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Series Preview: Reds at Cubs, May 16 – May 18, 2017

Series Previews

You didn’t want it to be easy, did you?

The Chicago Cubs are starting a three-game set against the Cincinnati Reds tonight at Wrigley Field. The series is actually the first of ten straight games at Wrigley, and sixteen straight games overall. Given the two recent off-days and relatively poor play of late, I’m actually really looking forward to packing in a ton of games over the next couple of weeks.


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And with any luck, the Cubs can use this stretch to get into the rhythm they’ve been missing, and really get things on track. And remember: if it were easy, it wouldn’t be exciting.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (18-19) are below .500 after 37 games. Had you told me that before the season started, I would’ve never believed you. And if you told me that the Reds, Brewers, and Cardinals would all be ahead of the Cubs and Pirates in the standings, I would have said you were downright crazy. I guess I don’t know too much about baseball.

The Cincinnati Reds (19-18) are a game above .500 and in third place of the NL Central. Earlier this season, the Cubs took two of three from them, and at this point, that would feel really nice. Here’s to something feeling really nice.


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Location: Wrigley Field

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Tuesday, May 16 at 7:05 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, May 17 at 7:05 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
  • Thursday, May 18 at 1:20 CT on CSN-C, MLBN 670 The Score

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 Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • John Lackey (4.29 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 3.36 xFIP; 4.18 K/BB)
  • Kyle Hendricks (3.40 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 3.94 xFIP; 2.13 K/BB)
  • Jon Lester (3.45, 3.66 FIP, 3.59 xFIP; 2.45 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Ben Zobrist, RF
  5. Addison Russell, SS
  6. Willson Contreras, C
  7. Javy Baez, 2B
  8. Pitcher
  9. Albert Almora, CF

There’s a lot of moving parts this week. Jason Heyward is eligible to come off the disabled list, though Joe Maddon said that might not happen right away. Ian Happ is still on the roster, and his immediate future remains unclear. And ditto for Jeimer Candelario. My guess is that all three will not be on the roster at the same time (this week), although I suppose anything is possible.


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Cincinnati Reds

Starters:

  • Bronson Arroyo (5.94 ERA, 5.77 FIP, 4.91 xFIP; 2.27 K/BB)
  • Scott Feldman (3.59 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 4.17 xFIP; 2.00 K/BB)
  • Lisalverto Bonilla (4.85 ERA, 5.71 FIP, 4.52 xFIP; 2.20 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Billy Hamilton, CF
  2. Scooter Gennett, 2B
  3. Joey Votto, 1B
  4. Adam Duvall, LF
  5. Eugenio Suarez, 3B
  6. Scott Schebler, RF
  7. Jose Peraza, SS
  8. Devin Mesoraco, C
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

The Cubs have flipped the guy who would have been in line to start Thursday, Eddie Butler, to Friday, which moves Jon Lester back to regular rest for his start against the Reds on Thursday.

But it’s Wednesday’s starer, Kyle Hendricks, that I’d like to discuss right now. After allowing eleven earned runs through his first three starts (16.0 IP) of the season, Kyle Hendricks has settled into a bit of a rhythm. Over his last four starts (23.2 IP), Hendricks has allowed just four earned runs, while walking nine and striking out 21 batters. His strand rate during that stretch is a bit high, but he’s getting ground balls nearly 50% of the time and still has a 3.06 FIP.


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If he can produce one more solid start (making it five straight), I think we can begin to stop worrying about him and his 2017 season so much.

Tonight’s starter, John Lackey, is also coming off his (and probably the Cubs’) best start of the season, but we’ll get into that later in the Pre-Gamin’.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

Over his last six games, Willson Contreras is slashing .333/.375/.800. It’s a really small sample size, so there’s not much meat here, but I bring it up as a reminder of his upside. I think Cubs fans have lost sight of the potential lurking in Contreras’ bat, given the many other problems on the roster (and in the standings).

He has a legitimate chance to be one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. It may take some time (both because he’s young and he’s a catcher), but when he finally gets there, the Cubs could have a hugely valuable player behind the plate.


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Random note:

Cincinnati Reds – Pitching

Tonight, the Chicago Cubs are squaring up against Bronson Arroyo, who recently turned 40. Together, he and Lackey, 38, will bring 78 years of life experience to the mound at Wrigley tonight. Here’s hoping youth prevails. And, as always, we’ll get into his numbers from earlier this season later on.

For now, we’ll discuss Thursday’s starter Lisalverto Bonilla.

Bonilla has tossed just 13.0 innings this year through just one start and one (lengthy) relief appearance. But if his name sounds familiar, that’s probably because it is unique … and because he was given mop-up duty on April 22 when the Cubs put up seven earned runs against Reds’ starter Cody Reed in the first two innings.

Bonilla eventually surrendered another four earned runs to the Cubs that day, but it’s entirely possible that he was pitching to contact to help move things along in an otherwise lost game.


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In his first and only start thereafter (May 13 against the Giants), Bonilla went 8.0 innings, allowing just three earned runs, while striking out eleven. With that said, he allowed nine hits, five walks, and two homers that day … so I’d say he was pretty lucky with his sequencing (sure enough: 96.2% strand rate). The Cubs can beat this guy.

They just, you know, need to actually do it.

Cincinnati Reds – Offense

After starting the season out blisteringly hot, Eugenio Suarez has cooled down quite a bit over his past 16 games (68 plate appearances). During that stretch, he’s slashing just .230/.309/.344 (75 wRC+). But here’s a reminder that before that, he was basically one of the best hitters in baseball: .352/.432/.676 (185 wRC+).

Joey Votto is, of course, doing Joey Votto things: .291/.399/.582 (10 HRs); 15.3% walk rate, 11.7% strikeout rate. So, you know, stay away from him at all costs.

The Cubs are one game behind the Reds in the standings, ladies and gentleman. That needs to end, starting tonight.


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Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.