|FreePlays.com Home » Preview: Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati, April 21st, 2017|
CINCINNATI -- En route to their first World Series championship in 108 years, the Chicago Cubs thoroughly dominated the Cincinnati Reds.
Manager Joe Maddon's club went 15-4 last season against the Reds, including 8-2 at Great American Ball Park. The National League Central rivals will meet for the first time this season Friday night in the opener of a three-game weekend series.
The Cubs (8-7) have won 18 of the past 22 games vs. Cincinnati and six of the past seven series. Chicago hit 42 home runs against Reds pitching in 2016, the most in a single season against Cincinnati.
If the Reds (9-7) are going to continue their surprising start to 2017, they'll need to find a way to exorcise their Cubbie demons.
"We'd like to be a player in this division and, to do that, we've got to play better against every team in the division," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We can't let them run roughshod over us for 19 games."
The Cubs enter Friday's game with a streak of 12 straight games with at least one homer at Great American Ball Park, four games shy of the record for consecutive games with a homer by an opponent.
Anthony Rizzo hit six homers along the banks of the Ohio River last year. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist each hit five.
Bryant went deep 10 times against Cincinnati last year, second-most by a Reds opposing player. Eddie Mathews hit 11 against them in 1953 and Earl Torgeson had 11 in 1950.
Cincinnati's pitching staff, in particular the bullpen, is more stable this season and better positioned to handle a lineup like the Cubs.
"I think we have a better-structured bullpen," Price said. "They beat us up last year, starting and relieving. It was hard to consistently get behind and expect to get back in the game."
Right-hander Tim Adleman will make his first start and second appearance of the season Friday night. He has faced the Cubs twice in his career, going 1-0 with a 3.97 ERA. Adleman was recalled from Triple-A Louisville on Sunday when left-hander Brandon Finnegan went on the disabled list with a shoulder strain.
Cincinnati has owned at least a share of first place in the NL Central for 16 straight days.
"The thing that shouldn't be overlooked is that we're getting good pitching, and we're going to need that compete in our division," Price said.
With an off-day Thursday, the Cubs switched Jon Lester's and Jake Arrieta's spots in the rotation. Lester will start Friday and Arrieta on Saturday.
Lester is coming off seven scoreless innings on Sunday against the Pirates, but it was another hard-luck effort. He ranks among the league ERA leaders with two earned runs in 18 innings over three outings, but he remains winless.
Lester is 3-1 with a 3.32 ERA in nine career starts against Cincinnati.
The Cubs are coming off an eventful homestand at Wrigley Field where they raised banners and distributed championship rings from the 2016 World Series title. The series was capped off by Addison Russell's walk-off, three-run homer Wednesday.
But, it's back to business now as Maddon told MLB.com: "It's been an emotional week. I like where we're at and what we're doing."