Baseball

At least the Reds weren’t boring at the trade deadline.

For a while we and others wondered what they would do about their Scooter Gennett and Derek Dietrich axis of confusion at second base. The answer was apparently to let one play like he was still hurt (Gennett) and the other to get hurt (Dietrich). So out went Gennett to the Giants, who always seem to be in the market for an underwhelming bat.

That wasn’t the headline though, and you’re not going to believe it wasn’t sending Tanner Roark to the A’s either. I know, right? This is Tanner Roark, people! The Reds gave up Yasiel Puig, Scott Moss, and much-touted prospect Tyler Trammell in a trade-a-trois to land themselves Trevor Bauer.

On the surface you get it. Puig was a free agent-to-be and unlikely to re-sign in Cincy, so cash in what you can during a season that isn’t going to go anywhere. Getting Bauer back gives the Reds a bonafide #2 starter to slot in between Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray, even if everyone else in the clubhouse is going to want to throw Bauer through several walls before the end of the season. A front three in the rotation of Castillo-Bauer-Gray is pretty formidable, and can certainly be the basis for wildcard contention. It would appear that the Reds are gearing up for next year.

But are they? Bauer is only signed for one more season, so it certainly looks like the Reds want to run with the big dogs in 2020. And the pen should still have Raisel Iglesias and others to repeat being the weapon it’s been this year. But you can never really tell with bullpens, can you?

The biggest question is what the Reds are going to do, or are positioned to do, with the lineup to pair with that rotation. Because it’s hard to see what’s on the up-slope offensively for the Reds. It certainly isn’t Joey Votto. Eugenio Suarez is a fine player but not someone you’re building around, and with him having an off-year this season at 29 you wonder if this is the start of something smelly or just a blip. Certainly the hope is that Nick Senzel is that player. They would like to hope that Phillip Ervin might be, but he’s 27 already. Will be 28 next year. And he’s not even starting regularly. There’s probably still hope for Jesse Winker, who is only 25. But that’s two guys definitely yet to reach their prime, one who is definitely past it, and a bunch of questions marks.

On top of that, Trammell was their only prime prospect ready to step in next year and be something. And even next year would be a stretch, as he’s been ok in AA this year. The Padres don’t really care, they have two years to play with. The Reds? Maybe not.

They certainly have plenty of money to spend, should they choose. They have only $60M tied up next year, plus whatever Bauer gets in arbitration. But when do you remember the Reds being the settling place for a big free agent? They will clearly have needs in right, second, maybe short (though you can get away with Jose Iglesias‘s glove if you have offense everywhere else), maybe catcher. Sadly for the Reds, the free agent crop is pretty weak in the winter.

Are they destined to repeat this year, with a pretty good staff and an offense that just isn’t enough? It seems that way, unless they flip Bauer for something else in the offseason. But his value would be lower than it was at the deadline with only one year of control left. They could probably stand to get younger. Could they turn Suarez into something? Would that just be running in place?

It seems the Reds have paced their pitching faster or above their lineup, and it might keep them in the mud. Bauer could be gone in 2021, Gray to follow the year after so he could be trade bait by then, and Votto will only be older. No prospect they have looks to be making an impact before 2022. Those things can always change though, and maybe that’s what the Reds are hoping.

It’s an odd mix…which is generally considered a delicacy in Cincinnati.

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Reds 6, Cubs 3

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 4, Reds 3 (1o)

Game 3 Box Score: Cubs 5, Reds 2

Seems pretty simple, when you get quality starts you’ll get wins. The Cubs have gotten six of them in a row. They’ve won five. Arguably should have won all six, but it would be truly petty and desperate to complain too much about a 5-1 homestand so far. This isn’t rocket science. Throw in a Kris Bryant binge, and suddenly things are starting to look as they should. Though with a couple glitches, so it’s your parents’ perfect night out. The food is great, and the service just good enough to allow them to complain.

Let’s run it through.

