Reds hosting Cubs in pivotal division series
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds came into the season with high expectations after a series of trades brought some much-needed starting pitching.
The pitching has been good but the offense inconsistent. That needs to change starting this weekend as the Reds host the division-leading Chicago Cubs.
Here is a quick look at the upcoming three-game series starting with Friday’s game.
Cubs vs. Reds
Chicago Cubs (44-37, first in NL Central) at Cincinnati Reds (36-42, fifth in the NL Central)
Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH, 7:10 p.m. Friday
PITCHING PROBABLE: Cubs — Cole Hamels is 6-2 with a 2.92 earned run average with 96 strikeouts and 34 walks in 98.2 innings; Reds — Sonny Gray is 3-5 with a 4.03 ERA with 85 strikeouts and 31 walks in 76 innings.
BOTTOM LINE: The Reds won six in a row but have lost their last four. After getting within four games of first place, they are now six and a half back. The Reds are 19-17 at home and 17-25 on the road. Closer Raisel Iglesias continues to struggle and manager David Bell may opt for Michael Lorenzen to close a tight game; The Cubs are 5-5 in the last 10 games and are 29-16 at home but 15-21 on the road.
TOP PERFORMERS: Cubs feature catcher Willson Contreras who is batting .300 with 17 home runs and 48 runs batted in. Shortstop Javier Baez is hitting .286 with 19 homers and 52 RBI while first baseman Anthony Rizzo hits .274 with 19 homers and a team-high 56 RBIs.
The Reds shortstop Jose Iglesias continues to drive in clutch runs and leads the team with a .297 batting average. He had five home runs and 30 RBIs. Rookie Nick Senzel is hitting .270 and outfielder Yasiel Puig has tied Eugenio Suarez for the team lead in RBI with 45 after hitting his 17th home run on Wednesday.
LAST 10 GAMES: Cubs are 5-5 and the Reds 6-4.
CUBS INJURIES: Starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (right shoulder inflammation) remains sidelined but said he felt “real good” after throwing a 30-pitch bullpen session Wednesday and expects to toss a 45-pitch bullpen Saturday.
Hendricks, whose treatment has included a cortisone shot after going on the IL on June 15, wasn’t sure about his return date. Manager Joe Maddon said it’s possible Hendricks (7-5, 3.36) could rejoin the rotation before the All-Star break.
REDS INJURIES: Pitcher Alex Wood is on the 60-day injured list due to his back. Wood has not pitched for the Reds this season after being part of an offseason trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Second baseman Scooter Gennett is near a return to the team after suffering a groin injury late in spring training. Reliever Wandy Peralta remains on the 10-day injured list with a bad hip. Catcher Tucker Barnhart was in the initial starting lineup on Wednesday, but Bell scratched his name from the batting order due to soreness in his right side. Barnhart hasn’t played since Saturday.