While first place may not be in question right now in the National League Central, there’s a sudden changing of the guard just below in the standings.
The Cincinnati Reds will try to complete their season-long 11-game homestand in style Sunday when the look to sweep the three-game series with the Chicago Cubs.
Saturday’s 3-2 win was not only Cincinnati’s third straight by one run but also served to vault them past the stumbling Cubs by a half-game and into second place behind the blazing Milwaukee Brewers, who have won 11 in a row.
“It was a great win,” said Reds manager David Bell. “We’ve got a long way to go, our focus is continuing to play well and play together and do what we’ve been doing. It’s been a real team effort, which is nice.
“It’s not one guy by any means, it’s everybody. Just like our bullpen. I think our bullpen is a great example of how we’re winning games right now. They’re all helping each other out and picking each other up and just couldn’t be happier for that group.”
For a second straight game, the Reds bullpen chipped in with four scoreless innings to allow the Reds to rally to victory.
The Reds are 6-4 so far on their homestand while the Cubs lost their eighth straight and fell to 1-8 on their season-long 10-game road swing through Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. They haven’t won since their combined no-hitter on June 24 at Dodger Stadium.
With the return already of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, the Cubs are hoping to get another reinforcement with the return of infielder Nico Hoerner on Sunday, as he has missed the last 36 games with a strained left hamstring.
“I try to focus on the things where we’re getting better,” David Ross said. “We did take more walks in the Brewers series and I think Nico (Hoerner) will help with some of that. I also see too many strikeouts. You’re giving away 12 to 13 outs a night. That’s part of our game and part of our personnel. Some of that comes with home runs and walks. You hate to give away multiple innings of outs just from the strikeouts.”
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks (10-4, 3.98) will make his team-high-tying 17th start of the 2021 season, and eighth on the road in the series finale. It will be his first this season against Cincinnati. Hendricks has allowed a major league-leading 20 homers but owns a 2.64 ERA (17 ER/58.0 IP) since May 16.
Sunday will mark his 20th career start against the Reds, his 11th in Cincinnati. He is 6-5 with a 4.39 ERA lifetime, including 2-5 with a 6.67 ERA in Cincinnati. He has allowed five runs or more in his last three starts in Cincinnati dating to Aug. 10, 2019, going 0-3 with a 12.46 ERA during that span.
The Reds counter with lefty Wade Miley (6-4, 3.09). Sunday will make his seventh start since a 10-day stint on the injured list with a left foot sprain. In six starts since coming off the 10-day IL, Miley is 2-0, 2.61. Reds batters scored at least 10 runs in five of his starts, including three of his last four starts, with the Reds going 5-0 in those starts.
This will be Miley’s second start against the Cubs this season, earning the win in Cincinnati’s 8-6 win on April 30, going five innings, allowing five hits and two runs, striking out three and walking two. In 12 career starts against the Cubs, Miley is 7-4 with a 4.44 ERA.
–Field Level Media