Chicago Cubs Preview: An early look at potential first round opponents

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

If the Cubs are hot right now, and so are the Cincinnati Reds, who could end up being a first-round opponent.

At the moment, the second-best NL-record is the Cubs to lose. They are currently one game ahead of the Braves who have played the same amount of games up to this point. If the two teams were to swap spots between now and the end of the season, the Cubs would take on the current #6 seed: Cincinnati Reds.

As winners of five straight games, the Reds are currently one of the hottest teams in the league heading into their weekend series against the White Sox. They have surpassed Milwaukee and St. Louis for the second spot in the division, which they can use to determine their fate.

The Cubs-Reds matchups this season have been relatively even, with the North Siders holding a 6-4 advantage in the 10 games.

Aside from the Pirates, who everyone beats up–amongst division opponents, the Cubs have put up their best offensive numbers against the Reds: .220 BA .776 OPS 19 HR.

The pitching has been a bit of a different story, as the Reds have given the Cubs the most trouble in the division this season: 4.63 ERA 1.375 WHIP 15 HR.

Starting pitchers for the Cubs in the three games this series will likely be CY-Young candidate Yu Darvish, followed by Kyle Hendricks, and Jon Lester.

Here’s a look at their statistics against the Reds in 2020:

Yu Darvish (1-1) 2.25 ERA 12 IP 9 H 17 SO 5 BB

Kyle Hendricks (0-2) 9.58 ERA 10.1 IP 11 H 9 SO 2 BB

Jon Lester (1-0) 0.00 ERA 5 IP 0 H 1 SO 1 BB

The first thing that probably jumps out on that list is the numbers of Kyle Hendricks. He has been solid once again this season (5-4 3.29 ERA), yet for whatever reason, he has struggled at Great American Ballpark. Thankfully, it is looking like the Cubs would be playing these games at Wrigley, so that should not be an issue.

A lot of people picked Cincinnati to win the division this season. They couldn’t find their consistency for the longest time, but now that it is finally coming together, many teams would rather avoid the Reds who are loaded with some of the league’s best hitters (on paper) and dependable pitching staff.

Here’s a look at who the Reds will likely use on the mound in the first round and their statistics against the Cubs in 2020:

Trevor Bauer (1-1) 2.08 ERA 13 IP 7 H 15 SO 2 BB

Sonny Gray (1-1) 4.50 ERA 10 IP 7 H 15 SO 4 BB

Luis Castillo (0-1) 7.20 ERA 5 IP 5 H 7 SO 1 BB

Again we are not far away from October, but in terms of baseball, we still have a ways to go to determine if this matchup will even happen.

The Reds are only 1/2 game ahead of the Cardinals and one game up on the Brewers in the division. Both of these teams could quickly leap into the top NL Wild Card, where they would await the division winner with the second-best overall record. Against both St. Louis and Milwaukee, the Cubs have split each season series 5-5.

Now I have heard talks from friends, analysts, and others about how the Cubs should not want to face a division opponent in the playoffs because they have seen each other so many times already. I say, bring them on.

They should be more worried about facing the Cubs again, not the other way around. It’s the Cubs who are leading the division and will likely play with the home-field advantage.

Why should the Cubs, who are playing some great baseball at the moment, be scared of their opponent who is barely sneaking into the playoffs?