Cubs look to keep pace in playoff race vs. Reds

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The Chicago Cubs know the odds of making a deep postseason run might not be in their favor.

They plan to go for it anyway.

Chicago (82-68) will look to make it six consecutive wins when its hosts the Cincinnati Reds (70-81) on Tuesday night. The Cubs won the series opener 8-2 Monday behind a three-run home run by Kyle Schwarber and a two-run double by Nicholas Castellanos.

With 12 games to go in the regular season, the Cubs trail the St. Louis Cardinals by two games for the top spot in the National League Central. Chicago has a one-game lead over Milwaukee for the NL’s second wild-card berth.

Oh, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s contract is set to expire at the end of the season.

No pressure. Right?

“Joe’s done a great job, as always,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said to reporters. “Since he’s been here, he’s been a terrific partner. There have been a lot of moving parts thrown at him this year. It’s not the type of thing that normally bothers him. …

“He takes such an even-keeled approach to managing the club, so he’s not rattled by (injuries). He looks for solutions and collaborates. You couldn’t tell if he has a totally healthy roster or is leading the league in injuries. He’s unflappable that way.”

Epstein spoke shortly after the Cubs announced that first baseman Anthony Rizzo underwent an MRI exam that showed a moderate right ankle sprain. Rizzo will not need surgery, but his status for the remainder of the regular season is in doubt with less than two weeks to go.

Meanwhile, the Reds are trying to end their season on a high note after a string of disappointments.

Cincinnati right-hander Sonny Gray (10-7, 2.80 ERA) is slated to make his 30th start after being pushed back a day. He is coming off a hard-luck loss in which he allowed three runs on two hits in 6 1/3 innings in a 5-3 setback to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday.

Gray is 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA in five starts against the Cubs. Four of those matchups have come this season, with Gray going 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA.

“He believes he’s the best pitcher out there and that he can get every hitter out,” Reds manager David Bell recently told reporters. “Combine that with his stuff and experience, he’s just continuing to get better. It’ll be exciting to watch how far he can take it.”

The Cubs plan to counter with right-hander Yu Darvish (6-6, 3.97 ERA), who will make his 30th start of 2019 after making only eight starts in his first season with the franchise. Darvish earned a win in his last outing as he tossed six scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres on Thursday, surrendering only two hits and walking two while striking out 14.

In seven career starts against Cincinnati, Darvish is 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA.

Chicago is 51-24 at home this season. Cincinnati is 30-46 on the road.

–Field Level Media

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