Reds vs Cubs: Preview, pitching matchups and prediction

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 29: Eugenio Suarez #42 of the Cincinnati Reds argues with Anthony Rizzo #42 of the Chicago Cubs causing both benches to clear during the fourth inning.(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 29: Eugenio Suarez #42 of the Cincinnati Reds argues with Anthony Rizzo #42 of the Chicago Cubs causing both benches to clear during the fourth inning.(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /
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Jason Heyward #42 of the Chicago Cubs is congratulated by David Bote #42 after hitting a home run during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
CINCINNATI, OH – AUGUST 30: Jason Heyward #42 of the Chicago Cubs is congratulated by David Bote #42 after hitting a home run during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

Cubs seems destined to return to the playoffs

Despite dropping three of their last four, the Chicago Cubs (24-18) lead the NL Central by 2.5 games and are comfortably in the expanded 2020 playoff picture. After failing to qualify for the postseason last year for the first time since 2014, a return to the postseason is all but assured for the Cubbies.

Pitching has led the way for the North Siders return to the top of the division standings. Cubs starting pitchers have notched a league-high 19 victories and their 219.2 innings pitched is second in the senior circuit. Rookie manager David Ross has gotten the most out of his rotation this season.

Cubs starters average 5.2 innings per outing this year which is third in the National League despite throwing just a league-average 83 pitchers per start. That’s being efficient. However, Ross has maintained a strict 100 pitch limit for his rotation. Six times, Cubbie starters have reached the century mark, yet no one has thrown more than 104 pitches in a contest.

Even though Cubs’ hitters are sporting a soft .230 average, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a weak offense. The Cubs lead the NL in free passes so far, drawing a 169 of them on the season heading into play Monday. Ian Happ, Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward all rank within the top 20 in the NL in earning bases on balls.

The unimpressive 13 stolen bases on the season are deceptive because once the Cubbies reach base they are very aggressive on the base paths. Chicago is tied for the league lead with a 53% extra bases taken rate, and they love to go from first to third.

Thirty-two times this year the Chicago Cubs have taken the extra base on single which ties them for the top spot in the NL. Reds outfielders will need to be aggressive in getting the ball back into the infield on any base hits with runners on the base.