The Cubs have not fared well against the Reds to this point, so this series looms large in the division race. Kyle Schwarber can help turn the tide as he leads off the opener in right, followed by Javy Báez at short, Kris Bryant in right, and Anthony Rizzo cleaning up at first.
Victor Caratini is starting behind the plate for the third time in four games as Willson Contreras nurses a sore foot, Jason Heyward is in center, Addison Russell is at second, and David Bote is at third. Not bad, all things considered.
Reds starter Luis Castillo completely dominated the Cubs in two previous starts with a big fastball and excellent offspeed work, limiting them to three total runs on five hits. He got a little wild in that last one, walking three batters, but he closed the first half with a gem against Milwaukee. If Castillo is on his game, he’s one of the best pitchers in the league.
The 26-year-old righty’s four-seam/sinker combo sits about 95 and can touch a few ticks higher, then he wipes hitters out with a decent slider and an absolutely filthy changeup. The real bugaboo for him has been command, as his 4.50 BB/9 has gotten him into trouble even when he’s not allowing many hits.
Castillo fires from a low arm slot, making it hard for hitters — particularly righties — to pick the ball up out of his hand. For the Cubs to get over on Castillo, they’re going to need to be patient and sit back on that change. It makes up a third of his pitches and he’s sometimes thrown it as much as 43% of the time, so maybe it’s just about guessing correctly. Righties will see a lot of fastballs early in the count, but he’ll use all four of his pitches with nearly equal frequency after that.
Though Castillo has struck out 42 batters over his last six starts (10.4 K/9), he has walked 21 (5.2 BB/9) in a display of serious control issues. If that continues, the Cubs can clog the bases and tire the righty out early.
Kyle Hendricks has not been able to stretch out much since coming back from the IL, but the All-Star break should have given him the chance to recharge fully. He’ll need to be on his game given his counterpart, but Hendricks has done pretty well against the Reds in two starts of his own. He’s allowed four earned with 16 strikeouts and just two walks so far and can add to that trend if he displays his typical control.
First pitch is set for 7:05pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago and 670 The Score.
Here is tonight's #Cubs starting lineup.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 15, 2019