Cubs' Fowler finds stroke at end of regular season
CINCINNATI -- When Joe Maddon points at Dexter Fowler and says "It's true," the Chicago Cubs center fielder knows what his manager means.
"He goes, we go," Maddon often says.
So on Saturday, when Maddon discussed certain turning points in the season which helped define where the Cubs (102-58) are to this point, he considered the impact of re-signing Fowler during spring training.
"Prior to getting him, we were thinking about how to get everybody at-bats," Maddon said. "When he came back (from injury) ... he didn't catch fire right away. Now all of a sudden he's found himself."
Fowler is batting .333 (19-for-63) with 13 runs scored in his last 17 games. The Cubs are 52-13 when Fowler scores at least one run and are 14-1 when he scores at least twice.
On Saturday, Fowler singled twice to reach 1,000 hits for his career.
Kyle Hendricks takes the mound for the Cubs in Sunday's regular-season finale, looking to cap off a sensational regular season. Don't look for him to pitch deep into Sunday's game. Maddon said Hendricks will not pitch more than five innings.
Hendricks lowered his ERA to 1.99 with six scoreless innings on Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. He's 12-2 with a 1.29 ERA in his last 18 outings (17 starts) since June 19, leading the majors in ERA during that span.
Against Cincinnati, Hendricks has gone 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts.
He's trying to become just the third qualifying Cubs pitcher in the last 96 years with a sub-2.00 ERA, joining Grover Cleveland Alexander (1.91, 1920) and Jake Arrieta (1.77, 2015).
Reds right-hander Robert Stephenson will make his eighth career appearance and sixth start since being promoted from Triple-A Louisville in September. The former top draft choice will be looking to finish the season on a positive note and solidify his spot in the rotation heading into next spring training.
Earlier this season, Stephenson became the first Reds pitcher to win his first two career starts since Larry Luebbers did it in 1993.
Stephenson was recalled on Opening Day when Homer Bailey began the season on the disabled list. On April 7 against Philadelphia, he became the first Reds starting pitcher to win his major league debut since Sam LeCure in 2010.
While the National League Central champion Cubs are preparing for the postseason, the Reds will be trying to win their home finale days after extending the contract of manager Bryan Price through 2017.
Cincinnati (68-93) is 36-36 since the All-Star break, marking the second-best improvement in winning percentage from the first half of the season to the second.
"I know the manager of the team is a polarizing one," Price said. "I think that people want to see (results). The second half was the first stage of that improvement."
The Cubs are 14-4 against the Reds this season, including an 8-3 mark at Great American Ball Park.