The Cincinnati Reds hope to be a surprise challenger to the World Series champion Chicago Cubs in the National League Central, and the young Reds can make a statement to that effect when they host the Cubs for a three-game series starting Friday. Cincinnati leads Chicago by a half-game entering the weekend, but the Reds have cooled after their hot start, dropping five of their last seven.
Chicago has reversed its fortunes this week, ending a four-game skid with consecutive comeback wins over Milwaukee, including a 7-4 victory Wednesday on Addison Russell’s three-run, walk-off home run. The Cubs used Thursday’s day off to reconfigure their pitching rotation, flip-flopping the top of the lineup to give left-hander Jon Lester the start Friday. He will oppose right-hander Tim Adleman, who will replace Sal Romano in the Reds’ rotation and make his first major-league start of the season. Adleman has to deal with a Cubs lineup that enjoys hitting in Cincinnati – Anthony Rizzo has hit 12 home runs at Great American Ball Park over the past three seasons, including six in 2016, and Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist each hit five blasts there last season.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network, WGN (Chicago), FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs LH Jon Lester (0-0, 1.00 ERA) vs. Reds RH Tim Adleman (0-0, 2.25)
Lester is still looking for his first win despite allowing one run in each of his first two starts and throwing seven scoreless frames in a no-decision against Pittsburgh last time out. The 33-year-old hasn’t received much run support, as the Cubs have scored just seven runs in the three games he has started. Lester is 3-1 with a 3.32 ERA in nine starts against the Reds, including a 2-1 mark and 2.94 ERA in five outings in Cincinnati.
Adleman pitched four innings in long relief Sunday against Milwaukee, allowing one run and two hits with five strikeouts in his first big-league outing of the season. The 29-year-old made one start at Triple-A Louisville before being recalled and gave up two runs and five hits while striking out six over seven frames. Adelman made two starts against the Cubs last season, going 1-0 with a 3.97 ERA.
1. Rizzo, who is 4-for-6 versus Adleman, has reached base at least twice in every contest during a nine-game hitting streak.
2. Reds 1B Joey Votto, whose home run accounted for Cincinnati’s only run in a 2-1 loss to Baltimore on Thursday, has 27 home runs against the Cubs, second only to his 30 blasts against the Brewers.
3. Bryant is a career .338 hitter in 34 games against the Reds with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs.