Cubs face division-leading Reds on CSN+

Cubs face division-leading Reds on CSN+
April 22, 2013, 11:15 am
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Tony Andracki

First pitch: 6:10 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Plus. (Cubs Pregame Live starts at 5:30 p.m.)

On the mound: Travis Wood (1-1, 1.83 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) vs. Mike Leake (1-0, 4.26 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)

In one of the first moves made by Theo Epstein and the new front office, the Cubs dealt elite reliever Sean Marshall to the Reds for Wood, Dave Sappelt and Rony Torreyes.

Marshall has been his usual brilliant self, but is currently injured. He's eligible to come off the DL Tuesday, but since he's nursing a sore shoulder, the chances of him pitching in this series is slim.

[More: Cubs waiting for Castro to put it all together]

Wood, meanwhile, has been a very solid return for the Cubs, posting a 7-14 record, 4.00 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 1.5 WAR (Baseball Reference) in 175.2 innings spanning 29 starts. At just 26, Wood is beginning to establish himself as a rotation piece for the future.

Today's storyline: Slowing down the Reds

The Reds are the class of the NL Central, boasting an 11-8 record the year after winning the division. There are no true weaknesses to this team and the Cubs, who have lost six of seven, are going to have to clean up their game if they want to take the series in Cincinnati.

[More: Sveum turns up the heat on Castro, Rizzo]

What else to watch for

The Reds lead the world in runs scored and on-base percentage, and it's easy to see why. Replacing Drew Stubbs with Shin-Soo Choo (.523 OBP, 1.155 OPS) atop the lineup was the most underrated move of the MLB offseason. Todd Frazier (5 HR, .958 OPS) and Brandon Phillips (21 RBI, .890 OPS) are off to hot starts and Jay Bruce, who is homerless so far, will join the onslaught soon enough.

And then, of course, there's Joey Votto, my pick for 2013 NL MVP. Votto's slash line (.328/.522/.516) is just ridiculous and he's on pace for 213 walks. Even with his amazing stretch, there were still some critics, complaining Votto's average wasn't up to snuff and his power was non-existent. The 29-year-old slugger must've taken those doubts to heart, as he is a combined 7-for-11 with two homers and three RBI in his last two games.

The last word

Wood, Carlos Villanueva and Jeff Samardzija have been the Cubs' three best pitchers this season, but they will have their hands full with the Reds lineup. Meanwhile, the offense will have to contend with rookie sensation Tony Cingrani, a Lincoln Way Central alum, and Mat Latos in the final two games of the series.