The Cubs have the misfortune of playing six of their last 12 against the Reds, a team that has terrorized them the last couple years.  The first three games are this week at Wrigley; let’s a take a look at the pitching matchups:

Tonight: Rich Hill vs. Bronson/Brandon Arroyo

Rich is 1-0 against the Reds this year in two starts.  He’s pitched 12 innings, surrendering 2 earned runs on nine hits (one homer) and seven walks while striking out 13.  His lifetime numbers against the Reds hitters are very good with the exception of Edwin Encarnacion and Norris Hopper, both of whom have hit him well.  He’s pretty much completely shut down Adam Dunn and Brandon Phillips.

As I noted in July, Arroyo killed the Cubs last year.  This year, he’s done well against them again, but has gotten little run support: he’s 0-2 in three starts with a 2.53 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings.  None of the Cubs hitters with significant track records against him have really inspiring lines (i.e., OPS>1.000), but Ryan Theriot and Cliff Floyd have hit him pretty well.  This looks to be a pitchers’ duel, which makes me very nervous.  I’ll predict a Reds win.

Tuesday Night: Carlos Zambrano vs. Aaron Harang

Z will be pitching on three days’ rest, which I, for one, think is a mistake.  Perhaps Lou is just trying to switch something up so Z will pitch better against the Reds: in four starts this year, he’s 1-3 with a 6.56 ERA against them.  Even more disturbing, he’s only managed to strike out 10 in 23 1/3 innings.  For whatever reason, the Reds kill Z.  Which Reds?  Well, pretty much all of them.

Luckily, Aaron Harang has been almost as bad against the Cubs.  He’s 2-1 in four starts against the Cubs this year, but he sports a 5.68 ERA and has given up five homers in 19 innings.  Derrek Lee, Jacque Jones (!), and Matt Murton (!!) really hammer him, so let’s hope they have their hitting shoes on tomorrow night.  I’m going to predict a Cubs win.  Z appears to be “back,” and he easily beat the Reds this year during his good stretch.

Wednesday Night: Ted Lilly vs. Tom Shearn

Lilly has made three starts against the Reds this year.  The first two, both in April, were excellent; the last, in August, was not.  I’m not optimistic about his chances of repeating his early year success against the Reds on three days’ rest.

Shearn is a 30-year-old rookie who will be making his fifth career start.  He has never pitched against the Cubs.  This is bad.  Reds win, I think.

Like many series lately, this series doesn’t feature any glaring pitching mismatches.  The first game features two good pitchers who have pitched well against the other team this year, the second features two aces (one on three days’ rest) who have struggled against the other team this year, and the third features a good pitcher on three days’ rest versus an unknown.  Anything could happen in any game; the Cubs could sweep as easily as they could get swept.  Luck will play a huge role.  The pessimist in me says “Reds win two of three,” and that’s sort of what I expect to happen, given how the Reds have played the Cubs this year.

The Cubs will have an off-day Thursday, so they can start Marquis on Friday, Hill on normal rest Saturday, and Zambrano on normal rest Sunday against the Pirates.  With all due respect to my friend Ian, the city of Pittsburgh, and the Pirates, the Cubs need to win 2 of 3 at the least from the Pirates, who are not good.