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 25: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the second inning against the Atlanta Braves at Great American Ball Park on April 25, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

Previewing the pitching matchups

Tuesday’s series opener has the Cincinnati Reds’ Tanner Roark (3-1 3.27) opposing the Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks (2-4 3.19 ERA). Roark has been just what the Reds imagined he would be after being acquired from the Washington Nationals in December.

The right-hander has been especially impressive in his last 2 starts. Over 12.2 innings, Roark has held opponents to 2 runs on only 7 base hits. A native of Wilmington, Illinois, the 32-year-old has enjoyed success against the Cubs, compiling a lifetime 5-2 record in 7 career starts.

One thing Cubs right0hander Kyle Hendricks does not do is throw hard. But, one thing Hendricks does very well is get people out. Entering his 6th year in Chicago, Hendricks has compiled a stingy career-ERA of 3.07 including a NL best of 2.13 in 2016.

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Even though the 29-year-old Dartmouth alum has only 34 strikeouts in 42.1 innings, Hendricks has walked only 8 batters and he keeps the ball in the ballpark. Allowing only 0.6 home runs per 9 innings Hendricks does not beat himself. Like his counterpart, Hendricks is 5-2 against the opposition in 13 career starts versus the Reds. Let’s see if Hendricks can keep the ball in the yard at GABP.

Sonny Gray (0-4 4.15 ERA) looks to bounce back following a couple of underwhelming performances. His inability to throw strikes has led to less than stellar outings for the right-hander. Over his last 9.1 innings of work, Gray has issued 8 free passes, while only striking out 5 hitters. That’s ugly.

Yu Darvish (2-3 5.40 ERA) will toe the rubber for the visitors. There’s no other way to say it other than Darvish has been awful this season. Walking a staggering 33 batters in only 36.2 innings, the right-hander has kept the base paths extremely busy. In addition, Darvish has given up 8 round trippers. It’s hard to imagine Great American Ball Park being to his liking. The Reds must take advantage when Darvish is on the hill.

La Piedra Day is Thursday for Reds fans. Ace pitcher Luis Castillo (4-1 1.76 ERA) looks to put the Cubbies bats into hibernation. The 26-year-old right hander is 3rd in the NL in strikeouts (70) and 4th in both ERA and WHIP (0.99).

A word of advise to Cubs’ hitters; don’t fall behind in the count. When Castillo gets ahead in the count with strike one, batters are slashing an anemic .129/.187/.153. If you’re going to take La Piedra deep, you have one opportunity. All 3 homers he’s allowed this season have come on the first pitch of an at-bat.

Southpaw Jose Quintana (4-2 3.50 ERA) takes the mound for Chicago in the series finale. The 30-year-old Columbia native has been solid to start the season. Fanning 46 hitters in 46.1 innings his current 8.9 K/9 rate is much higher than his 7.9 career average rate.

However, the road has been unkind to the left-hander. In 4 starts away from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, Quintana has compiled a 5.03 ERA and surrendered 5 home runs in only 19.1 innings. If you’re a Reds fan, you have to feel confident about the Castillo and Quintana matchup.