After picking up the win last night in the first game of the series, the Reds will look to clinch a series win tonight against the Cubs. We’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be targeting a run-line play in this one.
Starting the season with a 1-3 record and having all three losses being divisional games is a less-than-ideal way to start the year if you're the Cubs. After pitching a shutout on Opening Day and only allowing three runs the following game, Chicago has allowed a combined 16 runs in the past two days. The Cubs will turn to young right-hander Hayden Wesneski this evening to stop the bleeding.
In 2022, Wesneski threw 33 innings for the Cubs, and in that span, he pitched to a 2.18 ERA with 33 strikeouts. The young righty faced the Reds twice last season, and he went 1-1 with 14 strikeouts and only one earned run in 11 innings. Despite last night’s loss, the Cubs offense provided run support by scoring six runs, with three coming from Cody Bellinger’s first homerun as a member of the Cubs.
Dansby Swanson continued the impressive start to his Cubs tenure last night with three more hits to bring his average up to .588. The Chicago offense will face veteran righty Luis Cessa today, who is coming off a 2022 season in which he went 4-4 with a 4.57 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 80.7 innings. Last season, Cessa faced the Cubs both in relief, and as a starter but in the two games he started against them, he threw ten innings with 12 strikeouts and three earned runs.
Cessa will be looking for the same type of run support the Cincinnati offense provided last night. In their seven-run outburst, first baseman Jason Vosler continued to fill in for Joey Votto nicely by hitting his second homerun. Catcher Tyler Stephenson also continued to swing the bat well to start the year by picking up two more hits and bringing his average up to .400 in four games.
The Chicago Cubs' run-line of -1.5 is currently priced at (+118), and I’ll be taking that for my play in this one. It’s been a rocky start to the year for the Cubs, but I think they have the advantage in the starting pitcher department, and I liked what I saw from the veteran guys in their lineup who struggled in the opening series. Chicago was also 45-35 to the run line in 2022 when on the road, and I think they bounce back tonight.
Cubs fans should be very excited about Hayden Wesneski, and I like how his stuff stacks up tonight against the Reds. As previously mentioned, Wesneski had 14 strikeouts in 11 innings against the Reds last season, and after a solid Spring Training in which he had a SO/9 of 11.6, I expect him to be able to work through the Reds lineup efficiently.
Last season Luis Cessa may have found some success against the Cubs, but they are rolling out an almost entirely different lineup this year. In 2022, Cessa was in the 17th percentile in barrel percentage, 14th percentile in hard hit percentage, and 15th percentile in strikeout percentage. They may have gotten off to a slower start, but this Cubs lineup can leave the yard at any time, especially in a hitter-friendly park.
Chicago Cubs -1.5 (+118)