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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Reds

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The 8-7 Cubs (second in the NL Central) face off against the 8-8 Reds (third in the NL Central) in a three-game series in Cincinnati beginning Friday night.

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier (#21) celebrates after hitting a grand slam against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier (#21) celebrates after hitting a grand slam against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this month, the Cubs took two of three from the Reds in a pretty tightly-played series at Wrigley Field. The Reds are headed by a rejuvenated Joey Votto who leads the club in home runs (six), batting average (.361), and RBI (14).  As a team, though, the Reds are batting just .221 with an on-base percentage of .288 and their team OPS of .646 ranks 13th in the National League.

In Cincinnati's only win against the Cubs last week, Anthony DeSclafani threw seven scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out five.  Since then the Reds got swept by the Cardinals before they took three of four from the Brewers in Milwaukee, outscoring them 26-16. Don't read too much into that -- the Brew Crew has been horrific so far this year.

For the Cubs, Starlin Castro is leading the club in batting average (.355), RBI (11), hits (22), and has added two home runs.  Anthony Rizzo leads the Cubs with a .471 on base percentage.  On the pitching side, the last time Travis Wood faced the Reds, the Cubs won 5-0 with Wood pitching seven strong innings, giving up only three hits. Hopefully the offense stays hot as the Cubs put up 21 runs in four games in the just-concluded set against the Pirates.

Jon Lester is up first. He was quoted by ESPN about his slow start: "I'm usually not a fast starter, usually I guess it's maybe mid-May, June where you get into that rhythm of every five days and arm strength has built up and it's started to warm up and everything falls into place."

On another note, I highly recommend checking out Joe Maddon's interview on ESPN during Pardon The Interruption. He does a great job explaining his mentality as well as the mindset he is trying to place upon the younger guys on the team, especially as they try to manage their expectations. Click here for the interview.

Probable Pitching Matchups (2015 stats):

Game One: Jon Lester (0-2, 6.89 ERA, 1.79 WHIP) vs. Mike Leake (0-1, 3.92 ERA, 1.11 WHIP)

Game Two: Jake Arrieta (2-1, 1.74 ERA, 0.87 WHIP) vs. Anthony DeSclafani (2-0, 0.86 ERA, 0.62 WHIP)

Game Three: Travis Wood (1-1, 3.24 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) vs. Jason Marquis (1-1, 7.20 ERA, 1.73 WHIP)

Prediction:

I am calling for a sweep. With the offense currently humming, Lester should be feeling confident heading into game one. Lester goes up against Leake who gave up four runs on seven hits to the Cubs in the previous set.  Lester should finally get his much-anticipated first win as a Cub. Arrieta has the toughest matchup, but he has been the best starter on the staff thus far.  Meanwhile, Marquis got shelled in the previous series against the Cubs, throwing only four innings and allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits.

Up Next:

The Cubs return to Wrigley Monday to start a three-game series against the Pirates.