The MLB Trade Deadline is Friday afternoon, and the Chicago Cubs are expected to be major sellers – they already have traded two lesser players. Former NL MVP Kris Bryant is widely expected to be dealt by the deadline, and it's probably better than 50/50 that Anthony Rizzo will be, too. Coincidence or not, neither is in the starting lineup for Thursday afternoon's home game (2:20 ET) vs. the Cincinnati Reds, who are short favorites on the William Hill Sportsbook MLB odds. Will Joey Votto homer again for Cincy?
This could be Cubs manager David Ross simply giving both franchise icons a day game off after a night game and it is very hot in Chicago. However, it could also be that both have played their final game in a Cubs uniform. Bryant has been heavily linked to the New York Mets, among a few others. Rizzo has been linked to the Boston Red Sox, with ESPN's Buster Olney flat-out saying he expects that to happen. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer has made no secret that his team is a seller.
Bryant leads the team with 87 hits, a .358 on-base percentage and .267 average to go with 18 homers and 51 RBIs. Rizzo is batting .248 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs. Patrick Wisdom is playing first today; can't really say who is replacing Bryant because he has played every position this year except second base, catcher and pitcher.
Second baseman Nico Hoerner also is out after leaving Wednesday's game with an apparent side injury. David Bote is playing second. Shortstop Javy Baez is in the starting lineup after not starting the past few with a heel injury.
The Cubs start Alec Mills (4-3, 4.55) on the mound. He is 2-3 with a 3.58 ERA this year in eight starts compared to 2-0 with a 6.41 ERA in 12 relief appearances. In 39.1 career innings vs. the Reds, he's 3-1 with a 3.66 ERA.
Votto is 1-for-12 off Mills career with a homer. Votto enters having homered in five straight games (seven total, two in each of the past two), tying the club record. Only three MLB players since 1900 have longer streaks at age 37 or older: Barry Bonds (7) 2004 in Frank Thomas (6) in 2006 and Graig Nettles (6) in 1984. Votto is +250 at William Hill to homer today.
The Reds start Luis Castillo (4-10, 4.20) on the mound. He was 1-8 with a 7.22 ERA in 11 starts through May but his 1.71 ERA since June 1 is the best in the majors. Castillo is 4-5 with a 3.93 ERA in 13 career starts vs. the Cubs. Baez is 6-for-31 off him with no homers and seven Ks.
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