The Chicago Cubs are going to the postseason, but first, they have to play one more home series against the Cincinnati Reds.
So long as everyone stays healthy and the starters do reasonably well, this series will be considered a success. Not much else to think about right now.
We’re Going Streaking
The Chicago Cubs (90-69) have clinched the NL Central.
The Cincinnati Reds (67-92) have not.
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Friday, September 29 at 1:20 CT on CSN-C, MLBN (out-of-market only), 670 The Score
- Saturday, September 30 at 3:05 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
- Sunday, October 1 at 2:20 on WGN, 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.
- Jose Quintana (4.06 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 3.76 xFIP; 3.31 K/BB) – L
- Jon Lester (4.46 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 3.90 xFIP; 2.88 K/BB) – L
- Jake Arrieta (3.53 ERA, 4.15 FIP, 4.11 xFIP; 2.96 K/BB) – R [UPDATE: Arrieta now says he doesn’t believe he’s starting on Sunday.]
- Jon Jay, CF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Willson Contreras, C
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Javy Baez, 2B
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Addison Russell, SS
The lineups this weekend (like the one that’s already out today) wil likely feature plenty of non-regulars.
- Robert Stephenson (4.86 ERA, 4.95 FIP, 4.96 xFIP; 1.69 K/BB) – R
- Jackson Stephens (3.86 ERA, 5.72 FIP, 4.93 xFIP; 2.67 K/BB) – R
- Deck McGuire (4.15 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 5.00 xFIP; 4.50 K/BB) – R
- Not Joey Votto, CF
- Not Joey Votto, 3B
- Joey Votto, 1B
- Not Joey Votto, 2B
- Not Joey Votto, RF
- Not Joey Votto, SS
- Not Joey Votto, LF
- Not Joey Votto, C
*Not Joey Votto might mix into one of the outfield corners, too.
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
So, for a series without much to gain for the Cubs, there’s actually some very important things happening on the mound. For one, if Quintana is dominant, as he has been, he might be in that conversation for Games 1 or 2 of the NLDS.
Similarly, if Jon Lester follows up his last solid start with another one against the Reds, you might have to start seriously consider bumping him back up in the order.
Of course, if Arrieta returns, is healthy, and dominates like he was before going down with a hamstring injury, he could steal away a top billing from all of the above starters.
So, arguably, this series is somewhat important for the contours of the Cubs’ postseason, if not their chances for it.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
Since August 15, Kyle Schwarber is slashing .255/.321/.569 with 10 homers and a 127 wRC+ in 112 plate appearances. Go back another 50 plate appearances to July 27, and he’s slashing an even better .255/.333/.579 with 14 homers and a 133 wRC+.
Even more impressively …
Since July 27, Kyle Schwarber has a 133 wRC+ in 162 PAs.
But here's the best part:
Versus Lefties: 134 wRC+
Versus Righties: 133 wRC+
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) September 29, 2017
He’s been a bit better against fellow southpaws. That’s REALLY good to see for a guy who’d otherwise had such pronounced splits.
Cincinnati Reds – Pitching
The Reds three starting pitchers this weekend have made a combined 22 Major League starts in their careers. And this afternoon’s starter, Robert Stephenson, has made 18 of those. But we’ll talk about him in the Pre-Gamin’ soon enough.
Instead, for now, let’s note the relative gem tomorrow’s starter, Jackson Stephens, threw against the Red Sox on September 24: 6.0 IP, 2H, 1ER, 2BB, 3Ks.
That’s a fine start against a really good team who still had/has something to lose. Perhaps this weekend won’t be just a walk in the park, after all.
Cincinnati Reds – Offense
From 2014 through yesterday, nobody in baseball has more steals than Billy Hamilton (230). In fact, he’s got 20 more than the next guy, Dee Gordon, despite playing in five fewer games.
With that said, Hamilton has never been the single season stolen base leader in any one year. As of today, however, he leads Gordon by one stolen base (59 to 58). These 59 stolen bases also represent a career high for Hamilton, so it’ll be interesting to see if he tries to pad his record and his lead over Gordon with a few more free bags over the weekend.
With a 165 wRC+, Joey Votto is the best hitter in the National League by that metric, and trails only Aaron Judge (171 wRC+) and Mike Trout (180 wRC+) as the best offensive player in baseball. His walk rate leads all qualified hitters and he’s got the best OBP in the league. His batting average also happens to be among the top five in MLB and he’s got the ninth best slugging percentage to boot. Dude just hits.