Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cubs-Reds Series Preview

If you were looking for the definition of meaningless September baseball, here it is. The Cubs and Reds face off in a three game series at Wrigley, which will look more like three AAA games based on the expected lineups of the Reds. Of course we know this series is just a MLB mandated Cubs record inflator. The pitching matchups look bad for the Cubs, but perhaps some home cooking will continue the Cubs Pirates-induced hot streak.

Friday- Rich Harden (9-8 4.10) vs. Justin Lehr (4-1 4.43)
Harden will look to get this tenth win of the season against a lineup that he has dominated most of the season. In his career Harden is 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA against the Reds, but he lost his last time out 4-0 a game that included a homer by Scott Rolen and control issues for Harden. If Harden gets his command early it will be a long night for the Reds, if not Rich better hope for some BABIP luck.
Lehr had the definitive "Cubs have never seen this strike thrower before" start earlier this season in the previously mentioned 4-0 Reds win. Lehr dominated the Cubs by throwing crap over the plate and getting the aggressive Cubs hitters to swing. It will be Milton Bradley's job to make sure he takes some pitches and show the rest of the Cubs exactly how to deal with a bad pitcher like Lehr.

Saturday- Randy Wells (10-8 2.84) vs. Johnny Cueto (9-10 4.39)
Wells looks to make another strong case for rookie of the year by shutting down another NL Central team. The Reds did benefit from Wells worst pitch of the season which resulted in Aaron Harang hitting a three-run homer. No other Red has an extra base hit off Wells. His 2-0 2.70 ERA against the Reds this season makes the Cubs the favorites in this game.
Cueto was having a brilliant first half of the season and then went through a "Dusty arm" period where he got lit up every time out. It seems like he has most of his issues under control now, his last two starts off the DL (Dusty list) have been pretty solid. Cueto's problem is controlling his pitches and not walking too many people, which usually is a good sign for the Cubs offense. Still Cueto is a solid pitcher and this will most likely be a really good pitching matchup.

Sunday- Ted Lilly (11-8 3.17) vs. Homer Bailey (5-4 5.60)
What can we say about Ted? Ted will try to get his 12th win of the season and continue his march towards a sub-3 ERA. The Reds have beaten up on Ted in the past, but his last effort against them was solid. The key for Ted is to keep his stellar control going so that when his standard homer to Joey Votto occurs it won't result in more than one run. Ted at Wrigley Field=Money in the bank, the question is the offense.
Homer Bailey is a failed prospect that has been going his best the past month to earn a 2010 rotation spot and perhaps live up to his potential in the end. After having just a horrific start to the season Bailey has gone 3-0 with a 1.67 in his past four starts. His last start he had a Dusty-dream like 117 pitches in just 5 2/3 innings (really Dusty I think he had 100 more in him) which means even if he is pitching well the Cubs can get him out early. Bailey's main issue is control, which means that if the Cubs are smart they can take lots of walks and hit drive some guys in.

Hitters to watch
Joey Votto- .296/.391/.522/.914 21 HR 68 RBI 135 OPS+
Every Cubs fan knows about Votto, heck the Cubs are responsible for 28% of his career homers. Much like Adam Dunn and Carlos Lee before him Votto will get at least one homer in this series. Odds are he ends up with two or three. He has had lots of problems with anxiety this season, which has caused him to miss some games and his chance at a major breakout season.

Brandon Phillips- .271/.326/.452/.778 19 HR 85 RBI 23 SB 100 OPS+
Phillips is probably the Reds best player, and certainly one of Dusty's favorites. Brandon seems to hate walks and has been known to take plays off (Dusty is in love). He is a threat every time he bats thought because he has great power and speed. Given a proper manager and batting coach Phillips would be a 30-30 guy every season.

Scott Rolen- .278/.360/.380/.739 2 HR 10 RBI 93 OPS+
Don't let Rolen's numbers fool you he is a solid hitter who loves to hit against the Cubs. He homered against Rich Harden earlier this season and should be expected to do the game Friday night. The good news is the Cubs usually bring out the worst in Rolen's glove which will hopefully make up for any damage his bat does.

The Cubs are at home which means Aramis turns back into Babe Ruth. The Cubs are playing the Reds which means major league baseball has mandated wins (got to keep the Cubs winning right). Two of the Reds pitchers can get wild on the mound, and the other is due for a good butt kicking from Milton Bradley's bat. I'll say Cubs take two of three despite losing on Friday afternoon on another Justin Lehr gem.

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