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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Reds series preview

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The Cubs play in one of their favorite road parks.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

ON THE ROAD TO CHICAGO — Great American Ball Park has been one of the Cubs’ favorite places to play over the last three years, and the Reds pitching staff has served up tons of runs and home runs to the Cubs in that time frame.

Will anything be different this year? I asked Wick Terrell, manager of our SB Nation Reds site Red Reporter, to tell us about his team.

Somehow, the Reds are a full 96 games under .500 over just the last four years. That’s a colossal amount of losing, and like me, you probably feel like the bulk of that losing has come directly at the hands of the Cubs.

The fact is, the calculated losing/rebuild the Reds have endured over the last four years is largely over, at least in terms of its assembly. The 2018 season in Cincinnati appears dedicated to letting the reassembled Reds get experience and a bit of maturation, in hopes that the pieces now in place are capable of bringing some winning back to town.

The position players, at least, appear pretty well there. Their 22.7 fWAR in 2017 ranked 10th among all MLB teams, ahead of playoff clubs like Arizona and Boston (and well ahead of their N.L. Central rivals from Milwaukee and Pittsburgh). On top of that, those position players return largely intact, with Zack Cozart’s departure in free agency the lone loss. That’s a notable loss, to be sure, but the hope is that the continued maturation of Jose Peraza as his replacement paired with getting the rookie bats of Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel into the lineup will help make up that void.

Pitching, though, is the roadblock the rebuild has yet to clear. While those position player numbers are nice, the team’s pitching numbers are horrendous. Awful. Historically bad. With the lone outside additions coming in the form of middle relief (Jared Hughes & David Hernandez), the Reds’ front office is banking on the continued improvement from a bevy of young starters, and that’s always, always a risky proposition. There’s both talent and pedigree there (Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Brandon Finnegan, Amir Garrett, and Tyler Mahle have all cracked Top 100 prospect lists at points), but how soon those arms step up to flank Luis Castillo remains to be seen. Beyond that, getting anything from perennially injured starters Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani is a complete toss-up at the moment, but it’s clear that those arms are going to make or break both 2018 and the rebuild in its entirety.

Fun fact

As noted above, the Cubs have defeated the Reds quite a bit over the last three years. They are 40-17 against the Reds since 2015 (20-8 in Cincinnati), have scored 10 or more runs off them eight times (including once in a loss), and have hit 77 home runs off the Reds’ pitching staff in those 57 games.

Pitching matchups (all 2017 records except Lester)

Monday: Tyler Chatwood, RHP (8-15, 4.69 ERA, 1.442 WHIP, 4.94 FIP) vs. Tyler Mahle, RHP (1-2, 2.70 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 4.01 FIP)

Tuesday: Jon Lester, LHP (0-0, 8.10 ERA, 3.000 WHIP, 4.40 FIP) vs. Cody Reed, RHP (1-1, 5.09 ERA, 1.698 WHIP, 6.67 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Monday: 3:10 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Cincinnati market)

Tuesday: 5:40 p.m. CT, WGN

Prediction

Oh, what the heck. The Cubs will win both these games.

Up next

The Cubs are off Wednesday, then open a four-game series against the Brewers at Miller Park Thursday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Reds?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    2
    (214 votes)
  • 22%
    1
    (68 votes)
  • 5%
    0
    (17 votes)
299 votes total Vote Now