A nice start to their trip to Cincinnati on Thursday night gave way to a terrible effort the next two days. The Cubs followed their 12-5 win with a 5-2 loss the next day. They were just getting started, as the Reds poured it on with 9 runs in just 4 innings.
Fortunately, Alec Mills was able to pitch 4 innings for the Cubs and they didn’t have to dig too deep into their pen. Nearly every bullpen in Major League Baseball this season has looked like a dumpster fire, so it isn’t easy to find decent arms to put out there in the back of a pen.
I feel bad for starters who work their tail off for 7 innings only to have a reliever give the game away in seconds. With that in mind, the postseason is likely going to be a bit wild. Even good teams are making closing out games interesting.
The Astros are not going to be able to add every starter to their postseason rotation, so they’re going to be stacked regardless and a reason why so many people are high on them. They can use a solid regular season to spot pitch out of the bullpen for an inning or two. That’s a luxury many teams aren’t going to have, or at least, to that extent.
Tyler Chatwood could act as an x-factor for the Cubs in the postseason. He has experience as a starting pitcher and reliever. If they need a reliever to go long in a game, he has the ability to do that. The Cubs’ bullpen hasn’t been terrific this season, so they’re going to have to get creative.
It didn’t matter who was on the bump when rookie Aristides Aquino was at the plate, because he had himself a career evening. Aquino went deep three times, as he joins a long list of young guys to be excited about in Major League Baseball.
Steve Cisek is dealing with a hip injury and Pedro Strop is still on the IL. Strop was largely put on the IL because of how awful he was pitching. Maybe there is a bit of truth to his injury, but the Cubs mainly wanted to provide him with time to clear his head.
He returns to form and that’s a huge boost for the Cubs. However, he’s been off all season and the Cubs can’t bank on that happening. They have to make the postseason first, but despite getting pummeled yesterday, the Cubs are still atop the NL Central. Head below for our free Cubs vs. Reds pick.
Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds Pick:
Betting odds provided by bovada.lv
Jon Lester goes into Sunday looking to turn his season around in Cincinnati. He might be listed as the top guy and ace of the club on paper, but he is not pitching anything like an ace. Lester came out and said he’s the weak link of this rotation. That’s not what you want to hear from your highest paid pitcher. It also kind of indicates that his confidence is in the toilet at the moment.
Lester has allowed a total of 16 runs in his last 9 innings on the mound. His most recent outing against the Athletics was a career-low for him, as the Athletics scored 11 runs in 4 innings against Lester. In his previous three outings, he’s posted an ERA of 7.88 with a 1.81 WHIP and .387 OBA. Lester is going to have to deal with a lineup that is hot.
Their bats were on fire last night, as the Cubs had to empty out their bullpen to deal with the onslaught. Their bullpen is in shambles right now with Cisek and Strop down, so they have to figure this out.
To make matters worse for Lester, he hasn’t been at his best against the Reds in the past. This current group of Reds are hitting .306 with 25 runs scored in 160 at-bats. He is going to have to be good with Castillo on the mound. But there are some hitters who likely give him some runs to work with on Sunday.
Kyle Schwarber has mauled Castillo for a .357 average and 3 home runs in 14 at-bats. Ian Happ and Willson Contreras are also hitting better than .500 against Castillo. After an embarrassing showing on Saturday, I like the Cubs to have some pride against Castillo.
Lester is the wildcard here, though, and with the Reds’ bats red-hot they likely get to him. Then they would get to turn their attention to a Cubs’ bullpen who are short-handed right now. With Mills pitching 4 innings last night, he may not be available on Sunday to put the bullpen under even more pressure. The OVER looks like the play in this spot.