Chicago Cubs: Head-to-head with Reds could dictate team’s direction

(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

Losers of six straight contests, the Chicago Cubs are limping into the month of July, opening things up in Cincinnati with a weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds.

The Reds are 5-5 in their last 10 and carry a -8 run differential on the season. In June, the club turned in its first winning month, going 15-12. Unlike the Cubs, who have brutal home-road splits, Cincinnati is .500 both at Great American Ballpark and on the road. All that has culminated in just 1 1/2 games separating the two teams heading into Friday’s series opener.

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Since these two clubs went head-to-head in May, the Reds have ridden a pair of All-Star outfielders and the return of Joey Votto to a 17-11 mark. They’re very much in a state of limbo similar to Chicago, stuck somewhere between buyers and sellers with less than a month until the trade deadline.

With another Brewers win and the Cubs having a day off on Thursday, Chicago is now 6 1/2 games out in the NL Central. Milwaukee has run off nine consecutive victories, putting themselves in the driver’s seat in the division. Now, it’s on teams like Chicago and Cincinnati to try and run down Craig Counsell’s club – something that could prove difficult.

For the Cubs’ part, they stand almost no chance of pulling that off under their own power. The roster is in tatters right now due to injuries and the offense just turned in one of its worst single-month performances on record.

Chicago Cubs: Injuries, poor performances are adding up in a big way

Kris Bryant, who, early on, looked like a legitimate MVP candidate has gone quiet at the plate and looks likely to miss out on the fourth All-Star selection of his career. Anthony Rizzo’s back sidelined him in all but one game of the Brewers series and nobody on the roster has shown an ability to make consistent contact aside from Nico Hoerner and Matt Duffy, both of whom are still sidelined.

Getting Hoerner back (potentially as early as this weekend) could be huge for the team. But it’s not like the Cubs have just one issue here. The rotation has been absolutely brutal and has failed to pitch deep into games, which now has David Ross’ bullpen stuttering after a brilliant start. It’s not hard to see why – Chicago relievers have thrown the third-most innings of any NL club this year.

We'll soon know if June broke this Cubs team or not. dark. Next

If this team continues its free fall this weekend in the Queen City, the Reds could put themselves in the ‘buyer’ category and conversations about the Cubs selling off the core will quickly pick up steam once again. I never thought there would be an early July weekend series in Cincinnati would carry this much weight, but after that hellish June, that’s where we are.