The Two Obs

-Hard to decide on the headline, but let’s go with Yu Darvish, who has yet to give up a run in two post All-Star starts and has only walked one in 12 innings. Today, Darvish was fastball heavy. It says he only threw 30 four-seam and 16 two-seam, but considering the latter was averaging nearly 95 MPH, I think they’re all just four-seamers. He also piled in 26 cutters, so it was a power outing. His last pitch was 98, which on a hot day is something. Combine them all and he threw 61% of them for strikes today, which goes along with his quotes after his last start about finally feeling like he has command of his fastball and doesn’t just have to rely on his cutter to get strikes. You’re seeing a variance in Darvish’s approach now, as he was slider heavy against the Pirates. But when he has command of it all, he can do that in any way he wants. Hopefully this is the start of something big, and as his next start will come against the decidedly punchless Giants (though more so now)…well, let’s just hope.

-Cishek has a 2.83 ERA, and I’m convinced this is a government lie. Every time I look up it feels like he’s giving up a run, even if it isn’t always his. He’s giving up homers on fly balls 50% more than last year, though everyone seems to be doing that now. I still worry about the amount of appearances this year and last, and this pen never lets you rest, does it?

Of course, backing him up with Rosario and Brach was never going to work out, was it? I can’t believe I’m asking for Edwards to hurry.

-At this point, we have to guess there’s something physical with Rizzo. He hasn’t homered in over a month, and he has 10 doubles over the last six weeks or so. He just doesn’t seem to have the pop. To be fair to him, his hard contact and line drives are much higher in July than they were in June, so maybe whatever it was has passed and he’s just trying to find the swing again. The Cubs are a Rizzo binge alongside the Bryant binge from like a 12-game winning streak.

-I don’t need Albert Almora Jr. to hit. He’s good enough in the field and the Cubs should have enough other hitters to just take his defense and run. I do need him to keep his head in the game. It didn’t end up mattering last night, but once again him not running after a drop third is a sign of a player not locked in, and this is what the Cubs were trying to address in the offseason. It has to stop.

-Looks like I motherfucked Alec Mills into a quality start, which is probably my biggest accomplishment of the season.

-Heyward seems to have a new knack for big hits, huh?

Onwards…

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Reds 42-48   Cubs 50-43

GAMETIMES: Monday and Tuesday 7:05, Wednesday 1:20

TV: NBCSN Monday and Wednesday, WGN Tuesday

CHRIS SABO APPRECIATION SOCIETY: Blog Red Machine

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Luis Castillo vs. Kyle Hendricks

Anthony DeSclafani vs. Alec Mills

Sonny Gray vs. Yu Darvish

PROBABLE REDS LINEUP

Nick Senzel – CF

Joey Votto – 1B

Eugenio Suarez – 3B

Yasiel Puig – RF

Jesse Winker – LF

Jose Iglesias – SS

Jose Peraza – 2B

Curt Casali – C

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Javier Baez – SS

Kris Bryant -3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Willson Contreras – C

Jason Heyward – RF

Robel Garcia – 2B

Albert Almora – CF

 

After taking care of one of the teams that made the last road trip hell with a three-game sweep of the Pirates, the Cubs will try and right previous wrongs against this year’s definite bogey team, the Reds. The Cubs have lost all three series to these assholes, who are something of an analytic darling with their subpar record but glittering run-differential. They seem intent on proving why that’s the case against the Cubs this year, which has been infuriating.

The Reds come in after getting knocked all around Coors Field for three days, giving up 19 runs in the last two games (though they won one of those as they scored 17 one night). That won’t help the Cubs much, as they’ll get the Reds three best starters in Gray, DeSclafani, and Castillo tonight. Gray and DeSclafani have been on particular rolls the past month, calming down the walks which had been a problem earlier. It’s been the reverse for Castillo, who has walked nearly six hitters per nine innings over the past 30 days. That said, his last two starts against the Cubs and Brewers have seen him throw 14.2 innings while giving up a run, so he’s probably found it again. Goodie. Just what we need.

The Cubs simply couldn’t get Joey Votto out last time, and then it was a rotating cast of miscreants that came up with big hits, notably Phillip Ervin. He went 5-for-10 with a homer in the last set, and seemingly all of them came at the biggest moments. It’s been that way in every game against the Reds this year seemingly, with the Cubs nominating a new doofus in red the hero of the day when they can least afford to.

