The Cincinnati Reds will take on the Chicago Cubs in the final game of a three-game series at Wrigley Field on Wednesday after taking game two of the series Tuesday night. Cincinnati was able to get the 4-2 win with Sonny Gray on the mound despite Yu Darvish of the Cubs striking out a team-record eight straight batters at one point.
This win brought the Reds to 71-81 this season, sitting 13.5 games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals. Cincinnati’s playoff hopes for this season are over, but they will do their best to play spoiler to the Cubs in the division, as the top of the NL Central and Wild Card spots are all split by just two games.
Getting the start for the Reds in game three of the series will be Tyler Mahle. Mahle did not factor into the decision in his last outing against the Mariners where he allowed four runs over 3 1/3 innings pitched. Mahle gave up a pair of two-run home runs, but lucky for him the Reds exploded on offense in the seventh and eighth for a combined nine runs.
The 24-year-old is now just 2-11 this season with a 5.11 ERA and 120 strikeouts. The young pitcher has a record that looks worse than his actual performance due to the Reds not giving him enough support at the plate.
One bright spot at the plate this season for Cincinnati has been their third baseman, Eugenio Suarez. The 28-year-old leads the team this year in both home runs and runs batted in. As we near the end of the season, he sits at 47 home runs, 101 RBI, and a .271 batting average.
The Reds are batting .244 as a team with 217 home runs with a team ERA of 4.20. They are on the road again for this game, and they have a 31-46 record in away games this season.
Losing their last game against the Reds brought the Cubs’ five-game win streak to an end. Despite giving up four runs, it is hard to pin the loss on Yu Darvish who struck out eight straight batters in a losing effort.
The Cubs are right in the middle of an exciting fight for the NL Central; the entire season will come down to these last two weeks. The Cardinals currently hold the lead in the division, up by two games on both the Cubs and Brewers.
While this is going on, the Cubs and Brewers are also tied for the second NL Wild Card spot. Every game for the Cubs from now on will have significant playoff implications.
Getting the start for the Cubs in this game will be veteran Jon Lester. Lester has put together a very inconsistent season this year. We have seen him be utterly dominant at times and throw away games in the first inning in others. With all the pressure on these next few weeks, the Cubs will need his best if they want to play in October.
In his last outing, Lester allowed seven runs over five innings but still earned the victory against the Pirates thanks to an impressive offensive performance from Chicago.
Lester is now 13-10 this season with a 4.59 ERA and 156 strikeouts. He has admitted that he has not been his best this season and needs to step up for his team in these big games.
The real struggle right now for the Cubs is their big-name injuries at such a crucial part of the season. One of their most prominent leaders, Anthony Rizzo, is currently in a walking boot with an ankle injury. Javier Baez, Craig Kimbrel, and Addison Russell are all also on the IL.
What To Expect
I do not entirely trust either pitcher in this game. If Lester struggles early as he has lately, it could be a very short outing for him. I would expect a high-scoring game where the Cubs end up on top.