The Cubs are back home after taking five of six from the White Sox and Cardinals, but now they’ve got a tough test that will go a long way toward determining the fate of the division. Their third four-game series in two weeks is against the first-place Reds, who just took two of three from the Dodgers in Los Angeles to leapfrog the Brewers. With a four-game gap between these two teams heading into Monday night, the Central could get very interesting.
Marcus Stroman is going to have to figure some things out in order for the Cubs to get started on the right foot because he’s been nothing short of terrible since the trip to London. It’s almost as if Trey Mancini’s defensive blunder in that Sunday game across the pond sent Stroman into a downward spiral even Trent Reznor couldn’t escape from.
The righty is 1-3 with an 8.00 ERA over his last six starts and he’s allowed 36 hits with 14 walks over 27 innings in that span. His .375 BABIP allowed is an indication that bad luck might be at play to an extent, but Stroman is giving up barrels at a 6.6% clip after limiting them to 3.7% over his first 16 starts. He doesn’t need to pitch like a Cy Young contender tonight, he just needs to look like a guy who’s worthy of a rotation spot.
Nico Hoerner leads off the run-support crew at second base, Seiya Suzuki bats second in right, Ian Happ is in left, and Cody Bellinger is in center. Dansby Swanson is the shortstop, Yan Gomes is behind the plate, Chris Morel is at second, Trey Mancini is at first, and Nick Madrigal is at third.
The Reds will counter with rookie Andrew Abbott, whose ginger-adjacent mustache makes him look both older and younger than his 24 years. The lefty is on for the 11th time this season and has a sparkling 1.90 ERA that appears due for a little correction. That .222 BABIP against probably isn’t sustainable and his 3.75 FIP says there could be almost two more earned runs out there for him every nine innings.
Abbott is a typical southpaw junkballer, boasting a 93 mph four-seam that he can throw pretty much wherever he wants. His trio of secondaries really stands out, though the curve has been more of a show-me pitch that has negative value on the season so far. His slider is a very serious weapon and he often lands it for strikes in the heart of the zone rather than trying to back-foot righties.
The changeup is an interesting pitch as well, getting plenty of tumble while staying over to the arm-side of the zone. That repertoire has allowed him to stifle left-handed batters, though it’s not like righties are really getting over on him. Abbott’s numbers are much worst on the road, albeit in a pretty small sample, so maybe the Cubs can take advantage of his lack of familiarity with Wrigley.
This doesn’t look like an easy one on paper, but we’ve seen several of those go the Cubs’ way so far. On the flip side, they’ve lost twice to Cardinals starter Steven Matz in his last two times out to give him his only victories of the season. A team that has largely stepped up when it needed to most over the last week now faces its biggest challenge yet.
We’ll find out 7:05pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score whether or not David Ross’s team is up to the task.
Here is tonight's #Cubs starting lineup at Wrigley Field!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 31, 2023