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wrigley field from right bleachersThe Cubs couldn’t possibly sweep the Cardinals, right? Oh, but they can!

Technically, it’s possible.

The good news is that the Cubs have Jason Hammel going tonight, and he’s been as effective as just about any starter in baseball so far this year, and he was dominant last time out against the Brewers. Something to note about Hammel this year: although he’s been pitching well (passing the eye test), his BABIP against is a microscopic, and unsustainable, .138. His career mark is .306, so you can expect some regression there over time. (For that reason, his crazy 94.1% LOB rate will also regress.)

That all said, he’s striking guys out, getting groundballs, and not giving up walks. Hammel’s been good.

The Cubs’ lineup features some light bats at the bottom of the order, with John Baker and Darwin Barney getting starts. I don’t have a beef with getting guys work, but I’d point this out:

  • Lance Lynn career against righties: .236/.281/.346
  • Lance Lynn career against lefties: .265/.369/.433

That explains why Junior Lake is out of the lineup, even after his huge game, but it doesn’t quite explain why Chris Coghlan isn’t in there instead of Darwin Barney (shifting Bonifacio to second). Maybe neither Coghlan or Kalish can handle center field effectively at this point? Because if they can play well enough out there, this was the nice to stack the lineup with lefties. Instead, maybe it’s the fact that you’d expect to see some more groundballs tonight than usual with Hammel on the mound, and Ricky Renteria wants an optimal infield defense? That’s not a terrible explanation, actually.

It’s an ESPN game tonight, and the Cubs and Cardinals will be wearing throwbacks to 1929. So that’s cool.

Game Info

St. Louis Cardinals (15-16) at Chicago Cubs (11-17), 7:05 CT on ESPN.

Game Thread and Series Preview

The Game Thread lives here. And, of course, for those who aren’t into message board-style game threads, please feel free to use the comments on this post for your in-game commentary/outbursts.

The Series Preview lives here.

Starting Pitchers

Lance Lynn (3.60 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 3.27 xFIP; 3.64 K/BB)

versus

Jason Hammel (2.08 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 3.57 xFIP; 3.86 K/BB)

St. Louis Cardinals Lineup

1. Matt Carpenter, 3B

2. Yadier Molina, C

3. Matt Holliday, LF

4. Matt Adams, 1B

5. Allen Craig, RF

6. Jhonny Peralta, SS

7. Randal Grichuk, CF

8. Mark Ellis, 2B

9. Lance Lynn, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. Emilio Bonifacio, CF

2. Luis Valbuena, 3B

3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

4. Starlin Castro, SS

5. Nate Schierholtz, RF

6. Ryan Kalish, LF

7. John Baker, C

8. Darwin Barney, 2B

9. Jason Hammel, P

  • 70′s Cub

    Baker and Barney plus the pitcher that just sucks!

    • augiepb

      In my opinion those 2 cannot play on the same day. No matter what the splits say. Those 2 plus the pitcher essentially means the cubs only have 18 outs to play with.

      • DarthHater

        Can’t really disagree.

      • baldtaxguy

        Ugh, that’s bleak

        • nkniacc13

          If they play the same day they need to be split up in order

          • augiepb

            That means then that one of those guys has to either hit 6th or 2nd which just leads to more at bats for them and that may be worse…

            • itzscott

              With that lineup, Renteria’s streak is over and he’s back to being a moron.

  • Paddy26

    Yeah that Kalish/Baker/Barney/Hammel end of the lineup isn’t looking too hot. Hopefully Rizzo and Castro can remain hot, or else we might need to depend on Hammel to throw a gem.

    • willis

      Yes, the 6-9 doesn’t give us much confidence. Lynn probably is licking his chops facing this lineup. I understand the splits, but Lake has a great day yesterday and gets rewarded with pine tonight. That has to be frustrating.

      Either way, Hammel is going to have to be pretty much close to awesome tonight to grab this sweep. Just not much firepower in the lineup.

      • KHRSS

        Castillo is 4-9 with a HR vs Lynn. I know its a very very small sample size but he should be starting instead of Baker who is giving me Koyie Hill flashbacks.

        • willis

          To be fair, Hammel and Baker have bee grooving nicely this year, so I don’t mind that so much. But having Barney in there as well, it just takes away a lot of offense and puts a shit load of pressure on your pitcher to be great. It worked last week in Milwaukee, maybe it will again tonight.

