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NL Central Showdown in the Windy City

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NL Central Showdown in the Windy City

By Don Phillips

Preview: Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs

GAME: Cincinnati Reds (5-2) at Chicago Cubs (6-1)
DATE/TIME: Wednesday, April 13 – 8:05 PM EST
WHERE: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois

The Cubs have four new players on the 2016 25-man active roster since the conclusion of the 2015 campaign: pitchers John Lackey (free agent) and Adam Warren (trade with Yankees), infielder Ben Zobrist (free agent) and outfielder Jason Heyward (free agent).

Cubs’ pitchers have recorded a 0.78 WHIP to begin the campaign, the best mark in the majors. The Dodgers and Mets are tied for second, both with a 1.00 WHIP. Chicago’s hurlers have allowed 35 hits and just seven walks (tied for fewest in the bigs with the Mets) in 53.2 innings pitched.

On another note, Cubs hurlers have allowed just a .305 slugging percentage to opponents; second-lowest in the majors. Kansas City has recorded a .304 opponent slugging mark.

The Cubs have outscored their opponents this season by 27 runs, 42-15, as the Cubs have averaged 7.00 runs per game thus far, best in the National League. The Cubs lead the majors with a +27 run differential, well ahead of the rest of baseball with San Francisco in second with a +18 differential.

Chicago’s 42 runs scored are tied for second-most in the majors with the Dodgers, but the Giants lead with 43 runs scored.

The Cubs won last season’s series, 13-6 to snap the Reds’ 5-season series winning streak vs. Chicago (12-4 in 2010, 11-7 in 2011, 12-4 in 2012, 14-5 in 2013, 11-8 in 2014). From 9/29-10/1 in Cincinnati, in their final meeting of 2015, the Cubs earned their first 3-game series sweep at Great American Ball Park since May 28th-30th, 2001.

John Lackey (1-0) gave up six runs on eight hits over six innings in Arizona on Thursday, but got away with a win. He walked one and struck out four.

Alfredo Simon surrendered five hits, two runs (one earned) and two walks over five innings in Friday’s 6-5 loss to the Pirates. He struck out seven but did not factor into the decision.

Making his first start since returning to the Reds, who traded him to the Tigers following the 2014 season, Simon turned in a serviceable effort, but did surrender an RBI double to Pirates starter Francisco Liriano. The 34-year-old’s biggest Achilles heel figures to once again be his control, as he tallied a 1.41 WHIP last season that was even worse than his career 1.34 figure.

Jay Bruce went 3-for-4 with two home runs and five RBI in Thursday’s win over the Phillies.

Bruce will be sad to see the Phillies leave town after destroying their pitchers in the opening series of 2016. The 29-year-old went 6-for-12 with two home runs and seven RBI. After a down season in 2014, the outfielder bounced back to post respectable numbers last year. Although the roster has been thinned out for 2016, Bruce should still see plenty of opportunities to put up quality numbers.

Selection: Over