The Cubs scored more than enough runs to sweep the Reds last time, but were unlucky to lose Cole Hamels before the second inning ever started, which forced whatever is parading around in Mike Montgomery‘s skin these days to come in and offer up sacrifices to the gods. Their bullpen weaved some magic in the finale of that one, and we can only hope that won’t happen this time around. Carl Edwards is likely to return at some point during the series, which would be a boost of some kind, assuming his head his screwed on tight.

If there’s been a soft spot on the Reds of late it’s in the pen, with only Michael Lorenzen and his Farnsworth-tight pants being consistent the past month. The Cubs got to Raisel Iglesias the last time they saw him, but he’s put up four scoreless outings since. David Hernandez and Amir Garrett have walked the park lately, so if the Cubs need to catch-up or add-on in the late innings for the next three days, they’ll have to display the same patience they discovered against the Pirates this weekend.

The Cubs have opened up just slightly with the sweep, having a 2.5-game lead now on Milwaukee and three on the Scum. With the Brewers having to deal with the Braves this week, this feels like an opportunity to open that up even more, especially as it’s the Pirates and Giants after this and neither are exactly inspiring (though the Giants have played better of late). We’ve been asking for months now but it’s time to turn it on, all the way up.

 

Baseball

Yankees fans have always had players they irrationally disliked. Any acquisition is supposed to be THE ONE that returns the Yanks to their rightful place atop the MLB forever, or so they would have you believe. And if they don’t become that, they are forever discarded as trash, with “Yeah well he didn’t do it in the Bronx so it doesn’t count.”

Gray had a rough September upon his arrival in New York in 2017, with a 4.58 ERA and even worse peripherals as he came to terms with the far different environs of Yankee Stadium than from the Coliseum in Oakland. In the East Bay you can actually give up a fly ball without it sending off sirens, but as we know that’s not the case in New York.

Gray wasn’t much better last year in pinstripes, as he was definitely spooked by the previous experience, as his walks tickled four per nine innings, by far the highest of his career. He still wasn’t that bad, worth 1.6 fWAR last year for a playoff team with a 4.17 FIP. But that wasn’t good enough for the Yanks front office, which was eyeing upgrades in the rotation to run with Sale, Eovaldi, and Price in Boston (which has worked out, you’d have to say). So Gray was moved to Cincinnati, which isn’t exactly a more forgiving park for pitchers.

Hasn’t mattered to Gray this year, who was an All-Star, has lowered his ERA by a run and a half, his FIP by a full run, and upped his strikeouts by nearly two per nine innings/seven percent. Gray has only given up nine homers, including only four at his home park where hitters can generally sneeze and get one over the fence (or is that just Cubs pitchers?). So how has he done it?

Gray has eschewed a sinker/cutter he was using in New York, and has opted for more four-seam fastballs. He has not approached the levels of fastballs he threw in his prime years in Oakland yet, but he’s back over 50%. He has rediscovered some velocity though, throwing it harder than he ever has at 93.9 MPH.

And like a lot of other pitchers, Gray has tried to live higher in the zone than before, trying to get past hitters and their new and fancy uppercut swings. Visual evidence you require? We got it:

That has seen a slight uptick in whiffs on his fastball, and gotten more pop-ups and fly balls, at least of the weak variety in the latter.

But still, giving up fly balls in Cincy can be a death wish, so Gray had to find a way to get more grounders for what’s a pretty good infield defense, especially now that Scooter Gennett is back. Gray is getting a career-high ground-ball rate this year, up five percent from last year as a Yankee.

Gray has gotten that through his curve and slider, which are just two versions of the same pitch depending on how much he takes off and puts on it. Both have seen a 10% increase or so in grounders, playing off the focus on being high in the zone or above it with the fastball.

After his travails in New York, eyebrows were moving upward when the Reds signed Gray to a three-year extension immediately upon getting him. However, now the $10M per season he’ll be earning after this one seems a bargain, taking him until he’s 32. With Gray and Castillo locked in for the next few years, the Reds might actually have the base for a good rotation for the next little while. When have we ever said that?

Baseball

You’ll have to excuse me today. It’s a holiday weekend and I’m a little under the weather, which is like the worst combination ever, so I’m just going to combine these into one so we can all go about using our bonus weekend night however we see fit. I hope there’s grilled meats and cold beer in your future. I’m gonna try the old booze and allergy med combination and see if I can’t find Lucy in the sky.

