As the baseball season winds to an end and attention starts turning to football, the Reds (63-84) are quietly heading to Chicago this weekend looking to make some sort of impact in the NL Central race — even if it’s not the type of impact they hoped for when the season began. They’re set to square off against the Cubs (85-61) for the final time in 2018, looking to make a dent in their rival’s postseason dreams. The North Siders currently have a slim 1.5-game lead over the Brewers in the division standings, and the Cardinals are still in the hunt at 4.5 games back.
The Reds do have the advantage of being well-rested, if nothing else. The club got an off-day on Thursday; meanwhile, the Cubs had to fly from Chicago on Wednesday night after a loss against the Brewers to Washington, D.C., on Thursday for a one-game makeup from a previous rainout against the Nationals. Joe Maddon and company were none too pleased about it, either. To make matters worse, the Cubs were forced to go to extra innings in the game, though they did pull out a 4-3 win.
The team managed to push back Friday’s start time from 2:20 p.m. to 8:05 p.m. to accommodate the travel schedule. We’ll see if this situation has any bearing on this weekend’s series when the Reds and Cubs duke it out in Wrigley Field tonight.
Outside of one start, Matt Harvey has largely thrown the ball well over the last month, accumulating a 3.38 ERA and 3.50 xFIP in six starts. In his most recent trip to the mound on Saturday, Harvey struck out a season-best 10 batters, his highest total since May 8, 2016. The righty also matched a career-high with 24 swings and misses in the game, the second-highest total by any Reds pitcher this year (Tyler Mahle is the leader at 26). Although it was against a woeful Padres offense, it was a vintage performance from Harvey, who could very well be entering his last handful of starts with the Reds. We’ve said that a few other times before, though, so it’s hard to tell what the future holds for him in 2019.
Cole Hamels has been a godsend for the Cubs after a trade-deadline deal to bring him to the Windy City. Since his acquisition on July 31, only three pitchers have a lower ERA in all of baseball than Hamels (1.42): Zack Wheeler, Clay Buchholz, and Blake Snell. The southpaw’s peripherals (3.49 xFIP) don’t support that level of dominance (which is the case with almost all pitchers), but let’s not sell him short either. His 50.8% groundball rate ranks 15th among all pitchers with 30 or more innings pitched since the start of August, and he’s not running a ludicrously low BABIP during that time either (.276). Although his strand rate (86%) is unsustainably high, he’s upped his fastball usage significantly in a Cubs uniform, saving his sinker, curveball, and changeup for when he really needs a groundball.
Against the Reds on August 23, Hamels threw a complete game and surrendered only one run. He’s coming off his worst outing as a Cub, however, as he lasted only 5 2/3 innings and allowed five walks and three runs on Saturday against the Nationals.
News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading
Interesting development on Nick Senzel:
The Reds Instructional League roster is live, and they've listed Nick Senzel as an outfielder. https://t.co/POvK6tAIOu
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) September 14, 2018
Our friends over at Red Reporter dissected the Senzel news today:
— Red Reporter (@redreporter) September 14, 2018
Some love for Eugenio Suarez:
Baseball’s Most Anonymous Great Player https://t.co/SNo06pxHTh
— FanGraphs Baseball (@fangraphs) September 13, 2018
Jason Linden says it’s time to punch Joey Votto’s ticket into Cooperstown.
— Cincinnati Magazine (@CincinnatiMag) September 14, 2018
Lucas Sims may be done for the year:
#Reds reliever Lucas Sims is out with a strained right teres major. Jim Riggleman said he wasn't sure if Sims would be able to pitch again this year.
— Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) September 14, 2018
Stat of the Day
On Tuesday, rising Rockies star Trevor Story became the first shortstop in MLB history to eclipse 40 doubles, 30 homers, and 100 RBI in a single season. The only Cincinnati player to come close to that achievement is, no surprise, Barry Larkin. He had 32 doubles, 33 home runs, and 89 RBI in 1996 at age 32. By bWAR, it was the best season of Larkin’s career (7.2); yet, he finished 12th in NL MVP balloting. The year before, he won the MVP with a 5.9 WAR.
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.