Series Preview: Cubs at Reds battle to finish the month of April


Apr 18, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) pitches against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs (8-16) will finish the month of April in Cincinnati with a now rain-induced two-game set against the Reds (11-14). Rain washed out Monday’s game, so if the Cubs want to get a series win in the season’s first month they will be forced to sweep the two games tonight and tomorrow.

Tonight, it will be Jeff Samardzija (0-2, 1.53 ERA) facing off with Alfredo Simon (3-1, 1.30 ERA) in the series opener – both starters were scheduled to pitch last night before the game was postponed. There has never been a better definition of a “hard-luck loser” as a starting pitcher in baseball history than Samardzija – literally. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first pitcher since the early 1900’s to throw at least seven innings and give up two earned runs or less in each of his first five starts without getting a win. We all remember his last start – on the 100th birthday of Wrigley Field when the Cubs’ bullpen squandered a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning.

Simon has been great in place of Reds starter Mat Latos in the rotation after Latos had off-season surgery on his shoulder – then surgery on his knee in February. Latos is able to throw a bit, but his return to the rotation isn’t scheduled until mid-May.

Tomorrow night the Cubs will send Edwin Jackson (1-2, 5.02 ERA) to the mound while the Reds will go with Tony Cingrani (2-2, 2.86 ERA) in the series finale.

If the Cubs do not win one of the two games it will mark the first time since 1997 that they have not won at least one series in the first month of the season. The 1997 team started the season 0-14.

Who’s hot: Starlin Castro hit two homers in the Cubs last game, a 4-0 win in Milwaukee. He is hitting .292 on the year and had a hit in each of the three games in Milwaukee over the weekend. As mentioned, Samardzija has been the best starter in baseball without a win.

Who’s not: Besides the Cubs and their ice-cold start, the Reds are not exactly knocking the cover off the ball. They are coming off a weekend sweep at the hands of the Braves, getting only five hits in a 10-inning, 1-0 loss on Sunday.

Noteworthy: Cubs starter Jake Arrieta appears ready to make his first start of the year this weekend when the Cubs host the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Carlos Villanueva (1-4, 10.42) will be moved to the bullpen.

Both games will be televised by ComCast SportsNet and broadcasted on WGN Radio 720 AM with a 6:10 pm CST first pitch.