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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Reds Series Preview

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The Cubs head back into divisional play this weekend.

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

The Reds appear to be treading water. They stand four games under .500 after sweeping the woeful Phillies in a set in Cincinnati, and have won nine of their last 14, so maybe the Cubs shouldn't underestimate them this weekend. I asked the head of SB Nation's Reds site Red Reporter, Brandon Kraeling, to give us a quick overview of the team.

So far, the 2015 Reds have been a mix of bad luck and front office ineptitude. Just like in 2014, they started their season with a mix of high-profile injuries, and never built any depth behind their core starters. The injury issues have left a Homer Bailey sized hole in the rotation, and their lineup is full of has-beens and never-weres as the front office is still convinced that this is a championship ball club this year. Seriously.

The pitching has been suspect but has shown bright spots in some places, as rookies Michael Lorenzen and Anthony DeSclafani have been better than expected, and along with established arms like Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, have helped keep the Reds in ballgames. Their bullpen has been pretty bad, though, with J.J. Hoover as the only arm there having a halfway decent season. They’re finally starting to cut bait on their veterans who haven’t performed, but they made big mistakes early on when they gave MLB chances to Jason Marquis and Kevin Gregg. This is a young staff right now that’s still trying to find their footing, and the Reds have already had 4 rookie starters get chances with the injured Raisel Iglesias and the newly called up Jon Moscot being asked to shoulder some of the load.

The lineup is currently a patchwork of guys they brought in on minor league contracts in the spring, mixed in with the same old Reds everyone knows. Todd Frazier and Joey Votto are playing well, Jay Bruce has been the same streaky Jay Bruce, and they’re getting serviceable contributions from Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart, but other than that it’s kind of a crap shoot. Billy Hamilton has struggled, and Brayan Pena will look to be the starter behind the plate for the rest of the year as Devin Mesoraco can’t play there with a hip issue. We’re currently seeing a bandaid in LF with Skip Schumaker, Brennan Boesch, Ivan De Jesus, and Kris Negron all getting starts there with Marlon Byrd hurt.

The Reds are currently in a holding pattern, as they need to sell their veteran pieces and get younger with the playoffs as a distant afterthought, but with an ownership team that’s compelled to keep the team together at least until the All-Star Game in Cincinnati. How inept are the Reds? After leaving Devin Mesoraco on the active roster despite him not being able to play behind the plate with a hip impingement, they’re refusing to give him surgery and have him at AAA trying to learn how to play LF so he can help the Reds try to avoid the cellar.

The 2015 Cincinnati Reds.

Brandon wrote that preview for me before Cozart was injured in Wednesday's game. It looked like he suffered a knee injury when he was trying to leg out an infield hit. The injury is worse than they had feared:

So Cozart, who was having the best year of his career, is out for the rest of the season. (Did you know you had a "biceps tendon" in your knee? I didn't.) Eugenio Suarez has been called up to replace Cozart on the Reds' 25-man roster.

Pitching matchups

Game One: Tsuyoshi Wada (0-1, 4.19 ERA, 1.345 WHIP) vs. Michael Lorenzen (1-1, 3.29 ERA, 1.383 WHIP)

Game Two: Jason Hammel (5-2, 2.76 ERA, 0.893 WHIP, vs. Johnny Cueto (4-4, 2.64 ERA, 0.945 WHIP)

Game Three: Kyle Hendricks (2-2, 3.96 ERA, 1.178 WHIP) vs. Mike Leake (3-4, 4.29 ERA, 1.275 WHIP)

Game Four: Jon Lester (4-5, 4.44 ERA, 1.431 WHIP) vs. Anthony DeSclafani (5-4, 3.53 ERA, 1.304 WHIP)

Prediction

The Cubs have taken four of the five games so far between these two teams, winning two of three at Wrigley Field and taking both games of a rain-shortened two-game set in Cincinnati. The Reds scored only 14 total runs in the five games (and six of those were in one game), although the Reds come into this series having scored more runs than the Cubs. The Cubs haven't seen longtime nemesis Cueto yet this year, though with Hammel facing him, that might even the odds on that game. Lorenzen's a wild card since the Cubs have never seen him, and who knows what the Cubs will get from Lester in the Sunday Night Baseball matchup on ESPN.

I'd like to think the Cubs could take three of the four games, but given what usually goes on between these two clubs, I'm calling for a split.

Up next

The all-Ohio homestand continues as the Cubs host the Cleveland Indians in the first two games of what will be a two-city, four-game series.