an earned run in 11 innings. Kyuji Fujikawa was considered a closer option before he landed on the DL in April. Since returning from the DL, Fujikawa has allowed just 1 run in 6 innings, walking none and striking out 9.
James Russell has been their best left-handed arm out of the bullpen, allowing just 2 runs on 11 hits over 17.1 innings. Russell has walked 4 and struck out 19. Even Carlos Marmol has pitched much better of late. Marmol has allowed runs in only 2 of his last 17 appearances
They don’t score a lot of runs as a team, but they do have some dangerous hitters. Their starting pitchers have been good, but by patiently getting into their bullpen a team can load up on runs. There’s a reason that the Reds are 5-1 against the Cubs this season and will look to pile on more wins at home this weekend.