#955 Chicago Cubsvs.#956 Cincinnati Reds
Written by Matt Severance
When/Where: Saturday, 4:05 p.m. ET, AT&T Park, San Francisco
Moneylines: Cubs -200, Reds +185; total: 8.5
I’d like to tell you that Saturday’s matchup in Cincinnati between the Cubs and Reds means something in the grand scheme of things. It absolutely doesn’t. A few Cubs players have some individual goals they would like to hit for the season but otherwise Chicago is just waiting for the NLDS to start. The Reds simply stink.
Cubs fans got great news on Wednesday when it was announced the team signed president of baseball operations Theo Epstein to a five-year contract extension. He reportedly will be making at least $10 million a season to become the highest-paid executive in MLB history and it’s well deserved. Since joining the Cubs in 2011, Epstein has steadily built the club into a World Series favorite. GM Jed Hoyer and vice president Jason McLeod are also being awarded extensions. This could be a huge start for Cubs lefty ace Jon Lester as a dominant performance could sew up his first Cy Young Award. It’s probably either going to be him or Washington’s Max Scherzer, with Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, the MLB ERA leader, likely to finish third.
Lester (19-4, 2.28) is tied with Scherzer for the most wins in the National League and while Scherzer is scheduled to start Sunday, I’m not sure the Nationals will let him since they have nothing to play for then as they already are in the NLDS. Lester, who has never won 20 games in a season, is second in the NL in ERA, third in WHIP (1.00), sixth in innings (197.2) and sixth in strikeouts (191). He comes off throwing 6.2 shutout innings against the Cardinals, allowing only three hits and striking out seven. He’s 10-0 with a 1.34 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break. Against the Reds, the lefty is 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA in four starts. Lester’s next start will be Game 1 of the NLDS against either the Mets, Giants or Cardinals.
Cincinnati already had shut down outfielder Billy Hamilton and shortstop Zack Cosart for the season and it doesn’t appear that outfielder Scott Schebler will play in the final few games. He’s dealing with left hamstring tightness. In 252 at-bats, the 25-year-old is hitting .266 with nine homers and 39 RBIs. A few Reds have had really nice seasons, led by first baseman Joey Votto, who could be traded this offseason despite $199 million left on his contract, and outfielder Adam Duvall.
The Reds go with right-hander Tim Adleman (3-4, 3.90) here. The 28-year-old rookie has made 12 starts this year and comes off a good one, winning at the Cardinals on Monday and allowing two runs and four hits over seven innings with no walks. Adleman pitched at the Cubs on Sept. 19 and had a quality start, giving up two runs and five hits over 6.1 innings with five strikeouts and no walks in a no-decision. Willson Contreras is 1-for-2 off him with a solo homer. Addison Russell also has a solo dinger.
I actually think Cubs manager Joe Maddon will play all his regulars because after Sunday, the Cubs don’t play again until next Friday. And you can’t bet against Lester right now as he has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball the past few months. The Cubs are 9-0 in his past nine vs. teams with a losing record.
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Matt has been a sports journalist for nearly two decades. He is a former sports editor/writer at two newspapers and a magazine. Went full-time freelance sports writer in 2008 -- not by choice then but became a life-changing decision in the best possible way. Consider myself expert on all major US sports. If you are looking for Curling or Badminton expertise, etc., I'm not your guy.