          I probably would have gone with Boni at 2B and Lake in CF.

  • KHRSS

    Would of liked to see Lake get another start after his game yesterday.

  • KHRSS

    Baez 0-4, 3K.. at least Vitters hit a HR, hopefully he comes out of his slump.

    • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

      Baez May be the only player where every K is recorded on this blog.

    • Mike

      Yeah, I’m beginning my panic now. He is closing in on 100 PAs and isn’t showing much signs of busting out lately. That stint on the DL kind of killed him. He was starting to come out of it before he went down. Now, I’m wondering if it’s getting in his head. He was just going up there swinging at everything thrown at him today and I mean everything.

      • Mike

        I really really hope I’m wrong.

      • willis

        It’s not “panic” time yet, but it is worrisome that he’s struggling this badly to this point. And two games in a row with three Ks is not a good sign. This is the gamble you take with a complete rebuild based solely on prospects turning into good major league players. So yeah, we’re all going to sit on Baez’ every at bat, holding him up as the next great Cub. And, when things are going poorly, it’s going to be a big issue for fans. Hopefully he can snap out of this soon and show signs of adjusting.

      • MoneyBoy

        Yeah… he’s for sure going to keep that slash line for the next 500 ABs. Geezuz

      • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

        Eh…We’ve got about 3 weeks before his adjustment slump should be showing signs of ending.

        I’m still hopeful we can get a 4 WAR player out of him which would be very useful at 2B

  • Spoda17

    If I’m Lake I’m pissed.

    • DarthHater

      It might be more efficient to just report on the occasions when you’re not pissed. :-P

  • ssckelley

    The splits are even larger this season for Lynn, .213 .264 .350 against RHB versus .291 .371 .509 against lefties. Plus he has struck out 31 opposing right handed hitters versus only 9 against lefties.

  • Joshua Edwards

    I just want to point out that this community has ruined my bar conversations. I am staking a spot for tonight’s game but the guys next to me are thrilled to see Barney in the lineup.

    They hate Valbuena.

    This hurts me.i may have to move spots. And I blame all of you here at BN.

    • Mike

      Aren’t there any good Sabre bars around?

      • Diehardthefirst

        Closest is Tel Aviv

        • college_of_coaches

          Wow, that was a seriously great comeback Diehard!!! To clarify for everyone, the term (actually “sabra”) is Israeli slang for Jewish people born in the land.

    • willis

      Well then, they’re morons. I don’t know how you hate a player that sees a ton of pitches and has a good OBP, while playing solid defense.

      Not to mention the bat flips.

      • KHRSS

        I agree and with Barney it’s not even a metrics argument. Look at his avg, it’s horrible.
        I like barney but Valbuena should be getting most of the starts at 2B, with Bonifacio.

  • Alan Griffin

    Both Barney and Baker know how to work a count and play solid defense. Bold prediction: Both draw multiple walks and Barney gets some Web Gem love tomorrow. Go Cubs!

    • Alan Griffin

      Let’s just hope no one forces Baker to throw to second.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      In what reality does Barney know how to work counts? (If you’ve been fooled by his performance in the tiny sample size of 2014, well, you’ve been fooled!)

      • Alan Griffin

        Well, I may be fooled, but it *is* 2014 and I like to think that 28 isn’t too old to develop some discipline. He hasn’t looked too bad in his small number of PAs this year and I hope to see that continue. Maybe he feels the pressure to perform and has turned on TWTW. Regardless, my prediction stands.

        • Alan Griffin

          And, Doc, I admit to being an irrational Barney lover. Not because he’s good, he’s not. I just like him. If I based my decisions on who to like off of their talent and competitiveness, I surely wouldn’t be a Cubs fan!

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Well, love is blind and all of that! And I’m sure that he’s a swell fellow: but, then, as a biologist, I’m predisposed to like people named Darwin.

          • Diehardthefirst

            Belly fire hard not to notice- you can look it up to see that I was first to point it out- isn’t that right Darth/Goat?

            • DocPeterWimsey

              Indeed, seeing belly fire is just as easy as seeing Bigfoot and Elvis! :-)

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Given how little evidence there is that guys can improve pitch recognition at *any* age (never mind 28), I would say that, yes, 28 is much too old. The vast majority of guys have the same pitch recognition at the peak of their game as they did as rookies: it’s just not a trait that evolves much.

