It seems like just yesterday that the excitement for Opening Day overtook the city of Cincinnati once again. But even in another losing season for the Reds (67-92), time seemed to whiz by. Now — all of a sudden — we’re in the final weekend of the season. Not much is on the line as the Reds travel to Wrigley Field to face the Cubs (90-69) one final time. Cincinnati has been out of the playoff race for months, and the Cubs clinched the NL Central on Wednesday. This will be the last chance for a few young Reds to make a lasting impression heading into next year, while the Cubs can get a bit of rest as they prepare for the postseason.
While the walks are still too high to sustain this level of success, Robert Stephenson has shown considerable improvement in 2017. Since returning from the disabled list on August 19, he boasts a 2.87 ERA and has struck out an elite 27.4 percent of the hitters he’s faced. The addition of a slider has elevated his already-nasty pitch repertoire, and when he’s on his game, he’s been nearly unhittable at times. Of course, his last seven starts have come with a 4.43 xFIP due to a 14 percent walk rate, so we can’t get too excited yet. Regardless, his results have been a huge step in the right direction and he has a real shot at being in the 2018 rotation.
Stephenson vs. Cubs
The Cubs made the first huge splash of an eventful trade season in baseball when they acquired left-hander Jose Quintana from their interleague rivals across town. Quintana was the ace of the White Sox pitching staff after the Chris Sale trade, and Chicago hoped he would solidify their rotation for a playoff run. The southpaw has done exactly that. After struggling a bit through the first three months of the season (4.49 ERA, 4.14 xFIP with the White Sox), a move to the National League has served him well, as he boasts a 3.50 ERA and 3.26 xFIP with the Cubs in 13 starts. In fact, in five fewer starts with the Cubs, he has almost matched his fWAR (1.8) from 18 starts with the South Siders (1.9).
Quintana vs. Reds
|CF Phillip Ervin (109 wRC+)||CF Jon Jay (101 wRC+)|
|SS Zack Cozart (143 wRC+)||RF Ben Zobrist (85 wRC+)|
|1B Joey Votto (164 wRC+)||2B Tommy La Stella (126 wRC+)|
|3B Eugenio Suarez (119 wRC+)||C Willson Contreras (120 wRC+)|
|LF Jesse Winker (131 wRC+)||LF Kyle Schwarber (101 wRC+)|
|2B Jose Peraza (62 wRC+)||3B Ian Happ (112 wRC+)|
|RF Scott Schebler (102 wRC+)||1B Alex Avila (103 wRC+)|
|C Tucker Barnhart (90 wRC+)||SS Mike Freeman (68 wRC+)|
|P Robert Stephenson (4.96 xFIP)||P Jose Quintana (3.76 xFIP)|
— Billy Hamilton is getting the day off. Phillip Ervin is starting in center field. Adam Duvall and Scooter Gennett are also out of the lineup, with Jesse Winker and Jose Peraza starting in their places.
— Zack Cozart is back in the lineup after leaving Wednesday’s game with a tight quad and missing yesterday’s contest against the Brewers.
— With the NL Central clinched, the Cubs are resting quite a few big names, including Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Addison Russell. That should bode well for Stephenson, but the Cubs’ offense is still pretty strong without those three.
News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading
— Cincinnati Magazine (@CincinnatiMag) September 29, 2017
— Sporting News MLB (@sn_mlb) September 29, 2017
— Doug Gray (@dougdirt24) September 29, 2017
Stat of the Day
Joey Votto is now two starts away from playing in all 162 games this season. He’s done that one other time in his career (2013), which was the first time any Red had done it since Aaron Boone in 2002.
Growing up just north of Cincinnati, Matt has been a Reds fan for as long as he can remember. As a kid, he was often found leading the Reds to 162-0 seasons in MVP Baseball 2005 and imitating his favorite players (Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, and Austin Kearns) in the backyard. One of his earliest baseball memories is attending the final night game at Cinergy Field. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in the Dayton area. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.