Game 1 Box Score: Twins 11, White Sox 4

Game 2 Box Score: Twins 8, White Sox 1

Game 3 Box Score: Twins 7, White Sox 0

-This is probably not how you’d design this era of Sox-Twins matchups to start, now that one has proven to be ready for primetime and the other trying to get there. 26-5 combined suggests the Sox road might be a little longer to traverse than you thought. The Twins were so ruthless this weekend, as any mistake any pitcher made in black was punished by a baseball traveling at high speeds and distances. Six homers over three games is a pretty conservative pace for them on the road, but with the weather in Minneapolis finally cooperating, they might start lining up the two.

-I can see where Max Kepler is going to be villain #1 for Sox fans pretty soon. He just looks the part, and is effective enough to take the mantle. That lithe, smarmy carriage. Besides, only assholes are named Max

-Reynaldo Lopez wasn’t that wild, but he was wild in the strike zone, which usually ends with you giving up three homers and eight runs against a team that is a fireworks factory in itself. Lopez got scared off his slider, which means it was only fastball-change, and as the change wasn’t all that effective, it’s gasoline time.

-Yonder Alonso had three hits. So y’know, that’s something.

-Willians Astudillo is as much fun as I hoped.

-Covey wasn’t even bad today. There was some BABIP Kung Fu Treachery, but is only real mistake was a change that decided to go rogue, and then it went far thanks to Eddie Rosario. The Twins just aren’t missing right now.

-It’s a little scary that Welington Castillo was allowed to stay in to take another foul tip off the dome, when he looked a little shaky after the first one. Let’s say all of baseball has a long way to go when it comes to this sort of thing.

-After another day of watching Manny Banuelos, it’s probably worth pointing out that Dylan Cease gave up one over six in his last outing with 7 Ks but four walks. It’s the latter that’s probably keeping him in Carolina.

Game 1 Box Score: Reds 6, Cubs 5

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 8, Reds 6

Game 3 Box Score: Reds 10, Cubs 2

-We said this Reds team was miles better than its record was saying it was, and they seem intent on proving that to the Cubs alone. Votto can’t hit anyone else, but he’s still Votto against the blue pinstripes, and they will never, ever get Eugenio Suarez out. It’s just not going to happen. Ever. Forget it.

-You can’t go any farther without talking about the pen again, and I’m going to harp on this until moves are made. There’s no point in bringing in Montgomery or Chatwood for merely one inning or just an out as it was on Friday with Monty. You barely have anyone to trust out there. Right now, I’d be using both, at least three times a week combined, to take over from the starter and see how far they can go. That limits the exposure of everyone else. Sure, Cishek is supposed to be the one you can trust right now, but he’s already overworked and well on his way to 70 appearances and an additional 174 times he warms up. Considering both Monty and Chatwood were stretched out, I don’t know why they can’t give you two to three innings three days apart each. It’s certainly time for creative solutions, unless you want more Brad Brach and Kyle Ryan in your life.

-That’s a mixed message with Darvish, who kept getting pulled early in the year to keep his confidence and yet sent out there for an eighth inning he clearly wasn’t prepared for. You know when a pitcher is emptying the tank, and that was in the 7th yesterday. Yes, the pen is a mess, but again, had they just closed out Friday with Monty and maybe on more, we aren’t here.

-It’s not going to happen for Carl Edwards.

-Daniel Descalso isn’t hitting, and then gave away a run because he can’t actually catch the ball. Solid signing here. Today he came up in his first AB and clearly wanted to go the opposite way, late on even breaking balls. His next AB he seemed determined to pull everything. He’s about as in between as you can get.

-And now maybe Bryant could have the concussion problems he has last year after getting beaned. This went well. Burn this tape.

