The Chicago Cubs continue to stay atop the NL Central while the Cincinnati Reds remain on the outside looking in heading into Thursday’s contest. The Reds are hoping to gather some momentum toward contending for the position by getting the four-game series off on the right foot.
Cubs looking to continue forward push
Throughout the season, the Cubs have been at the top of the NL Central pushing their way towards yet another division title. They have been the most consistent team of the bunch behind the strong play of their core group this campaign. Chicago has benefitted from having one of the top pairings of talent in the league that has proven to lead them to much success in the process. The Cubs have picked up in the last week having won seven out of their last 10 games, including coming off a 5-1 homestand that has helped increase their lead in the division to three games over the Milwaukee Brewers heading into Thursday’s game. The team has had many bats to lean on in their lineup that has seen All-Star second baseman Javy Baez lead the charge offensively as he’s batting .293 with 28 home runs, 78 RBI, and 81 runs scored in 113 games played.
However, Baez is coming off fouling a ball off his leg that could put his status for the opening game of the series up in the air. If he isn’t able to play against the Reds, the team has other dependable bats in the lineup such as outfielder Kyle Schwarber, who has been swinging a productive bat in his first 23 games since the All-Star break as he’s batting .262 with seven home runs, 14 RBI, and 11 runs scored over that span. At the same time, this game will likely be decided by the strong play of star right-hander Cole Hamels, who is putting together a highly productive campaign as he holds a 6-3 record with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in his first 18 starts. Hamels has performed well in his last 10 games pitched as he has given up more than three runs just twice over that span. He is also coming off pitching 5.0 scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers. If he’s able to stay on track, it should push the Cubs past the surging Reds.
Reds hoping to make playoff push
It has been a difficult campaign throughout much of the year for the Reds that has seen them continue to float on the outside looking in on the playoff picture. However, the team has picked it up over the last week having won seven out of their last 10 games that have closed that gap for postseason contention primarily in the wildcard picture, being four games behind the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers for that vaunted second spot and that has five teams all within 4.0 gams for that position. The Reds have surged a bit offensively in their last three contests having notched 21 games over the last three games that helped fuel their forward push. It also helps that they were able to face a struggling Los Angeles Angels team that is currently going through a tough stretch of the year. That said, the Reds have had one of the least productive offenses in the majors this season.
Through this point in the year, Cincinnati has had one of the least productive batting orders. They are currently sitting 22nd in runs scored, 25th in hits, 18th in home runs, 19th in batting average, and 21st in slugging percentage. They haven’t had any standout production, but third baseman Eugenio Suarez has been their most productive bat since the All-Star break as he’s batting .287 with 10 home runs, 14 RBI, and 17 runs scored. Suarez has been the Reds’ most consistent bat and his pick up production has been key towards pushing the team forward over the last couple of weeks. His play has been a crucial spot in their offense, especially after the team decided to trade away Yasiel Puig. However, the true difference in the contest will come on the mound as left-hander Alex Wood is set to take the mound holding a 1-0 record with a 3.18 ERA along with a 1.15 WHIP in his first two outings going 11.1 innings on the mound. If Reds hope to push past the Cubs, it will need Wood to continue to stay on the right track at home as he’s set to face a tough challenge against one of the deeper lineups in the league.
- Reds are 1-5 in their last six home games against a team with a winning record.
- Reds are 1-7 in their last eight games following an off day.
- Cubs are 5-1 in their last six games overall.
- Cubs are 5-1 in their last six games on grass.
- Cubs are 4-1 in their last five games against the National League Central.