The Cincinnati Reds return home after their first winning road trip of the season, while the Chicago Cubs begin a six-game road trip looking for a spark when the two clubs meet in the opener of their four-game series Monday night.
The Cubs snapped a four-game skid in Sunday’s 5-4 win over Arizona and salvaged a 3-4 homestand.
Joey Votto ended his three-game return to his native Toronto on Sunday with his first homer of 2022, a solo homer in the eighth that powered the Reds to a 3-2 win and a 5-4 trip.
“It means a great deal to me,” Votto said on the team telecast afterward. “To see so many familiar faces and receive a ton of support in my home city. I grew up 10 minutes from downtown.”
Chicago will start left-hander Drew Smyly (1-5, 3.97 ERA) on Monday. He took his fifth loss of the season in his last start, allowing three runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. He struck out five and walked one.
The lefty will make his sixth career appearance (fifth start) against the Reds. Four of his five appearances (three starts) have taken place in Cincinnati, where he owns a 2-0 record and a 3.12 ERA in 17 1/3 innings.
Smyly, pitching for his fifth team in his last four seasons, has allowed just three runs in his last 14 1/3 innings in Cincinnati, where his teams have won every game in which he’s appeared.
The Reds announced their starting pitcher in the series opener late Sunday after the rotation disruption caused by back issues with Connor Overton, who was scratched from his Sunday start.
Cincinnati will turn to right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez (0-5, 8.65), who had been demoted to the bullpen after his previous start on May 11 but had not yet seen action as a reliever. The second-year hurler has not made it through five innings in any of his six starts this season, allowing 17 runs in 13 innings over his last three outings.
Gutierrez has faced the Pirates three times in his career (all starts), going 1-0 with a 6.92 ERA.
The Cubs and manager David Ross are hopeful that catcher Willson Contreras will avoid the injured list after leaving Saturday’s game against Arizona with a right hamstring strain.
“It’s actually not too concerning; it was good news, from what we expected,” said Ross, who expects to rest Contreras several days before testing the hamstring in a game.
The Reds, meanwhile, will get more of their 26-man roster back to normal after COVID-19 regulations and restrictions in Canada forced them to play with minor league players for the just-finished weekend series in Toronto.
One of the players who took advantage of the opportunity was Aristides Aquino, called up from Triple-A Louisville on Friday. Aquino was designated for assignment in April after hitting just .049 (2-for-41, 1 HR) in 15 games.
After accepting his assignment to Triple-A, Aquino, batted .314 with a 1.148 OPS in 10 Triple-A games, earning the start in center on Sunday and driving in Cincinnati’s first two runs with a bases-loaded double in the first inning.
Albert Almora Jr., Brandon Drury, Tyler Mahle and Joel Kuhnel are expected to rejoin the Reds off the restricted list following the series in Toronto. Taylor Motter was called up for the series and made his Reds debut on Friday. He went 1-for-6 at the plate and made three errors in two games at third base.
Adding to the roster complexity, Overton woke up Saturday with back soreness and had to be scratched. Graham Ashcraft, added to the roster as a substitute player, made his major league debut Sunday, allowing two runs on four hits in 4 1/3 innings. The flame-throwing right-handed prospect struck out three and walked two.
“He’s highly thought of in our organization for a lot of reasons,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He has the ability to pitch here. There’s no question he has the stuff. He’s very talented. Really when it comes to Graham, it’s the timing of when is the right time for him to be here, to get here and be able to stay.”
–Field Level Media