It’s very early in the season to call any game a “must-win”, but tonight’s game against Yu Darvish and the Chicago Cubs is just that for the Cincinnati Reds.
Last night’s 3-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs was unfortunate. The Cincinnati Reds‘ pitchers played good enough for the team to win, but the bats were silenced by the magnificent performance by Cubs’ right-hander Kyle Hendricks. The Reds’ offense cannot go quietly into the night when Yu Darvish takes the mound. Tonight is a “must win”.
Yes, mid-May is a bit early to call any series or any game a “must win”, but the Cubs lead the NL Central by 2.5 games and have an 8.5 game lead over the last place Reds. If the Reds don’t grab at least one game during this three-game series, they’ll be faced with a severe uphill climb.
Thankfully, Yu Darvish takes the mound tonight for the Chicago Cubs. If there was ever an opportunity for the Cincinnati Reds to get a win, it’s tonight. Yu Darvish is 2-3 on the season with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.718 WHIP in 8 starts.
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While no one on the Cincinnati Reds has had much success against Darvish in the past, the right-hander from Habikno, Japan is susceptible to surrendering big numbers, especially in Great American Ball Park.
Darvish signed a 6-year/$123 million deal before the start of last season. Injuries plagued the 7-year veteran in 2018 and he played in just 8 games last season, including a 6-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds last May. Darvish went 6 innings, allowed just 2 hits and 1 run while striking out 7.
Walks have haunted Yu Darvish this season. He’s allowed 33 free passes and struck out only 44. Those numbers do not translate well and the Reds hitters need to be patient at the plate. I’m looking for a big game from both Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker.
The lefty vs righty matchups have not been overwhelmingly lopsided for Darvish this season, so expect David Bell to stick with a similar lineup to what he put on the field last night. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Curt Casali behind the plate in place of Tucker Barnhart.
Neither Casali or Barnhart have had any success against Darvish, both catchers are 0-for-2 in their career against him. However, Barnhart has started 9 of the Reds’ 12 games so far this month, and with Barnhart’s slash line of .500/.571/.500 against tomorrow’s starter Jose Quintana, it’s a virtual lock that Tucker will be in the lineup Thursday night.
If Darvish’s last two games are any indication of how he’ll perform tonight, the Reds may be set up nicely. Darvish has gone just 8 innings total in his last 2 starts. He has 11 walks and 11 strikeouts while sporting a 6.75 ERA.
The Cincinnati Reds’ lineup is stacked with players that should be able to tee-off on Yu Darvish tonight. Hopefully Sonny Gray returns to form and Great American Ball Park doesn’t become a hitter’s paradise tonight.
I’m looking for Eugenio Suárez to have a big game for the Reds, and hopefully Joey Votto is able to crank out another long ball tonight. Cincinnati cannot drop this series to the Chicago Cubs, especially in a sweep. If the Reds grab tonight’s game, having Luis Castillo on the mound tomorrow could help push the Reds to a series win.