If you didn’t already know the trade deadline was tomorrow, Thursday’s lineup would let you know loud and clear. Rafael Ortega is leading off in center, followed by Willson Contreras behind the plate, Patrick Wisdom at first, and Javier Báez at short. Ian Happ is in left, Matt Duffy is at third, Jason Heyward is in right, and David Bote is at second.
Alec Mills has been everything the Cubs could have hoped for since being added back to the starting rotation in mid-June, going 2-3 with a 3.48 ERA and 3.01 FIP over seven starts. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in that time and he’s struck out 32 with just 10 walks in 33.2 innings. Even better, he’s allowed only two home runs. Joey Votto has hit two homers in each of the last two games and has five in the series so far, so perhaps Mills can slow him down.
Luis Castillo is on the mound for the Reds and he’s been dominant after a slow start to the season, posting a 1.39 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 24 walks over his last eight starts. Castillo has allowed multiple runs just twice in that time while holding his opponents scoreless three times.
He hasn’t faced the Cubs during that time, so maybe they can find a way to get to him like they did in two earlier games this season. Castillo hasn’t allowed a homer to a Cubs hitter yet this year, but he’s given up 12 hits and has struck out just eight with five walks.
It doesn’t appear as though the righty is doing much different during this recent hot stretch, though he’s throwing his fastball a little more frequently and appears to be dialing back the changeup. He’s also getting much better results from the fastball, which was his big problem in the early going. His slider has been his best pitch all year and continues to be so, but the change is what really sets him apart when it’s working.
Castillo’s offspeed stuff was being destroyed through mid-June, but he appears to have figured something out. While it’s not always been great, he’s mitigated the awful performances that earmarked April and May. It’s interesting to note, however, that he’s walking more batters lately than he did in the early going. That’s a sign that he’s working out of the zone more frequently and can get a little sloppy if he doesn’t find his groove.
It’s anyone’s guess how the Cubs are going to handle this one, what with the trade deadline looming just over 24 hours from start time. This might be the last time some of these guys play a home game at Wrigley, which has to be a little stressful. First pitch is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 29, 2021