Cubs @ Reds: Series Thread (Games 134-137)
The Cubs closed out August by squeezing two wins from a three-game set against the Brewers at Wrigley. The barely present offense couldn't overcome a poor inning from Taillon to open the series. But Steele, Hendricks and the bullpen gutted out a pair of one-run wins to bring the Cubs to three back in the Central and to retain the second Wild Card spot.
The Cubs will begin September with a four-game series, including a Friday doubleheader, against the Reds in Cincinnati. The Cubs have an opportunity here to put the Reds even further back in the division and Wild Card races. Over the last ten games, the Reds have gone 5-5, falling further behind both the Brewers and the Cubs in that span. The Reds offense has been quite limited in those ten games. Nick Martini and Matt McClain have done most of the heavy lifting. The Cubs offense has been negligibly better, putting plenty of pressure on their pitching staff and defense.
Continue below for daily matchups as the Cubs enter the final-ish month of the 2023 regular season.
[Edit: The Cubs are getting RHP Shane Greene and OF Alexander Canario for this series as well.]
Game 134, Friday, September 1, 12:10 pm central
CHC: LHP Jordan Wicks (1-0, 1.80 ERA)
CIN: RHP Graham Ashcraft (7-8, 4.73 ERA)
Wicks made his debut on the 26th, allowing a leadoff homerun and a walk before shutting down the Pirates offense for the remainder of his 5.0 innings. He struck out nine and dazzled with his changeup. He should have the remaining month to help the Cubs make the playoffs and to make the case for keeping himself in the mix for October.
Ashcraft debuted for the Reds in 2022 and has picked up basically where he left off, pitching like a valuable back to mid rotation starter. A mid-90s fastball with cutting action is his primary weapon, and righties have fared better than lefties off him across his MLB career.
Game 135, Friday, September 1, 5:40 pm central
CHC: TBD [Edit: RHP Shane Greene selected from AAA Iowa]
Game 136 Saturday, September 2, 5:40 pm central
CHC: RHP Javier Assad (3-2, 2.96 ERA)
CIN: LHP Andrew Abbot (8-4, 3.35 ERA)
Assad gets the assignment against the Reds best pitcher. He's been somewhat of a surprise success himself, getting good results and filling an important depth role for the Cubs despite a weak strikeout to walk ratio. His last start was the best of his career thus far, earning him a win on seven innings of one-run ball. He struck out seven along the way.
The lefty, Abbott, was a 2nd round pick only two years ago. He made his MLB debut on June 5 and has been the best Reds starter since then. He's been devastating against lefties in particular, against whom his strikeout to walk ratio is better than seven to one.
Game 137, Sunday, September 3, 11:10 am central
CHC: RHP Jameson Taillon (7-9, 5.62 ERA)
CIN: LHP Brandon Williamson (4-4, 4.20 ERA)
Taillon got off to a rough start in his last outing and gave up a pair of homeruns, five total runs, and two earned runs on his way to a loss at the hands of the Brewers. He pulled things together after the first. He'll need to lock in his command more consistently to help the Cubs down the stretch--any one bad inning has an outsized importance from here out.
Williamson was a second round pick back in 2019 and made his MLB debut on May 16. He's held his spot in the rotation since then, relying heavily on a plus cutter. Lefties have slugged only .286 off of him.