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Series Preview: Cubs at Reds, June 30 – July 2, 2017

Series Previews

We’ve said a few times now, but you just can’t be too disappointed by splitting back-to-back road four-game series on the road with half the team on the shelf.


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It’s very difficult to pull out three or more wins in a four-game set as it is, but when you’re going up against a tough Marlins’ lineup and an even tougher all-around Nationals team, and doing so with a ton of guys missing, .500 ball is pretty great.

And, in the end, if the Cubs can pull off two wins in Cincinnati (the Cubs are 5-1 against them already this year), then they’ll notch their first winning road trip since April (incidentally, that was the last time they played the Reds).

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (40-39) just split a four-game set with the Nationals after splitting a four-game set with the Marlins. Although I stand by what I said about those being favorable outcomes, the Cubs are still lingering around .500 one day before July. That … is a less favorable outcome.


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The Cincinnati Reds (33-45) just took two out of three from the Milwaukee Brewers (thank you, kindly) after losing their last FIVE series before that (including three straight sweeps). This is not their year.

Location: Great American Ball Park

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, June 30 at 6:10 CT on WGN, MLBN, 670 The Score
  • Saturday, July 1 at 3:10 CT on CSN-C, MLBN, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, July 2 at 12:10 CT on WGN, MLBN, 670 The Score

Expected Starters and Lineups

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


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Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • Mike Montgomery (2.50 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 4.24 xFIP; 1.61 K/BB)
  • Eddie Butler (3.71 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 5.27 xFIP; 1.24 K/BB)
  • Jake Arrieta (4.67 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 3.91 xFIP; 3.00 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Jon Jay, LF
  2. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  3. Ian Happ, CF
  4. Willson Contreras, C
  5. Addison Russell, SS
  6. Mark Zagunis, RF
  7. Javy Baez, 2B
  8. Pitcher
  9. Tomma La Stella, 3B

The Cubs lineup is very difficult to predict right now. The one asterisk I’ll add to what I have above is that Albert Almora could work in at center, pushing Ian Happ to second and Javy Baez to third. It all depends on if Ben Zobrist is coming back and how long Kris Bryant will be out … and if Jeimer Candelario is okay … and so on and so on.

Cincinnati Reds

Starters:

  • Scott Feldman (4.07 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 4.18 xFIP; 2.43 K/BB)
  • Jackson Stephens (4.97 ERA, 4.68 FIP, 4.45 xFIP; 1.82 K/BB)
  • Tim Adleman (4.62 ERA, 5.53 FIP, 4.99 xFIP; 2.19 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. Tucker Barnhart, C
  9. Pitcher

Zack Cozart could return tonight, though it’s not yet clear if he will.

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

Outside of Jon Lester, the Cubs’ starting staff has struggled a LOT this season. That is until Mike Montgomery made four pretty great starts in a row (3.00 ERA, 3.23 FIP), showing some reasons for encouragement along the way.


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His walk rate (9.0%) during that stretch is a little high and his strikeout rate (21.4%) is a little low, but neither are too far from the league averages (8.5%, 21.6%) which, you know, is great for a guy who’s dealt with command issues in the past, and who gets a billion groundballs. Hopefully, Montgomery can keep up his pace and give the Cubs a fighting shot at winning tonight against the Reds.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

With four more hits, including two home runs, during the Nationals series, Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras remains hot with the bat.

You can cut his season off at a number of random dates to find good numbers, but my favorite is his slash line since June 16th (just under his last 50 PAs): .310/.370/.690 4 HRs; 8.5 BB%, 14.9K%. That’s a 170 wRC+ during that stretch. There’s a reason – other than a lack of healthy players – Maddon keeps running him out there near the top of the lineup. The dude can hit.

Despite an important hit last night, Tommy La Stella has just a 42 wRC+ since being brought back up to the Majors on June 16. It’s a tiny sample (25 PAs), but worth pointing out.


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Cincinnati Reds – Pitching

If the Cubs don’t score runs this series, I’m going to lose my mind. The Reds are trotting out three pitchers with ERAs and FIPs well over 4.00 and K/BBs in perfectly surmountable ranges.

Fortunately, the Cubs are pretty well-known to mash when they visit Great American Ballpark, so hopefully they can keep that up. The Cubs have scored an absolutely absurd 48 runs in the six games against the Reds this season (averaging 8 runs per game), but they’ll probably have to do it without Kris Bryant this time around, and he’s usually pretty good against them.

The Reds bullpen also happens to be among the bottom ten of the league, so again, the Cubs need to use their bats to power past this team and get some space from .500 before the All-Star break.


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Cincinnati Reda – Offense

Joey Votto is having a monster year for the Reds and has already been worth 3.4 WAR (4th most in MLB) this season. Overall, he’s slashing .308/.424/.616 with a massive 23 homers (also 4th in MLB) and a very Votto-like 16.2 BB%, which is greater than his 10.9 K%.

Keep the ball away from him … but also Zack Cozart (if he returns), because he has a 149 wRC+ of his own. And that’s not all. Adam Duvall (126 wRC), Scott Schebler (121 wRC+) and Eugenio Suarez (114 wRC+) add three more names to the list of above average offensive contributors on the Reds this season.

As a matter of fact, the Reds offense is pretty fantastic. Their team .331 wOBA is sixth best in baseball this year and their 100 wRC+ is tenth best. Both marks, obviously, are much better than the Cubs. Which, sigh. I still take the Cubs in two of three.


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Michael Cerami

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