Series Preview: Cubs at Reds, April 30-May 2, 2021

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Series Preview: Cubs at Reds, April 30-May 2, 2021

Chicago Cubs

Okay, so we’d say the season is roughly going as we expected, just not as we hoped, right? That’s how we’ll phrase it?

The Cubs have, at times, looked dominant (like last night, when they poured 9 runs over 16 hits and 5 walks in support of their 26-year-old starter’s career-best performance). And at times they’ve looked absolutely lifeless (like the four losses that came immediately before last night, during which they were outscored 29-7).

But just because they have been inconsistent doesn’t mean it must stay that way. Really. I don’t want to herald (the ghost of?) Matt Duffy or the arrival of Nico Hoerner as anything more than what they are. But those two, in particular, do offer a very different look in this lineup, and there has been a positive impact. Perhaps their presence, with a more judicious deployment of Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, and Joc Pederson (when he’s back), by mixing Kris Bryant into the outfield, can help balance this group out? Maybe the highs won’t be as high, but maybe the low’s won’t be pure torture either?

I’m willing to give it a few weeks.

Oh, yes, the series. The Cubs are hading to Cincinnati this weekend to take on the Reds, who’ve fallen from grace since the start of the year. It could be a high scoring weekend, because the Reds have scored the most runs per game on average this year, while allowing the second most runs per game. That Reds bullpen, in particular, can be rough.

After this, the Cubs will head back home to Chicago to host the Dodgers and Pirates. May arrives.

We’re Going Streaking

The Cincinnati Reds (11-13) actually just took two out of three from the mighty Dodgers, buuuuuuuut that was certainly an extreme high point for them. Just before that series, they dropped EIGHT straight to the Cardinals (0-3), Diamondbacks (0-4), AND INDIANS (0-1). And you thought the Chicago Cubs (11-14) had it bad for dropping five straight before last night’s offensive outburst.

Game Times and Broadcasts Info

•   Friday, April 30th at 6:10 CT on MARQ, MLBN,  670 The Score
•   Saturday, May 1st at 3:10 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score
•   Sunday, May 2nd at 12:20 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Jake Arrieta (R) vs. Wade Miley (L)
Game 2: Zach Davies (R) vs. Luis Castillo (R)
Game 3: Trevor Williams (R) vs. Tyler Mahle (R)

Chicago Cubs*

•   C – Willson Contreras
•   1B – Anthony Rizzo
•   2B – David Bote
•   3B – Kris Bryant
•   SS – Javy Baez
•   LF – Ian Happ
•   CF – Jake Marisnick
•   RF – Jason Heyward

*I’m leaving this as the starting lineup for now, but we’ve, of course, seen a lot of (1) Kris Bryant in the outfield, (2) Matt Duffy and Nico Hoerner in the starting lineup, and (3) Ian Happ and David Bote on the bench. I’m not really sure we can say who the “starters” are right now, but given the way Duffy and Hoerner have been playing, I won’t be surprised to see more of them. You can mentally slot them in.

Unavailable: Jonathan Holder, Tyson Miller, Shelby Miller, Rowan Wick, Joc Pederson, Austin Romine

Cincinnati Reds

•   C – Tucker Barnhart
•   1B – Joey Votto
•   2B – Jonathan India
•   3B – Mike Moustakas
•   SS – Eugenio Suarez
•   LF – Jesse Winker
•   CF – Nick Senzel
•   RF – Nick Castellanos

Unavailable: Aristides Aquino, Brandon Bailey, Michael Lorenzen

By the Numbers:

Run Differential:
Cubs: -12 (22nd)
Reds: +6 (11th)

Runs Scored Per Game:
Cubs: 4.32 (13th)
Reds: 5.33 (1st)

Runs Allowed Per Game:
Cubs: 4.80 (26th)
Reds: 5.08 (29th)

Keep An Eye Out For …

Jake Arrieta. At 35-years-old, coming off three pretty rough seasons in Philadelphia, there was little reason to expect Jake Arrieta to be as good as he has been. But he’s made five starts as a Cub this year, finishing 6.0 innings in three and never failing to complete at least 5.0. He’s got 26 strikeouts to just 11 walks and has allowed only 8 earned runs. His strand rate is a little high, his ground ball rate are a little low, and he could probably stand to limit the hard contact, but he’s … been good. Period. He’s really giving me late-career Jon Lester vibes, where the results just keep outpacing your expectations thanks to superior execution. If anyone can just “get the job done with less” it’s going to be a veteran like Arrieta. Let’s hope he can keep it up (but also, remember, the Reds have been one of the most potent offenses in baseball this year).

Duffy and Hoerner. Matt Duffy is slashing .286/.432/.314 with a walk rate (15.9%) much higher than his strikeout rate (11.4%). The Cubs needed contact, and they did not need power, and that’s exactly what he’s offered. Until he stops getting on base (he was on four times last night!), he should keep drawing starts. Hoerner, meanwhile, has had three multi-hit games since returning to the Cubs, and has been on base in every single one of his starts. With identical strikeout and walk rates plus a .360 average and .484 OBP (very, very tiny sample, as well), you just can’t take him out right now. Stats be dammed, sometimes guys are hot. There. I said it.

Davies v. Castillo. Last year, Zach Davies (2.73 ERA, 10th) and Luis Castillo (3.21 ERA, 19th) were among the best run preventers in the game. This year, Davies (9.47 ERA, 148th) and Castillo (6.29 ERA, 125th) have been two of the worst. They meet this Saturday in Cincinnati. Let’s get some runs?

Author: Michael Cerami

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