The Chicago Cubs don’t need much out of their season-ending three-game series beginning Friday against the visiting Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs only need to stay healthy and get their star players enough action to remain sharp for next week’s National League Division Series.
The Cubs ran out a lineup that included only two regular starters Thursday — a day after clinching the division — but still managed a 2-1 win in 11 innings to take three of four from rival St. Louis. Chicago has won 13 of its last 16 games to clinch a playoff spot for the third straight year. The Reds have lost eight of their last nine as they play out the string despite hot hitting from Scooter Gennett (11-game hitting streak) and Joey Votto (nine-game hitting streak). Cincinnati will finish last in the NL Central for the third straight season.
TV: 2:20 p.m. ET, MLB Network, FSN Ohio (Cincinnati), CSN Chicago
PITCHING MATCHUP: Reds RH Robert Stephenson (5-6, 4.86 ERA) vs. Cubs LH Jose Quintana (11-11, 4.06)
Stephenson has made a strong case for a spot in next year’s rotation by going 5-2 with a 2.87 ERA over his last seven starts. The 24-year-old recorded his fourth quality start in his last five outings last time out, allowing four runs (two earned) over six innings in a 5-0 loss to Boston. Stephenson is 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA in six appearances (two starts) against the Cubs.
Quintana has gone 7-3 with a 3.50 ERA in 13 starts since being acquired from the White Sox, and he appears poised to be a major contributor in the postseason. The 28-year-old Colombian is coming off his second career shutout – a three-hitter at Milwaukee in which he struck out 10. Quintana faced the Reds for the first time on Aug. 14 at Wrigley Field and earned the win, allowing two runs (one earned) over five innings.
1. The Cubs lead the season series 10-6 and have outscored the Reds 114-89.
2. Votto has reached base in 29 straight games, the longest active streak in the majors and tied for his longest this season.
3. Cincinnati CF Billy Hamilton needs one stolen base to become the first Reds’ player with 60 steals in a season since Eric Davis in 1986.
PREDICTION: Cubs 4, Reds 2