Series Preview: Cubs at Reds, April 21 - April 23, 2017

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Series Preview: Cubs at Reds, April 21 – April 23, 2017

Chicago Cubs

There’s nothing like two come-from-behind wins and an off day to wash the taste of four straight loses, including a sweep, is there?

After their day off, Thursday, the Chicago Cubs are now headed onto the road for three against the Cincinnati Reds. Following this series, the Cubs will take on the Pirates, get an off-day, and then head out to Fenway Park, for a three-game match against the Red Sox (which, awesome).

Starting with the first game of that Red Sox series, the Cubs will play thirteen games in thirteen days, before another break, so get ready because the season is just about to kick into high-gear.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (8-7) won the final two games of their series with the Brewers and still have just one series loss (a sweep) to their name on the year. They’re in second place of the NL Central, behind the very team their facing this weekend.

The Cincinnati Reds (9-7) are in first place of the NL Central by a half-game over the Cubs and Brewers. They just lost two out of three to the Orioles at home after losing three out of four to the Brewers, too. With the Cubs coming to town (with an offense that’s heating up), the Reds’ hot start to the season may finally be hitting a wall.

Location: Great American Ballpark

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, April 21 at 6:10 CT on WGN, MLBN, 670 The Score
  • Saturday, April 22 at 12:10 CT on ABC-7, MLBN, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, April 23 at 12:10 CT on CSN-C, 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


  • Jon Lester (1.00 ERA, 2.02 FIP, 3.52 xFIP; 3.40 K/BB)
  • Jake Arrieta (2.89 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 3.32 xFIP; 4.20 K/BB)
  • John Lackey (4.00 ERA, 4.69 FIP, 3.38 xFIP; 3.17 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

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

(Javy Baez will work in, as well.)

Cincinnati Reds


  • Tim Adleman (2.25 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 2.78 xFIP; 5.00 K/BB)
  • Cody Reed (0.00 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 2.81 xFIP; 2.00 K/BB)*
  • Bronson Arroyo (8.40 ERA, 7.05 FIP, 5.14 FIP; 1.80 K/BB)**

*8.0 IP in 2017
** Bronson Arroyo

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Billy Hamilton, CF
  2. Jose Peraza, 2B
  3. Joey Votto, 1B
  4. Adam Duvall, LF
  5. Eugenio Suarez, 3B
  6. Scott Schebler, RF
  7. Zack Cozart, SS
  8. Tucker Barnhart, C
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

This weekend, the Chicago Cubs are sending their battle-tested veterans to the mound against the Cincinnati Reds. We’ll talk about Jon Lester later today in the Pre-Gamin’, so let’s check in on Jake Arrieta a bit right now.

Through his first three starts of the season, Arrieta’s results (2.89 ERA) have looked a bit better than his peripherals (3.72 FIP, 3.32 xFIP), but it’s difficult not to like what we’ve seen. His velocity may be down, but his 4.20 K/BB ratio is nearly two full points better than his 2.50 mark from last season. It also happens to be nestled nicely between his 2014 (4.07) and 2015 (4.92) numbers, which … that’s a very good sign. And while it’s nice to see that supported by an increased K-rate, it’s always good to see that number go up, I’m even more encouraged by the fact that his walk rate (6.9%) has dropped 2.7 percentage points from last year. It’s now almost at the level we saw in 2014. All very good stuff.

I plan on getting into his numbers with far greater detail later on, but Wade Davis has been very solid for the Cubs so far. Chicago’s new closer is still sporting a 0.00 ERA with a 1.82 FIP that’s not too far behind (well, it is, but it’s still really awesome). Through his first 7.1 IP, he’s been worth 0.3 WAR – which is just ridiculous. I’m very excited about his presence in Chicago.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

We covered Jason Heyward’s positive signs at the plate yesterday (you’ll want to check that one out), so we’ll avoid talking about him today.

Instead, I’d like to talk about Addison Russell (.254/.290/.475). His atypical slash line is actually still above average overall (106 wRC+), but it’s also on its way up. Over his last 44 plate appearance, Russell has slashed .293/.341/.585 with four doubles, a triple, two home runs, 10 RBI, and two stolen bases.

He’s also walking nearly 7% of the time and is still striking out less than 16%. His .293 ISO is downright terrifying (in a good way) and it really does look like 2017 could be the offensive breakout for which we’ve been waiting.

Cincinnati Reds – Pitching

How about that Sunday match-up?

With Bronson Arroyo (debuted in 2000) hosting John Lackey (debuted in 2002), there’s going to be a combined 34 years of Major League experience on the mound.

Arroyo did manage to get his first win in his last start (5.0 IP, 5H, 3ER, 2BB, 4Ks), but he’s been pretty beatable so far this season (8.40 ERA, 7.05 FIP). His ground ball rate has been very low and his home run to fly ball ratio has been very high – and those two are probably not unrelated. Look for Cubs’ hitters to elevate the ball and have an eye on knocking them out of the park.

One more thing about the Reds’ pitching, the bullpen was leading the league in strikeouts as of yesterday … by a lot:

That number has since climbed to 85 strikeouts, although to be fair, they do have the most innings pitched in the Majors. Even still, prepare to be frustrated by some Ks this weekend.

Cincinnati Reds – Offense

As a whole, the Cincinnati Reds offense has cooled down a bit, and is actually below average overall (97 wRC+, 16th in MLB). With that said, they do have some really hot hitters right now.

Zack Cozart, in particular, has been a thorn in the side of pitchers all season long: .400/.481/.667. He’s got only one home run this season, but he’s already hit three double and three triples and has walked eight times. Eugenio Suarez is also swinging a hot bat, having slashed .333/.414/.627 on the year, with a 10.3% walk-rate and a 17.2% strikeout rate.

And, of course, all of that is to go without mentioning Joey Votto, who may have started the season out slow overall (53 wRC+ in first 42 PAs), but is slashing .350/.500/.850 over his last six games (26 plate appearances).

Just in time for the Cubs. Yay.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami