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Graham Ashcraft aims to steer Reds to series win over Cubs

Sportsnaut
Jun 24, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft (51) pitches the ball against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Graham Ashcraft is proving that the potential future of the Cincinnati Reds’ rotation is being showcased in the present.

Meanwhile, Chicago Cubs veteran Kyle Hendricks continues his search for some 2022 consistency.

Each starter looks to build on a strong outing when the Cubs host the Reds on Thursday night in the rubber match of a three-game series.

Ashcraft (4-1, 3.27 ERA) has been rather brilliant to start his major league career, and the rookie recently showed he’s able to bounce back from some adversity. In starts against the host St. Louis Cardinals on June 12 and the visiting Milwaukee Brewers on June 18, the right-hander allowed 10 runs and 17 hits over a combined 9 2/3 innings.

However, he got back on track Friday at San Francisco in his seventh career start. Ashcraft yielded two runs and six hits while setting career highs for strikeouts (eight) and innings pitched (eight) during a 4-2 victory over the Giants. Ashcraft also did not give up a walk for the third time in four starts.

“What we saw (at San Francisco) is what we can expect from Graham a lot — where he just really attacks and he trusts his stuff,” Reds manager David Bell said.

Ashcraft did not face the Cubs when these teams split a four-game set at Cincinnati last month, but he will try to help the Reds bounce back from an 8-3 loss on Wednesday. Cincinnati, which opened the set with a 5-3 victory on Tuesday, has won three of its past five contests following a seven-game losing streak.

The Reds will hope to cool off Chicago star Willson Contreras, who had three hits on Wednesday, including a two-run homer, and is 9-for-19 (.474) with six RBIs in his past five games. Teammate Nico Hoerner is 14-for-26 (.538) with seven RBIs in his past seven contests for the Cubs, who have won three of their last five but haven’t recorded back-to-back victories since June 17-18.

Hendricks (3-6, 4.90 ERA) will look to record quality starts in consecutive outings for the first time this season. Though the right-hander has struggled with consistency in 2022, he was stellar while yielding five hits and a walk and striking out six over 7 1/3 innings during Chicago’s 3-0 victory at St. Louis on Friday.

“That was as good as I’ve seen him this year,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Every time they thought the fastball was coming, (he was) throwing a changeup, keeping them off-balance. Vintage Kyle.”

Hendricks, though, was far from vintage while giving up four runs, five hits and a walk over four innings of a 4-3 loss at Cincinnati on May 25. He is 7-6 with a 4.47 ERA in 23 career against the Reds, but he is 4-0 with a 2.65 ERA during 10 home starts vs. Cincinnati.

Reds star Joey Votto is batting .395 (15-for-38) with three doubles, a triple, five home runs and nine RBIs against Hendricks for his career. Votto had two doubles and an RBI on Wednesday, and is hitting .361 (26-for-72) with 24 RBIs in his last 22 games versus Chicago.

Cincinnati’s Brandon Drury is 2-for-5 lifetime versus Hendricks, and he is batting .371 (13-for-35) with two home runs and five RBIs during his current eight-game hitting streak.

–Field Level Media