It sounds like hype, but this really is a big, important series, which should tell us quite a bit about where both the Cubs and Reds are headed for the rest of the year. After this set, the teams will meet one more time, four games in Cincinnati at the beginning of September. That one includes a doubleheader which will happen because of a rainout in April.
The last time these teams met in late May, the Reds swept the Cubs out of Wrigley, outscoring them 25-10. Interestingly, only one of the Reds starting pitchers from that series will start in this four-game set.
Since that series, the Reds are 34-20, but the Cubs aren’t far behind at 31-22.
For more on the Reds, here’s Wick Terrell, manager of our SB Nation Reds site Red Reporter.
Were it not for the presence of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cincinnati Reds would have been atop the National League Central division standings before they finally took over the top spot Sunday by defeating the Dodgers. Were it not for having to play the Milwaukee Brewers, the Reds might well have the second-best record in the entire league.
Despite fumbling repeatedly in their nine games against the Beers within the last three weeks (as well as earlier in the year), the Reds are 8-3 in their last 11 games and fresh off a series victory in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. It’s a run of form indicative of their overall success since they began promoting their wave of rookies, and on Sunday fielded an entire infield of them — Spencer Steer at 3B, Elly De La Cruz at SS, Matt McLain at 2B, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand at 1B. Two of them homered, as did Joey Votto as the team’s DH for the day — and Votto, I should add, leads the club in homers and ribbies since being activated on June 19.
It’s an offense as dynamic as any in baseball, and we haven’t even mentioned that their 119 steals as a team (entering play on Sunday) was the second most in all of baseball. And if it feels as if all I’ve spoken of so far is their offense, well, there’s a reason for that - their team FIP of 4.74 is the fourth-worst in all of baseball, and they’ve yet to swing any deals to augment that before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Fortunately for the Reds, they’ll at least have Andrew Abbott on the mound for Monday’s series opener against the Cubs, as he may be the one starter they’ve got who can shut down the red-hot club from Chicago. Of the 98 pitchers who’ve logged at least 40 IP in the span, only Blake Snell (0.78) has bested Abbott’s 1.90 ERA since he made his debut on June 5, and the rookie lefty appears to be getting better by the start. Journeyman Ben Lively and rookie Brandon Williamson — yes, another rookie — will round out the rotation for the series, and saying rookie as many times as I have here is about as well as I can describe how this club has been built and functions.
They’re letting the kids play, and they’re counting on them for a playoff push despite them all obviously learning on the fly. We’ll get to see how they match up with the red-hot Cubs for the next few days in what should be the best Reds/Cubs series in Wrigley in years.
Tonight’s series opener is the latest date in a season that the Cubs and Reds have met when both had winning records since the creation of the Central Division in 1994.
The previous latest was July 4, 2021, when the Cubs were 42-41 going into a series finale at Cincinnati and the Reds were 42-40.
Both have had more wins than losses only eight other times later in a season during the Expansion Era, which began in 1962:
Aug. 27, 1978: Cubs were 65-62; Reds, 71-58
Aug. 2, 1977: Cubs were 61-42; Reds, 52-51
Aug. 2, 1970: Cubs were 54-50; Reds, 73-34
Sept. 2, 1969: Cubs were 84-52; Reds, 72-59
Aug. 27, 1969: Cubs were 79-51; Reds, 69-56
Aug. 17, 1968: Cubs were 64-59; Reds, 61-56
Sept. 30, 1967: Cubs were 87-73; Reds, 86-75
Sept. 3, 1963: Cubs were 75-74; Reds, 79-73
(Courtesy BCB’s JohnW53)
Probable pitching matchups
Monday: Marcus Stroman, RHP (10-7, 3.51 ERA, 1.202 WHIP, 3.59 FIP) vs. Andrew Abbott, LHP (6-2, 1.90 ERA, 0.957 WHIP, 3.75 FIP)
Tuesday: Justin Steele, LHP (11-3, 2.87 ERA, 1.122 WHIP, 3.11 FIP) vs. Ben Lively, RHP (4-6, 3.76 ERA, 1.209 WHIP, 4.80 FIP)
Wednesday: Drew Smyly, LHP (8-7, 4.50 ERA, 1.352 WHIP, 4.79 FIP) vs. Brandon Williamson, LHP (3-2, 4.48 ERA, 1.337 WHIP, 5.99 FIP)
Thursday: Jameson Taillon, RHP (5-6, 4.56 ERA, 1.371 WHIP, 4.64 FIP) vs. Luke Weaver, RHP (2-3, 6.80 ERA, 1.605 WHIP, 6.13 FIP)
Times & TV channels
Monday: 7:05 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network
Tuesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network
Wednesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network
Thursday: 7:05 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network
The Cubs have done well vs. LH starters this year, and the other pitching matchups look pretty good.
The Reds are a very good team, though, and so while I’d love for the Cubs to win three of four, I’ll settle for a split.
The Cubs host the Atlanta Braves in a three-game series at Wrigley Field that begins Friday afternoon.
How many games will the Cubs win against the Reds?
This poll is closed