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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Reds Series Preview

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The Cubs have their first 2016 action against a divisional rival.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

One of the things the Cubs will have to do in order to win the N.L. Central is beat up on the two teams expected to be bad, the Reds and Brewers. Last year they did this: 13-6 against Cincinnati, 14-5 against Milwaukee.

It would be nice for the Cubs to begin this sort of dominance right away, this week.

Fun fact

The Reds are 5-1 to start 2016. Last year after six games they were 4-2, and that team wound up losing 98 games. I'd like to personally thank the Reds for taking two of three from the Pirates over the weekend, though.

The Reds you’ll see in this series are a much different group than the Reds you’ve seen in the past few seasons, but with a few familiar faces. Fortunately for the Cubs, the lineup is pretty flat as long as you pitch around Joey Votto, who is still one of the best hitters on the planet. There are still plenty of veterans around the diamond, too, with Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce still here (for now), as well as guys like Zack Cozart and Devin Mesoraco who have been around for a few years at this point. Eugenio Suarez takes over the everyday third-base spot and could be the second-most potent hitter in the Reds lineup, honestly. Suarez had a .761 OPS in 97 games last year, and could provide similar production to former Reds All-Star Todd Frazier.

The pitching staff is even less-experienced to start the season than the rookie-laden staff the Reds had last year. Brandon Finnegan and Alfredo Simon are slated to start games in this series, both converted relievers in different points of their careers. Simon was in the AL last year, but the Reds picked him back up in the spring to eat innings and potentially bring a return at the deadline. We’ll also see a rookie in this series, but your guess is as good as mine as to who that’ll be. The bullpen is also pretty thin, with Tony Cingrani and J.J. Hoover the resident stalwarts. The team brought Ross Ohlendorf in as a veteran to help bolster things, but nobody knows how the rest of those innings will stack up. 

The most likely scenario for all three of these games will be the Cubs knocking a tired Reds pitcher out and feasting on inexperienced relief pitching, while the Reds do their best to keep up by dressing Joey Votto in various disguises to get him more at bats. Should be a fun series!

Pitching matchups

Monday: Jon Lester (1-0, 1.29 ERA, 0.571 WHIP, 2.07 FIP) vs. Brandon Finnegan (0-0, 3.00 ERA, 0.667 WHIP, 2.88 FIP)

Wednesday: John Lackey (1-0, 9.00 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 6.71 FIP) vs. Alfredo Simon (0-0, 1.80 ERA, 1.400 WHIP, 2.81 FIP)

Thursday: Jason Hammel (0-0, 1.50 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 2.71 FIP) vs. Raisel Iglesias (1-0, 2.31 ERA, 1.371 WHIP, 2.78 FIP)

Prediction

I have already predicted one sweep that came to pass this year, but that was just a two-game set in Anaheim. Sweeping three-game series is more difficult, so I'm going to say: two of three, which, if it happens, would leave the Cubs at 7-2 after nine games. The Thursday matchup of Hammel vs. Iglesias will be the toughest for the Cubs.

Up next

The Colorado Rockies and their hot-hitting rookie, Trevor Story, come to Wrigley Field for a three-game weekend set starting Friday afternoon.