Onwards for both…

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Reds 22-27   Cubs 29-19

GAMETIMES: Friday-Sunday 1:20

TV: NBCSN Friday, ABC Saturday, WGN Sunday

WHO DEY: Blog Red Machine

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Anthony DeSclafani vs. Kyle Hendricks

Tyler Mahle vs. Yu Darvish

Tanner Roark vs. Jose Quintana

PROBABLE REDS LINEUP

Nick Senzel – CF

Joey Votto – 1B

Eugenio Suarez – 3B

Jesse Winker – LF

Yasiel Puig – RF

Derek Dietrich

Jose Iglesias – SS

Tucker Barnhart – C

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Jason Heyward – RF

Victor Caratini – C

Daniel Descalso – 2B

Albert Almora Jr. – CF

 

The NL Central is weird. Weird things can happen in baseball over two months. Hell, it can happen over six. The Reds show up today, and they’re last in the division. Yet they have a +25 run-differential, which is fourth-best in the entire NL, behind the three first-placed teams. Hell, the Cardinals have a +21 run-differential, and they’re a game behind the Pirates, who are -42. This probably evens out, and relatively soon, but for now it’s certainly odd viewing.

The way you get to that, or at least one way, is having great pitching and a woeful offense. The Reds have those. So they’re always holding opponents to few runs, but their offense rarely catches up, and when they do it’s a binge. It’s like your rare trips to Stan’s Donuts (don’t even try to play that you don’t get like three things at Stan’s. I know you. I see you).

Since we last saw the Reds, they lost two of three to the Dodgers at home and then split with the Brewers in Milwaukee, including an abstract performance art piece on Wednesday afternoon that they dropped 11-9. Not much has changed with the Reds in just eight days. One difference for the Cubs is that they’ll see Anthony Desclafani and not Luis Castillo, which is definitely a trade up if you’re the Cubs.

DeSclafani’s career has been kind of all over the map, and he’s had his injury problems. His strikeouts are up this year, but his grounders are way down and when summer finally hits in Cincy that’s generally not a recipe for success as balls tend to ride the humidity and methane from Skyline out into the right-field bleachers a ton. DeSclafani has changed this year by choking off his slider into a curveball, throwing that pitch more more than he ever has and five times as much as he did last year. He still uses the slider a quarter of the time, and it’s still his most effective pitch as far as what hitters do against it.

The Cubs also didn’t see Tyler Mahle, who’s been great and isn’t walking anyone essentially. Mahle features a fastball, change, and curve, and the change and curve get a ton of grounders for him, which will be a real boon in his home park.

Other than that, you know the drill. Eugenio Suarez will kill the Cubs at some point this weekend, Senzel is heating up, Dietrich is the only other one hitting, and the pen has multiple weapons before you even get to Raisel Iglesias at the end.

For the Cubs, they’re apparently still trying to exhume Descalso today, and Hendricks returns home where he’s given up no runs in his last two starts in white over 17 innings. Pedro Strop won’t return this weekend but is very close. Yu’s revival started against this Reds team, and they’re an offense you can get healthy against. There’s a nasty looking road trip after this, so another series win would certainly be the right prep for it.

Baseball

We’re going to try to add these to our baseball previews. At least as long as our sanity allows.

There are many signs of the apocalypse these days. Look around daily, and you’ll probably find one. Maybe it’s the imminent heat death of the planet. Or the fracturing of the political scene. Or increasing feudalist society across the world. Perhaps nuclear winter in the Middle East.

Joey Votto with a 74 wRC+ feels like it’s not too far down the list either.

To be fair to Votto, he did start like this once, just once, before. In April of 2016, he hit .226 with a wOBA of .276. He struck out nearly a quarter of the time, just as he did this season. That time he was hitting a ton of grounders, which he isn’t that time, and we’ll circle back to in a sec. And when all was said and done in 2016, Votto ended up slashing .326/.434/.550 with a 158 wRC+. And really, that’s what we should expect from Votto until he doesn’t do that, even if we get to September 20th and he’s still doing this. I’ll still believe he’ll end up with superior numbers. It’s one of those things where even seeing the body won’t prove to me he’s dead.

That doesn’t mean there doesn’t feel like something’s off with Votto. One, he’s swinging at way more pitches out of the zone, and the real jump is he’s not getting to any of it. The past three seasons, Votto has made contact at between 75%-78% of the pitches he swung outside of the zone. This year it’s 63.1%. He’s making less contact than he has in a long time, and his swinging strikes are as hight as they’ve been in a decade. What’s the deal here?

