Cincinnati Reds: Yasiel Puig looks inject some swagger into Cubs rivalry

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 19: Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs confronts pitcher Amir Garrett #50 of the Cincinnati Reds at the end of the seventh inning at Great American Ball Park on May 19, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Benches cleared after Javier Baez #9 of the Chicago Cubs struck out to end the inning and got into a shouting match with Garrett. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 19: Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs confronts pitcher Amir Garrett #50 of the Cincinnati Reds at the end of the seventh inning at Great American Ball Park on May 19, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Benches cleared after Javier Baez #9 of the Chicago Cubs struck out to end the inning and got into a shouting match with Garrett. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Reds
CINCINNATI, OH – APRIL 23: Yasiel Puig #66 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates with Jose Iglesias #4 after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Great American Ball Park on April 23, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Following their first series victory since April, Yasiel Puig and the Cincinnati Reds return home with a little momentum on their side to battle the NL Division-leading Chicago Cubs.

Yasiel Puig proved early on in his Cincinnati Reds‘ career that he’s willing to go to battle for his teammates. Puig practically took on the entire Pittsburgh Pirates’ team by himself. With the Chicago Cubs coming to town, will Yasiel Puig and the Reds be able to maintain some of the hot hitting they found during their West Coast road trip?

This week will be an evaluation period for the Cincinnati Reds. Many of us who follow the Reds on a daily basis believe the team is much better than their 18-23 record indicates. Just how good the Reds may be will come into focus after a 6-game home stand with a pair of first place teams in the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Amazingly, this will be the Reds’ first weekend home stand since the opening week of the season.  Following an afternoon tilt against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 11th, the Reds have played 10 contests at Great American Ballpark, while playing 26 games away from Cincinnati. Since that April 11th date the Reds have played more games in California than Ohio.

This is the week for the Reds to get right and the Chicago Cubs present the perfect opportunity.  Currently trailing the North Siders by 7.5 games in the NL Central, Cincinnati can ill afford to fall any further behind. The Reds’ NL-leading pitching staff will be tested heavily by a Cubs squad that is ripping the ball.

The Cubs (24-14) have been rolling over the past week and a half, winning 8 of their past 10 contests. In the process they have opened a two-game lead over their nearest competitor the Milwaukee Brewers. Looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why the Cubs sit atop the division.

Entering play on Tuesday, the Cubbies ranks 2nd overall in team ERA at 3.44 trailing only a Reds’ staff who are the owners of a 3.36 mark. What separates the two teams is the ability to generate base runners and power. The Cubs are first in the senior circuit in OBP (.349), second in OPS (.799) and third in slugging (.450).