There are quite a few angles to this series, which is nice, because in the last few years, that hasn’t always been the case. It’s the home opener. It’s the return to Wrigley Field of Ryne Sandberg as the Phillies’ full-time manager. It’s an opportunity for the Cubs to grab just the tiniest bit of momentum in the early going. And it’s a beatable team.
The Series Preview gives you the rundown on what you need to know for the upcoming series. In that way, it’s kind of a preview. About a series. See how that works?
We’re Going Streaking
The Cubs dropped two of three in Pittsburgh, all one-run games, but won on getaway day.
The Phillies also dropped two of three in their opening series against the Rangers, with their two losses coming the last two games. It’s obviously a bit early in the year for any kind of real streak, but maybe the Cubs can extend this one just a little bit.
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Friday, April 4 at 1:20 CT on WGN, MLBN.
- Saturday, April 5 at 1:20 CT on CSN.
- Sunday, April 6 at 1:20 CT on WGN.
Expected Starters and Lineups
These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.
Starters: Travis Wood (-), Jeff Samardzija (0.00 ERA, 3.12 FIP), Carlos Villanueva (13.50 ERA, 11.37 FIP)
Lineup (it’s a mess trying to lay this out right now, until clear platoons develop):
- Emilio Bonifacio, CF/2B
- Junior Lake, LF (or Luis Valbuena, when he’s in there)
- Starlin Castro, SS
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B (or Justin Ruggiano, when he’s in there)
- Mike Olt, 3B
- Nate Schierholtz, RF
- Welington Castillo, C
- Darwin Barney, 2B
Starters: Roberto Hernandez (-), Cliff Lee (14.40 ERA, 5.92 FIP), A.J. Burnett (1.50, ERA, 3.62 FIP)
- Ben Revere, CF
- Jimmy Rollins, SS
- Chase Utley, 2B
- Ryan Howard, 1B
- Marlon Byrd, RF
- Carlos Ruiz, C
- Domonic Brown, LF
- Cody Asche, 3B
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
I could begin and end this section with Emilio Bonifacio, and it would totally be legit. He’s hitting .688/.706/.813 through three games, and playing pretty decent defense at multiple positions, too. He won’t quite keep this up, but he could literally do half as well and be an All-Star. He probably won’t do that, either. Just enjoy the ride while he’s riding.
Next best line on the team through three games? It’s Luis Valbuena at .429/.600/.429. If he keeps hitting, Ricky Renteria will have to keep finding a spot for his bat, even if it comes at the expense of a Mike Olt start here and there.
Speaking of Olt, he and Anthony Rizzo are the only two other guys on the entire roster with a wRC+ above 100 (i.e., above average). The team line right now is a woeful .222/.295/.294. The Pirates have some good pitchers, but it was a slog, man.
It’s just three innings, but Pedro Strop has walked no one and struck out three, and he was pretty much untouchable in Pittsburgh. Hopefully that continues.
Phillies third baseman Cody Asche has gotten off to a hot start, with a .500/.556/1.000 line over his first 9 plate appearances.
For all of the pronouncements of his early demise, Ryan Howard is a very warm .308/.357/.615 to start the year, but, hey, there’s plenty of time.
In fact, the Phillies as a whole are hitting .306/.364/.468. Of course, a series in Arlington, with a DH, against a decimated Rangers pitching staff will do that for you.