You heard Jim DeShaies mention when the Cubs were in Ohio that Votto’s fly balls are way up, and that’s true. 42.5% of his contact is in the air, up from 30% last year and a career rate of 33.3%. It’s come at the cost of his line-drives, which is what you think of when you think of Votto. Those are down to 20.8%, from last year’s 31.4%, and his usual rate of around 25%. His hard-contact is down a touch, but not to these kinds of margins.

Is Votto trying to go for a little more power? Well, one of the signs of age is a problem with the fastball, and Votto is certainly having that. For his career, Votto hit .324 on fastballs and slugged .593. This year those numbers are .191 and .338, which leaves your jaw shattered on the floor. And Votto can’t seem to get to it anywhere. Check out the location of his whiffs on fastballs for his career and then this year:

Votto’s struggles on off-speed pitches also suggests he’s leaning to get to the fastballs and is getting caught. He’s in-between. Votto simply doesn’t miss this much, so something seems to be up.

He is 35, which is when you’d think players would start to fade. But off a cliff like this? There is a comparison, and that’s Albert Pujols who is something of a contemporary of Votto’s. Pujols fell off the face of the Earth in his age 37 season, which may surprise you. At 36, while hardly the country-side wandering monster he was in St. Louis, Pujols had a 113 OPS+ in Anahiem. The next year it was 80, and he’s been a sinkhole ever since.

That can’t be happening to Votto, can it? The guy who looked like he could line a single to center whenever he wanted? This has happened once before, and then Votto tore a hole in the Earth. That turnaround in 2016 started in May. They’re still waiting on Votto this year.

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 3, Reds 1

Game 2 Box Score: Reds 6, Cubs 5 (10)

Game 3 Box Score: Reds 4, Cubs 2

It’s pretty impressive to go a month without losing a series. Nothing lasts forever. It seems like losses in Cincinnati are just a little more annoying than the others, though. The Reds aren’t really a last-place team, especially considering the starters they threw at the Cubs this week. All three were tight games, and a couple mistakes here and there cost the Cubs. It’s a little daunting considering Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin are lined up against them at the weekend. Hey, that’s baseball. Let’s go through it.

The Two Obs

-This is probably the best run of Kyle Hendricks’s career, though it doesn’t hurt that two-thirds of this have come against some currently pop-gun offenses in Miami and the Reds. He hasn’t really mixed the curve in that much as he wanted to do in spring training, but it hasn’t mattered.

-I’m fairly sure Jason Heyward might suck again. O-for-14 in the series confirms that. Four hits in his last 52 would seem to be another, and you can’t chalk that up to just bad luck.

-To Game 2’s loss, and I’m a little harsh on Carl Edwards Jr. at times. Well most of the time. Ok, all of the time. He’s been all right since coming back, but Eugenio Suarez is basically the one dangerous hitter in that lineup right now other than Dietrich. 2-0 on him is not the time to test out your fastball, as good as Edwards’s can be. It’s just not blow-it-by-anyone good. Yeah, it was high and yeah it may have been even outside, but he’s waiting for that. Break out that curve of yours.

-Tonight’s loss would have been more infuriating if the game had been shortened. And it was mostly on Contreras. Ok, the first fastball that got by him to move the runners to second and third, that’s fine. You’re not expecting a fastball in the dirt. He still tried to pick it, but whatever. But then a curve in the dirt is something you’re supposed to be prepared for. He tried to pick that instead of blocking it, and then now the game is tied and there’s a runner at third.

-I’m actually kind of on board with Schwarber leading off. That spot seems to have broken Heyward and Descalso, and Almora’s never been up for it. If Schwarber’s strength right now is at least getting on base, let’s use that.

-I wasn’t a huge fan of the usage of Montgomery last night either. To me, and this is just an urge to be creative, but anytime you use him should be for multiple innings. He hasn’t thrown in a week anyway. The pen is stripped to the studs, and you want to expose it as little as possible. You get five from Darvish, then see how far Monty can go. That’s one less time you have to use Ryan or Kintzler or whatever other joker is coming out of there right now. You clearly had Monty prepped to follow Darvish, so why not run the playbook from last week back?

-Any outing from Yu that has no walks I’m here for. It’s a good start at least.

Well, Rizzo wasn’t around, and they lost a game in extras. See what goes on in DC.

