CUBS (63-53) AT REDS (55-59)
7:10 p.m. ET; FS-O, WGN, MLB.TV
Cincinnati Reds right fielder Aristides Aquino is known as “The Punisher” for the way he attacks the baseball, and the rookie likely will receive no argument about the nickname from the Chicago Cubs.
After homering in back-to-back contests against visiting Chicago, and in three straight games overall, Aquino looks to continue his power display on Saturday as the Reds and Cubs play the third game of a four-game series.
Aquino was summoned from Triple-A Louisville to start the month after fellow outfielder Yasiel Puig was traded to the Cleveland Indians. The 25-year-old has made quite the impact, including belting a two-run shot Friday in Cincinnati’s 5-2 win to improve to 10-for-18 with four homers, 10 RBIs and seven runs during a six-game hitting streak.
“(Aquino’s) playing with confidence and really has a good understanding of what he’s trying to do,” Cincinnati manager David Bell said. “He’s going to go through times where he won’t get hits. He’s swinging the bat well right now, but it looks to us he’s giving himself a fair chance every time he goes up there because of his approach.”
Aquino is the first member of the Reds to hit four homers in his first nine games since Corey Patterson accomplished the feat in 2008.
“I always know that I hit the ball hard,” Aquino said via an interpreter. “And for the time that I’ve been here, I’ve been joking about it with my teammates, telling them, ‘I’m the guy who has (most) power on the team.'”
Aquino isn’t the only newcomer making his mark in this series, as Chicago’s Nicholas Castellanos followed up his fifth career multi-homer performance in Chicago’s 12-5 victory Thursday with a solo shot the following night.
Castellanos has hit safely in all nine games since being acquired by the Cubs, going 15-for-37 (.405) with four homers, six RBIs and 10 runs.
“We had our chances. We just didn’t capitalize. Baseball,” the 27-year-old Castellanos said of the Friday loss, per the Chicago Sun-Times.
Castellanos is 3-for-6 with two extra-base hits (double, triple) in a small sample size versus the Reds’ Saturday starter, Sonny Gray (6-6, 3.25 ERA). The Cincinnati right-hander received a no-decision in his last start despite scattering four hits while striking out seven in seven scoreless innings at Atlanta on Sunday.
Gray has split a pair of decisions in three starts against Chicago this season and is 1-2 with a 3.63 ERA in four career encounters with the club.
The 29-year-old has flustered Anthony Rizzo (0-for-7), Ohio native Kyle Schwarber (0-for-6), Javier Baez (1-for-8, five strikeouts) and Jason Heyward (1-for-13) in his career.
Like Gray, Chicago right-hander Kyle Hendricks (8-8, 3.06 ERA) also received a no-decision in his last trip to the mound despite registering a strong start. Hendricks allowed a two-run homer as his lone hit over 6 1/3 innings against the Oakland A’s on Monday.
Hendricks owns a 1-3 mark in his past seven starts despite sporting a 2.35 ERA in that span.
The 29-year-old is 6-2 with a 3.29 ERA in 16 career starts versus Cincinnati, although Joey Votto is 10-for-26 with three homers and 12 walks against him.
Hendricks owns a 1-0 record with a 2.70 ERA in three meetings with the Reds this season while limiting the club to a .178 batting average.
–Field Level Media