The Reds and Cubs will meet on Thursday to close out a 3-game series at Wrigley Field, as both teams fight to stay out of last place in the NL Central. The Reds have won three of their last four as of Wednesday, and they’ll put promising rookie Graham Ashcraft on the mound after the longest outing of his young career. Kyle Hendricks will get the start for the Cubs, who are 5-16 in their last 21 games and on pace for their worst season in a decade.
Let’s take a look at starting lineups, betting odds, and predictions for Thursday’s matchup.
Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago Cubs Betting Odds
The Cubs are narrow home favorites at -120 with Hendricks coming off one of his strongest outings of the season. It’s tough to pick between two teams that have had long losing streaks this month, and the odds reflect that. Both Hendricks and Ashcraft have had their moments lately but took a big step forward last time out. The Reds probably provide better value at +100. Cincinnati seems to have found somewhat of a rhythm after dropping eight straight, and Ashcraft is beginning to look like a big piece of the franchise’s future.
Cincinnati Reds Starting Lineup
G. Ashcraft R
4-1 3.27 ERA
2B J. India R
3B B. Drury R
LF T. Pham R
1B J. Votto L
SS K. Farmer R
RF A. Almora R
DH M. Moustakas L
CF N. Senzel R
C A. Garcia R
Cincinnati Reds vs. Kyle Hendricks
Kyle Hendricks has a special place in Cubs history – he posted a 3.12 ERA from 2014-2020 and was a dominant piece on the Cubs’ 2016 championship team. He thrived as a finesse pitcher, never relying on overpowering hitters, which is why his decline over the last two seasons is peculiar. Hendricks has a 4.90 ERA, 4.87 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP over 14 starts (75.1 IP) this season, allowing a career-worst 1.6 HR/9. He put up similar numbers over a full 2021 season. Hendricks hasn’t been consistently bad in 2022, he’s just been wildly inconsistent. He’s coming off a high point, tossing 7.1 shutout innings against the Cardinals last week after an ugly start against Atlanta. Which Kyle Hendricks will we get on Thursday?
Hendricks only lasted 4 innings against the Reds in May, when a struggling Joey Votto tagged him for a home run and a triple. The Reds are a much better offensive team at home than they are on the road, though and they’re still without injured catcher Tyler Stephenson. Cincinnati has some hot hitters coming into this matchup, including Nick Senzel. Senzel is hitting .529 over his last 6 games, while Brandon Drury and Donovan Solano both have an OPS north of 1.000 over the past week. This production isn’t sustainable for Senzel or Solano, but maybe the Reds can get something out of reigning NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India. India has had an injury-ravaged year to forget, but he homered at Wrigley on Tuesday night and could get hot at any time.
Chicago Cubs Starting Lineup
K. Hendricks R
3-6 4.90 ERA
CF C. Morel R
DH W. Contreras R
LF I. Happ S
3B P. Wisdom R
SS N. Hoerner R
C Y. Gomes R
2B D. Bote R
RF J. Heyward L
1B A. Rivas L
Chicago Cubs vs. Graham Ashcraft
When we last checked in on Graham Ashcraft, he was trying to right the ship after the first rough stretch of his career. He did just that, going into San Francisco and delivering 8 innings of 2-run ball to snap a 7-game losing streak. Ashcraft now owns a 3.27 ERA over the first 7 starts of his career (41.1 IP), with a 3.74 FIP, 1.09 WHIP, and 27:7 K:BB ratio. The NL Rookie of the Year chase is chaotic right now, so there’s room for Ashcraft to move firmly into the discussion with a couple more strong starts.
The Cubs are a below-average offensive team, but they’re hitting .262 in June and perform better at home. Power has been a problem for the Cubs of late. All-star lock Willson Contreras is on a 13-game homerless streak, and the always streaky Patrick Wisdom has only 3 home runs this month. Nico Hoerner is the Cubs’ hottest bat right now – he’s 13 for his last 23 and has a 1.316 OPS over the past week. As Chicago tries to figure out who will be a part of their future, Hoerner is making a name for himself. Teams are hitting .299 against Ashcraft over the rookie’s last three starts, so the contact-happy Cubs have a chance to make something happen on Thursday.
Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago Cubs Picks & Prediction
My pick: Over 8 Runs
Remember when the wind helped the Cubs and Diamondbacks hit a billion home runs on a Friday afternoon last month? The forecast projects warm weather with the wind blowing out to the outfield at Wrigley on Thursday night, and while it won’t be strong enough to take over the game this time, it can certainly have an impact. The Cubs will have to keep an eye on Hendricks, who has had issues with the home run this season and hasn’t put together back-to-back strong starts in about six weeks. Ashcraft also struggled earlier this month before bouncing back last time out – were his struggles just a blip, or is he in for more growing pains? Expect some runs on Thursday night, even from these shaky offenses.