Onwards…

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 24-14   Reds 18-23

GAMETIMES: Tuesday-Thursday 5:40pm

TV: NBCSN Tuesday and Thursday, WGN Wednesday

THEY ACTUALLY EAT THAT CHILI: Blog Red Machine

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Kyle Hendricks vs. Tanner Roark

Yu Darvish vs. Sonny Gray

Jose Quintana vs. Luis Castillo

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Jason Heyward – CF

Kris Bryant – RF

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Willson Contreras – C

Daniel Descalso – 2B

David Bote – 3B

PROBABLE REDS LINEUP

Nick Senzel – CF

Joey Votto – 1B

Eugenio Suarez – 3B

Jesse Winker – LF

Yasiel Puig – RF

Derek Dietrich – 2B

Jose Iglesias – SS

Pitcher

Tucker Barnhardt – C

 

After swatting away their closest competitor over the weekend, the Cubs head to the bouncy castle that The Great American Ballpark is to face the NL Central’s wooden-spooners. But this isn’t the normal Reds team you might be accustomed to, and you might not need to prep for the normal diet of 12-10 games that we got on the reg on the river in the past.

For one, the Reds can’t hit for shit, and the main story is that Joey Votto has been a baseball succubus. It’s almost inexplicable. Votto is hitting .206 with a .293 wOBA and a 79 wRC+. He’s walking less than he ever has and striking out more. More worryingly is his line-drive rates and hard-contact are down as well. He’s actually hitting infield pop-ups, which he literally never did before. Judging by his anemic numbers against change-ups and curves, one might get the impression he’s cheating more and more on fastballs at 35. But he’s not even doing that much with those. He could be carrying an injury, and Reds fans are going to have to hope so because he only has 74 more years left on his contract. Still, this is Joey Votto. He’s only a season removed from a 131 wRC+ and two from a 164. You’re going to have to show us more than just six weeks of bad Votto before we believe Votto is bad now.

It wouldn’t be so glaring if the Reds were getting any help from anywhere else, but only Derek Dietrich and Cubs-murderer Eugenio Suarez have bothered to remember to take a bat with them to the plate. Yasiel Puig, who we were all convinced would show up in the NL Central and torture us for a good few years because of course, has been eaten by the BABIP Dragon and is hitting .226. Jesse Winker has been ok, but only that. They were never getting much offense out of short or catcher, and it’s caught up to them. They’ve gotten prime prospect Nick Senzel into center for now, but he’s still got a huge learning curve to manage. They are decidedly pop-gun.

The Reds would be total shit (and then spread on spaghetti as is their way there) if they’re rotation hadn’t been glittering so far, but lucky for them that part of the machine has kept them within touching distance of .500. Luis Castillo, whom the Cubs get on Thursday, has been everything they could have hoped. When you’re striking out 31% of the hitters you see and getting nearly 60% grounders on the contact you do give up, you’re going to slap some motherfuckers upside the head. So has been the tale. Sonny Gray was perhaps just happy to get out of New York, as in terms of FIP he’s been just as good as Castillo. He’s getting far more grounders than he did in pinstripes, and hasn’t seen every fly ball he gives up land in Vinny from Queens’s beer hey yo. Gray has also gone to a cutter far more often this season with his top class curve. Tyler Mahle doesn’t walk anyone, Tanner Roark does but somehow dances around it, and Anthon DeSclafani is striking everyone out. This is not an easy negotiation.

In the pen, Raisel Iglesias hasn’t been terribly happy with his usage, but is still striking out a ton of hitters though been a bit homer-happy. You’re probably not maximizing Iglesias by not using him in something of a Hader-method as they have before, as he’s been a straight closer so far. Amir Garrett and David Hernandez have been heavy K/heavy walk style as well, but have barely given up anything. The uber-jacked Michael Lorenzen and his tight pants are still here as well. The pitching has saved the Reds and if they ever discover someone else who can actually not pass out at bat they could make a serious move in the division. They’re not ready to contend yet, but you can see where they will be one day soon.

For the Cubs, they’ll hope Anthony Rizzo‘s one-day backiotomy is just that. They’ll try and get Darvish to throw strikes against a team that can’t hit, but that didn’t work last time. Getting though on Gray and Castillo the last two games here is going to be a real trick, but that’s what’s ordered.