The Chicago Cubs come home after winning their first series of the season to try to extend their baby two-game winning streak to three games. The Reds are coming off of a heartbreaking loss against the Cardinals in 11 innings on Sunday.
What to Know About the Reds:
After making the playoffs three out of the previous four years, the Reds had a disappointing 2014 season, going 76-86 and finishing in fourth place in the NL Central. The Reds are looking to beat out the Cubs and Cardinals in the NL Central to finally prove they are the team to beat. In regards to their lineup, the Reds have made minimal changes, but they could have used some. Last year they ranked eighth in homers, but just 14th in overall batting average, 14th in on-base percentage and 13th in runs in the NL. Between Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Marlon Byrd, the Reds can expect (according to SI.com) 145 home runs among the six of them this season.
The Reds' weakness is their bench, which includes a number of new faces this year, among them Brennan Boesch and former Cardinal Skip Schumaker. This includes their pitching rotation besides starter Johnny Cueto and bullpen beyond closer Aroldis Chapman. The Reds' bullpen posted a 4.11 ERA last season, which ended up being the second worst in the league.
Votto and Phillips will be the backbone of the Reds. Last year Votto missed a lot of time with injuries and batted .255 with six home runs and 23 RBI in 62 games; he's off to a really good start with three home runs in six games. A possible X-factor for the Reds will be right fielder Bruce, who had a down year in 2014, posting stats of .217/.281/.373 with 18 home runs and 66 RBI in 137 games. The bad year was partly due to a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Probable Pitching Matchups (2014 stats)
Game One: Jon Lester (16-11, 1.07 WHIP, 2.35 ERA) vs. Mike Leake (11-13, 1.25 WHIP, 3.70 ERA)
Game Two: Jake Arrieta (10-5, 0.99 WHIP, 2.53 ERA) vs. Anthony DeSclafani (2-2, 1.36 WHIP, 6.27 ERA)
Game Three: Travis Wood (8-13, 1.53 WHIP, 5.03 ERA) vs. Jason Marquis (9-5. 1.62 WHIP, 4.05 ERA)
*Jason Marquis' stats are from 2013 as he did not play in the major leagues in 2014.
If the Cubs can get their offense going, there is no reason they cannot sweep the Reds. However, looking at one game at a time -- the Cubs need to focus on getting Lester his first win as a Cub while at home to take the pressure off of him. From there, the rest of the series could be a breeze, with favorable pitching matchups.
The San Diego Padres come to Wrigley Field for a three-game series over the weekend.