(Updated: UPDATES Cubs’ lead to 2 1/2 games over Milwaukee)
The Chicago Cubs haven’t been able to gain much separation in the tight National League Central race, but they have an opportunity to do so when they begin a three-game road series against the last-place Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday. The Cubs enter the series with a 2 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central after sweeping a three-game series from visiting Toronto over the weekend.
Chicago has a golden opportunity to pad its lead with a six-game road trip to Cincinnati and Philadelphia – both last-place teams. “It’s that time of year, sink or swim now,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo told reporters. “We’ve got to just keep going and play clean baseball. I think we are.” The Reds have played better of late, winning four of their last six and splitting a four-game series in Chicago last week. The Cubs lead the season series 8-5, and the teams have split six contests in Cincinnati.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network, WGN (Chicago), FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs RH John Lackey (10-9, 4.67 ERA) vs. Reds RH Homer Bailey (4-6, 8.44)
Lackey is 5-0 with a 3.06 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break. The 38-year-old pitched well enough to win against the Reds last week in Chicago, allowing one run and four hits over six innings, but didn’t get a decision. Lackey is 6-5 with a 3.75 ERA in 16 starts against Cincinnati.
Bailey has had a wild ride the past six weeks, allowing six or more runs and two or fewer runs in an alternating pattern over his last eight outings. The 31-year-old was tagged for six runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings at Chicago on Wednesday, so he’s due for a bounce-back performance. Bailey is 8-3 with a 4.66 ERA in 17 starts against the Cubs.
1. Rizzo was named NL Player of the Week on Monday after batting .429 with two homers and 13 RBIs last week.
2. Reds 3B Eugenio Suarez is 7-for-20 with a homer and five RBIs during a six-game hitting streak.
3. Cubs LF Kyle Schwarber is batting .267 with eight home runs, five doubles and 12 RBIs in 35 games since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa.
PREDICTION: Cubs 7, Reds 4