With playoff positioning on the line, the Cubs and Reds will wrap up their season series, which has been extremely close, this Sunday. Everything is still on the table for these squads, from a long postseason run to missing the playoffs entirely, so every game is huge, especially head to head matchups. Let’s take at the odds for this NL Central matchup, where my prediction is for the Cubs to cover a spread of -1.5, and over 10.5 runs.
Cubs vs. Reds Prediction
The Reds escaped from Friday’s doubleheader with a split after some ninth inning comeback magic, and then took home Saturday’s game in another walk-off win by a similarly razor-thin margin when the Cubs failed to turn what would have been an inning ending double play. Cincy clinched the season series with that win, but the Cubs can still salvage a split in this series with a win on Sunday.
The bad news for the Cubs is that they will be throwing Jameson Taillon in pursuit of that win. After an up-and-down tenure in New York with the Yankees, Taillon’s first season as a Cub has been essentially all down, as he’s stumbled to a career-worst 5.62 ERA, and a similarly dreadful WHIP of 1.356. He’s given up too many homers and hits, as pitching to contact does not seem to be working for the adequately walk-avoidant Taillon.
All of that being said, Taillon has one thing over the Reds’ starter; experience. Brandon Williamson, who has already gotten knocked around by the Cubs twice this year, was going to start this game for the Reds, but will be out after testing positive for COVID-19. He joins fellow starter Hunter Greene as well as relief arms Ben Lively and Fernando Cruz on a concerning list of positive testers for a Reds team that needs absolutely all hands on deck right now.
Instead, Carson Spiers will take the mound for what will be his MLB debut. Spiers came to Cincy after he went undrafted in 2020 following a solid career at Clemson, where he put up a 2.47 ERA over 71 relief appearances. In the minors, he’s bounced between a starting and relief role, and has earned a solid 3.69 ERA with AA Chattanooga this season.
As awful as Taillon has been this season, he’s turned in some scattered nice performances and the Cubs have picked up some wins in his games. It’s also hard to trust him less than a pre-rookie playing his first pro game, and not even a top draft pick, or even someone who has had a particularly strong minor league career.
I’m going with the Cubs to win, and even cover a 1.5 run spread. I’m also taking the over, even with an elevated number like 10.5. The offenses are not hot right now, but Taillon’s incompetence and Spiers’ lack of track record give me hope for a high-scoring ballgame.
Cubs vs. Reds Prediction: Cubs -1.5 (+100), o10.5 runs (-105)
Cubs vs. Reds Odds
The Cubs are favored by 1.5 runs, with +100 odds to cover that spread, while the Reds are -120 to cover. With questionable pitching on both sides, the total is set at 10.5, with the over slightly favored at -105 odds compared to -115 for the under.
Cubs vs. Reds Key Matchups
Jameson Taillon vs. Reds Lefties
It’s been a rough year for Taillon, who is certainly happy to be done with a particularly terrible August. It’s hard to find a specific pain point in his game, as he gives up plenty of base hits, homers, and walks alike, but as a righty, there is one area we can look to. Taillon is allowing an OPS of .670 against fellow righties, but .891 against lefties, a very significant platoon split with similar sample size on both sides. With three lefties and a switch hitter in the top four of the Reds lineup, this could be a tough start for him.
TJ Friedl continues to be a pretty good contact bat at the top of the lineup, with a batting average hanging around the .270 mark. Third-hitter Elly De La Cruz is scary from either side of the plate, but is especially solid against righties as a lefty; he’s put up an OPS of just about .800 from that side of the dish. Lastly, but definitely not least, is journeyman Nick Martini, another lefty who should be in the cleanup spot. An Illinois native and a longtime Cubs fan, Martini’s last MLB action before this year was actually as a Cub in 2021, but he’s come out of nowhere to hit the ball extremely well in the past two weeks as a Red, including a big homer in the ninth inning of Cincy’s Friday comeback effort.
Carson Spiers vs. Cubs Lefties
Obviously we don’t have a lot on Spiers, as he is making his pro debut, but we do know that he has struggled a lot against left-handed bats in the minors this season.
The Cubs have two key switch hitters; Ian Happ is much better as a lefty against righties, while Jeimer Candelario has the same preference, but it’s much less dramatic of a production gap. As for the true lefties, Cody Bellinger is the main man, as he leads the team in most major categories including his .546 slugging percentage. Mike Tauchman has also had a nice year, chipping in a .355 OBP at the top of the lineup. This Cubs lineup is filled with bats who should be able to have good at bats against a debutant, which is why I have them winning in my Cubs vs. Reds prediction.
Cubs vs. Reds Starting Lineups
Cubs Starting Lineup
CF M. Tauchman L
2B N. Hoerner R
LF I. Happ S
1B C. Bellinger L
SS D. Swanson R
DH C. Morel R
3B J. Candelario S
C Y. Gomes R
RF S. Suzuki
Reds Starting Lineup
CF T. Friedl L
2B S. Steer R
SS E. De La Cruz S
DH N. Martini L
1B C. Encarnacion-Strand R
LF N. Senzel R
RF W. Benson L
3B N. Marte R
C L. Maile R