After a slow start to the season, the Cubs have won 20 of their last 25 games to enter with a 2.5-game advantage over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central race. Meanwhile, the Reds are trying to dig themselves out of a considerable hole in mid-May. Cincinnati is the only team in the division with an overall record under .500 at 18-24 and they currently sit 8.5-games back of the Cubs with 120 games remaining on the regular season schedule. Can Chicago keep its momentum going with a series victory over the Reds on Thursday night?
Quintana racking up quality starts for Cubs
Chicago is scheduled to hand the ball to left-hander Jose Quintana at Great American Ballpark as he seeks to extend his current run of quality starts. To say that the 30-year-old is pitching well right now would be an understatement. Quintana has pitched into the sixth inning or later and surrendered three earned runs or less in six consecutive outings heading into Thursday’s start, which will be his eighth of the year. He is fresh off of allowing three runs on four hits in 6 ⅔ frames in his last outing versus the Milwaukee Brewers but took a tough-luck loss in a 7-0 Cubs’ defeat.
Over the past three seasons, Quintana has compiled a 3-2 record and a 3.69 ERA in six starts against Cincinnati, including a 1-1 record and a 3.00 ERA at Great American Ballpark — both of which came last season.
According to Baseball Savant, the current Reds’ roster is batting .282 in 123 plate appearances off of the Cubs’ left-hander. StatCast projects Reds hitters for an expected batting average of .254 and an expected slugging percentage of.357 off of Quintana heading into Thursday’s game.
There was a recent report indicating that the Cubs internally envision Russell at SS and having Baez moving around between 2B/SS/3B. Both Maddon and Epstein said today there is no truth to that report. The plan going forward is sticking with Baez as the everyday SS.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 14, 2019
Reports surfaced recently that suggested members within the Cubs’ organization privately wanted Russell to push Javy Baez back to second base and take over the starting shortstop position eventually. However, manager Joe Maddon and GM Theo Epstein shot down the report by ESPN’s Karl Ravech, sticking by Baez as the team’s starting shortstop until further notice.
Castillo budding into ace for Reds
Right-hander Luis Castillo is expected to toe the rubber for the Reds as they get set for the third and final game of their NL Central battle with the Cubs. Castillo owns one of the best changeups in baseball and he wasn’t afraid to rely on it heavily in his previous outing. Castillo was in top form in his last start against the San Francisco Giants, giving up just two hits and striking out 11 batters in six shutout innings to win his fourth consecutive decision. Castillo threw 103 pitches in that game, using his changeup 40 times and inducing 15 swings-and-misses and nine punchouts with it. The 26-year-old comes in with a 4-1 overall record to go along with a 1.76 ERA so far this season and he’s held opposing hitters to a paltry .168 batting average, while striking out 70 batters in 56 ⅓ innings of work (11.18 K/9). Perhaps the most surprising thing about Castillo has been his ability to keep the ball in the park, as he’s cut his home run per fly ball rate nearly in half — down to 9.7 percent from 17.9 percent in 2018.
The Reds’ right-hander has seen the Cubs plenty of times in his first two Big League seasons. He owns a 2-1 record and a lifetime 3.86 ERA in six career starts versus the Cubs. According to Baseball Savant, the Cubs’ roster is batting .242 in 107 plate appearances off of Castillo. StatCast projets Chicago hitters for an expected batting average of .230 and an expected slugging percentage of .428 off of Castillo for Thursday’s matchup.
- Cubs are 7-1 in their last 8 vs. National League Central.
- Cubs are 5-1 in their last 6 games vs. a starter with a WHIP less than 1.15.
- Cubs are 22-6 in their last 28 overall.
- Reds are 14-37 in their last 51 vs. National League Central.
- Reds are 2-7 in their last 9 games after losing the first 2 games of a series.
- Reds are 1-4 in their last 5 games vs. a left-handed starter.