The Reds are the only team the Cubs have played this year that they have not defeated.
Of course, that’s only one game, a 1-0 loss on April 2. The other game in that series was rained out, and that’s why there’s a split doubleheader Saturday, to make up that postponement.
I asked Wick Terrell, manager of our SB Nation Reds site Red Reporter, to update us on the Reds, who last weekend swept the Dodgers in a four-game series in Los Angeles for the first time since 1976.
The Cincinnati Reds get a much deserved off-day on Thursday after wrapping up a 5-2 road trip against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. That successful road trip has instilled the first real sense of confidence in fans this year, as did the six-game win streak that partially overlapped it.
Despite the abysmal 3-18 start to the season, the Reds of late are a far cry from the Reds of April, in both roster and in performance. Eugenio Suarez, who missed nearly three weeks in April after being hit by a pitch and breaking his thumb, returned to the lineup on April 26, and since that time he’s both a) raked and b) helped carry the team to a 10-9 record in that span. Add-in that Scott Schebler has returned (after also hitting the DL after having been hit by a pitch), and that the bullpen has stabilized (after jettisoning the awful Yovani Gallardo and welcoming back the injured David Hernandez), and the Reds look more the the cromulent, maybe-can-play-.500-ball team most of us in Reds-land had hoped for prior to the season.
Of course, with the Reds and their current rebuild, it all comes down to their starting pitching rounding into form, and while it’s not been awesome this season, there are at least a few things that have looked better since Danny Darwin took over as pitching coach. Darwin had been the team’s pitching coach at Double-A Pensacola when most of the current young pitchers on the big league roster came through there, and it doesn’t take too long of a look to notice that most of those arms excelled while paired with Darwin, and we’ve seen a similar surge from both Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle, specifically, since they’ve been paired up again. Heck, even the newly acquired Matt Harvey has looked decent in his short time with the club, and perhaps there’s something larger in the works there.
In all, the Reds’ 15-29 record stinks, but this is really a tale of two seasons with them through 44 games — and the latter half of that has actually featured some decent baseball.
Despite the loss April 2, the Cubs are still 40-18 vs. the Reds since the beginning of 2015, a matching 20-9 at Wrigley and at GABP.
Friday: Jon Lester (3-1, 2.66 ERA, 1.318 WHIP, 4.55 FIP) vs. Homer Bailey, RHP (1-5, 5.59 ERA, 1.448 WHIP, 6.16 FIP)
Saturday (day game): Kyle Hendricks, RHP (3-2, 3.02 ERA, 1.030 WHIP, 4.78 FIP) vs. Luis Castillo, RHP (3-4, 6.02 ERA, 1.424 WHIP, 4.94 FIP)
Saturday (night game): Jose Quintana, LHP (4-3, 5.23 ERA, 1.597 WHIP, 5.03 FIP) vs. Sal Romano, RHP (2-4, 4.84 ERA, 1.455 WHIP, 5.27 FIP)
Sunday: Yu Darvish, RHP (0-3, 5.56 ERA, 1.529 WHIP, 5.11 FIP) vs. Tyler Mahle, RHP (3-5, 4.34 ERA, 1.343 WHIP, 5.01 FIP)
The rotation for this weekend was restructured after Thursday’s rainout in Atlanta. At this writing the order of the starters for Saturday’s doubleheader has not yet been determined. It’s possible Quintana will start the day game and Hendricks the night game. For whatever it’s worth, Hendricks has a better career ERA (2.65, 60 appearances) in day games than in night games (3.38, 48 appearances). The Reds starters will likely go as listed above for Saturday. Also, the Cubs will be allowed to add a 26th man for the second game of the DH without a corresponding roster move.
Times & TV channels
Friday: 6:10 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago
Saturday (day game): 12:10 p.m. CT, WGN
Saturday (night game): 6:10 p.m. CT, WGN
Sunday: 12:10 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago
The pitching matchups seem generally favorable, so the Cubs will assert themselves and take three of four in this series against one of their favorite opponents.
The Cubs are off Monday, then host the Cleveland Indians in a two-game series at Wrigley Field Tuesday and Wednesday.
How many games will the Cubs win against the Reds?
This poll is closed