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Cincinnati-Reds-Mr-RedThe Cubs close out the month of April having struggled in many of the ways we could have reasonably expected. They have yet to win a series, which is fairly incredible, even for a bad team. The Diamondbacks have won a series, and the Astros have won two.

The Series Preview gives you the rundown on what you need to know for the upcoming series. In that way, it’s kind of a preview. About a series. See how that works?

We’re Going Streaking

The Cubs salvaged their series in Milwaukee with a win yesterday, though it was still an overall loss. It was their first win in five games, and they are 8-16 on the year.

Believe it or not, the Cubs could technically still pass the Reds in the standings with a series sweep. The Reds scraped and clawed to get back to .500 after a rough start to the year, only to just this weekend be swept by the Braves. They’re three games below .500, and already seven games out in the NL Central.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Monday, April 28 at 6:10 CT on WCIU.
  • Tuesday, April 29 at 6:10 CT on CSN.
  • Wednesday, April 30 at 6:10 CT on CSN.

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Cubs

Starters: Jeff Samardzija (1.53 ERA, 2.77 FIP; 3.00 K/BB), Edwin Jackson (5.02 ERA, 3.26 FIP; 1.53 K/BB), Carlos Villanueva (10.42 ERA, 4.14 FIP; 7.00 K/BB)

Lineup:

  1. Emilio Bonifacio, CF
  2. Luis Valbuena, 2B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Nate Schierholtz, RF
  5. Starlin Castro, SS
  6. Mike Olt, 3B
  7. Welington Castillo, C
  8. Ryan Kalish, LF
  9. Pitcher

Reds

Starters: Alfredo Simon (1.30 ERA, 3.88 FIP; 1.89 K/BB), Tony Cingrani (2.86 ERA, 3.47 FIP; 2.00 K/BB), Homer Bailey (6.15 ERA, 5.36 FIP; 3.63 K/BB)

Lineup:

  1. Billy Hamilton, CF
  2. Joey Votto, 1B
  3. Brandon Phillips, 2B
  4. Jay Bruce, RF
  5. Todd Frazier, 3B
  6. Ryan Ludwick/Chris Heisey, LF
  7. Devin Mesoraco, C
  8. Zack Cosart, SS
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

The rotations in this series are a repeat of what we saw when the teams squared off 10 days ago. As I’ve said before, that can be tough for pitchers, given that the offenses have very recently had an opportunity to see the repertoire and adjust. At least it’s on both sides of the coin in this one.

Ryan Kalish was a great camp story, making the team after missing the last couple years with various shoulder and neck issues. He got off to an exceedingly rocky start, hitting .154/.241/.269 through his first 12 games. Since then, he’s been on a relative tear, bringing his season line up to a much more stomach-able .268/.333/.366.

Junior Lake is sprinting in the other direction, now at just .206/.242/.365 on the year. He is striking out in 43.3% of his at bats.

Jeff Samardzija 1.53 ERA is 8th best in baseball. His K rate is way down this year, which is by design, but his numbers otherwise really aren’t all that unsustainable. Probably the only clear item to regress is his HR/FB rate, which right now stands at a mere 3.8% (that’s partly why his xFIP is a much higher 3.36).

It kinda seems like Homer Bailey’s only good start this year was the one in which he faced the Cubs.

The Reds’ current WAR leader? That’d be Devin Mesoraco, whom Dusty Baker saw fit to sit quite regularly (of course, that was behind Ryan Hanigan, who was secretly quite good, and you could also argue that it was that kind of easing in process that has helped make Mesoraco into what he has been this year). He’s hitting .468/.509/.787 on the year, and yes, you are reading that correctly. Sure, his BABIP is .543, but his ISO is .319! The guy is killing the ball this year.

(UPDATE: But, as Jon points out, he was just put on the DL with a strained hamstring. No Mesoraco for the Reds this series.)

Also killing the ball in the way he does every year is Joey Votto. His .287/.438/.471 line is just so very Joey Votto.

Brandon Phillips advanced stat check: 70 wRC+ (100 is average). He’s striking out 23.4% of the time, and walking just 2.8% of the time. Unfortunately for Phillips and his self-created narrative, he also has only four RBI.

  • Jon

    Devin Mesoraco was just put on the DL

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks. I’ll update. That sucks for them/him.

  • cjdubbya

    Man, that’s a loooooooooooong way from 100 ribbies like Phillips had last year. Because he was the best player in baseball with those 100 ribbies. Wondering if Justin Jabs can re-hash his #DatDudeRegression rant from Twitter some time back. That was fun.

  • ssckelley

    Please no more Schierholtz in the cleanup spot! Castro or even Castillo should be in the #4 spot.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That might well be what happens – I just want to see it one more series before that becomes my blanket guess for the next series. Seriously, the lineups this year have made that part of the series preview brutal.

      • willis

        I never thought I’d think this, but I kind of dig Castro in the cleanup spot with the way he’s swinging it. With the other options I suppose he really is the best if you’re not going to hit Rizzo there. It’s not like the team is just oozing with sluggers, so may as well put the most gifted hitter there and see what happens.

  • CubChymyst

    Nice to see Kalish picking it up some. I really thought he would begin the year in the minors due to the amount of time missed. It be nice to see him become a player who can be around for the next 3-4 years.

    • Q-Ball

      Kalish has been just OK, but given the Cubs have the worst OF production in the majors, the door is wide-open for him to seize more playing time. It’s wide open for anyone, actually, he’s just the only guys who hasn’t stunk so far.

      Sweeney is a professional hitter who should recover, and Nate has some skills, but I think Junior Lake is wasting our time. What in his minor league record would lead you to believe he could be a productive major-leaguer, other than “Tools”?

    • jp3

      Kalish around for 3-4 years? We going to suck that long? Or does McDonald need an assistant in his new job?

  • http://BN Sacko

    If Castro is indeed.. Hot..including 2 other AB that reached the warning track..Go with what is Hot! Castro #4.

  • JasonP

    Somewhat random, but every team in the AL East currently has a negative run differential.

    Living in Baltimore I’m tired of hearing how that division is really a league of its own and the rest of the ML is just lucky to ever compete.

  • Pepitones wig

    Rondon the closer now after yesterdays impressive showing?

  • esruc

    http://awfulannouncing.com/2014/your-mlb-local-tv-announcer-rankings.html/6
    Congrats to Len and JD on their top 5 ranking – much deserved

    • JasonP

      Interesting. I find JD to be completely annoying, but to each their own. I do think Len is really good though.

      Hawk Harrelson is kind of ridiculous, but he and Steve Stone are more fun to listen to imho.

      • Brocktoon

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        Ummmmmmmmmmmmmm

  • willis

    Jesse Rogers @ESPNChiCubs 28s
    Jake Arrieta says he’s starting on Wed here in Cincinnati.

    That would be awesome. No Villanueva. Keep a short leash on Arrieta and piggyback him with CV or Ramirez if needed.

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