          • Alan Griffin

            See above. Sorry. Replied to myself.

      • Alan Griffin

        I actually did some research after pulling the “Barney works counts” statement out of my ass. It appears, alas, that he does not. Oh well. Given that he is underperforming on even *his* usually paltry stats through 53 PA this year, I will, again, take the optimistic route and say that he is due for some positive regression. Even though he is outperforming his usual BB%, my bold prediction stands. And, if he exchanges the multiple walks for multiple hits, I’ll be just as happy.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          I think that the problem is that people think that working counts is “smart.” Because Barney is perceived to be a “smart” player, people then assume that he’ll do “smart” things like work counts.

          However, batting really is a non-cognitive process. You have to trigger swing/don’t swing in less than a 10th a second. A batter is not being stupid when he swings at a pitch a foot outside (or, in Barney’s case, makes weak contact on a pitch half a foot outside): in the 10th of a second he had to recognize the pitch, he didn’t do so.

          After all, if intelligence was important here, then baseball teams would scout graduate schools for players. (As it is, they’ve only just recently started doing that for FO prospects!)

          • Alan Griffin

            True. I’m pretty sure that is what influences me when viewing Barney’s underperformance. I just hope that if Hamel regresses towards the mean tonight re BABIP that Barney does too! Both have unsustainable numbers, thus far. Looking forward to another Cubs win.

  • Medicos

    HAWKEYE TALK

    BLACKHAWKS—–4 WILD—-1

    Two goals by BRANDON SAAD led the HAWKS to a 4-1 win and a 2-0 lead in the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. JON TOEWS scored his 4th playoff goal. BRYAN BICKELL scored his 5th playoff goal after scoring only 11 during the regular season.

  • Kyle

    Stanton’s hitting 285/362/602. Let’s revisit who we would trade for him?

    • BlameHendry

      Baez.

      • cubfanincardinalland

        Another 0 for 4 today with 3 strikeouts. Until he stops hitting like its a home run hitting contest, he will never see the big leagues.

        • Cubbie Blues

          That’s what many claimed last year before he went on a tear hitting everything in site.

    • college_of_coaches

      Our tradable prospects have to show some uptick for them to have any trade value. The Marlins won’t be interested in Soler, even tho he’s Cuban, bc he’s too expensive. Bryant can’t be traded. I have always been comfortable with trading Almora, as much as I like him as a prospect. I would just rather replace him w/ Stanton in my future, dream-team WS winning Cubs.

      But if I can tweak the question a bit, what about return pieces from a Samardzija trade? If we can get some über-prospects from someone else, why not put them in the trade package (along with Cubs blue-chip minor leaguers).

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      Baez + Bryant.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        Are you serious?? I love Stanton, but I was gonna say like Baez, Edwards, and Villanueva. There’s no way I’d trade Baez AND Bryant for Stanton

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          Yes. Between Baez and Bryant we HOPE that one of them becomes Stanton.

          With their K rates one of them is going to become Mike Olt in 3 years while the other becomes Chris Davis.

          • Don Eaddy

            Deep down, I have fears that Baez becomes Dan Uggla

            • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

              That wouldn’t be the worst thing.

              But, like most high k MLB sluggers…He had a good minor league K rate.

            • DarthHater

              Uggla’s a 3-time all-star and silver slugger winner. The Cubs wish they had a 2B who could do that.

            • Voice of Reason

              Could do much worse than Uggla.

              Ty Griffin comes to mind….

          • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

            You can’t ignore Stanton’s injury history. I’m ok trading one of them for Stanton but you can’t trade both, especially when they are this close to MLB. If they were both in A ball, that is a different story. However, this is completely irrelevant right now because the Marlins are in the hunt, and as long as they’re in it, they’re not trading Stanton.

            • Voice of Reason

              You can’t ignore Stanton’s numbers and he’s just 24!
              I’d trade Baez or Bryant for Stanton right now and not think twice. Stanton has proven he can hit in the bigs and is still very young. Baez and Bryant have proved nothing.

              • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                I said I wouldn’t trade Baez AND Bryant, take a deep breath there buddy

          • Soda Popinski

            Stanton isn’t going anywhere. Suddenly, they’re way ahead of their rebuilding schedule, and they’ll need him there. He’s happier, now.

      • Sandberg

        That’s probably the only two players I wouldn’t include together in a deal for Stanton. Put him on the Cubs and they start to look like they could compete for the wild card.

    • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

      Well obviously we just need to send them 20 0.5 WAR that’s 10
      WAR for Miami and throw in Barney to sweeten the deal. Right?

      • college_of_coaches

        The best would be if the Cubs could include in the package deal both Junior Lake AND Matt Szczur just to spite Keith Law and Kevin Goldstein.

        • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

          Well of course

  • Kyle

    This team is like one more little hot streak from sucking me in to believing they could make a run at .500.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      If they go 2-2 over the next 4, they will have a longer period of .500 ball than sub-.500 ball.

      Granted, that doesn’t make them a .500 team.

      • DarthHater

        It does, if you use Better Math.

    • Alan Griffin

      My hope since March has been to just avoid 90 losses. It may be arbitrary, but there’s a ring to 90 losses that just screams “suck”. If you avoid 90, you can at least pretend that you were only a couple of good bounces from a .500 season (and likely may have been).

      If we can win 73 or more while seeing the continuation of early success from Castro, Rizzo and Castillo with the likely come-on of Kalish and some hoped for development of Olt and Lake, that will be a very successful season IMO. Our starting pitching, even with the likely departure of Shark and Hamel is in good shape even before possible FAs are factored in. Grimm and Ramirez could be starters and Wada is destroying AAA. The bullpen looks as promising as it did before the season. If even two of the Core Four pan-out, our lineup troubles will be all but gone. Shame to lose Sweeney just when he was getting it going. He’s still youngish and could be a good LH 4th or 5th OFer for the future.

      It’s funny how much a few consecutive wins will change outlooks. I like the team a whole lot better, right now, and next year is looking pretty damned good too!

      Go Cubs!

  • roz

    Albert Almora has taken a walk everyone! Time to celebrate!

    https://twitter.com/NSidersReport/status/463081089070669824

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Well, there’s Monday’s headline.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Lake has to be pissed, what is up with that lineup?

    • nkniacc13

      Its the platoon with the splits on pitcher

      • http://BN Sacko

        Understood..I just like going with the hot bat.

    • Kyle

      He’s so mad he took a three swings at Renteria. But not one connected.

      • Sandberg

        hahaha nice one

  • Jason B

    Going to go out on a limb and say that Barney has himself a nice little night at the plate. 3-4 with at least one double. And of course, he’ll make at least 2 nice plays in the field.

  • Kyle

    Oh, because I’m petty like this, where’s that guy who practically red-faced screamed at me for saying the Pirates weren’t *that* great.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      Hey…anyone know where I can find the guy that way predicting the Reds/Pirates and Cardinals were going to dominate the NLC for the foreseeable future?

  • GoCubs

    Choice….Who starts? Olt or Barney!

  • benjamin

    These jerseys are awesome. WANT

  • gocatsgo2003

    TOOTBLAN!

  • Soda Popinski

    Rizzo is looking really, really good. Great approach.

  • Karl Groucho

    A Rizzingle!

    …could use work

  • Diehardthefirst

    Looks like Castro is 5 lbs away from being a DH- and it’s all in his stomach and butt- needs to bulk up above waist and move to OF next year

    • ThatCubsGuy

      Huh? Do looks great out there. Moving just as well if not better out on the field

      • ThatCubsGuy

        *Dude

  • cubbiekoolaid2015

    Candelario just hit a walk off HR for Daytona.

    • Diehardthefirst

      He’s sleeper to start next yr at 2B

      • DarthHater

        Sleeper is right, since he has played zero games at 2B in his career.

        • Diehardthefirst

          To date- season is young

          • DarthHater

            He has played 297 games in his career. None at 2B. Scouts also doubt whether he can even stick defensively at 3B. If he can’t play the corner, there’s no way he is going to be moved to 2B.

            • Diehardthefirst

              Got to find him position as he’s a keeper

              • DarthHater

                That’s true. I just don’t think it will be 2B. I fear he’ll suffer from being a “tweener” who doesn’t hit quite well enough to start in LF or RF, but doesn’t field well enough to start at 3B. Kinda like Lake.

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          He is also 20 and has never played above High A

          • Diehardthefirst

            That’s definition of sleeper

            • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

              Sleeper also requires a slim chance. Jeimer has ZERO chance

              • DarthHater

                [img]https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7456/14129536983_746d8d36d9_n.jpg[/img]

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                Zero chance?

                If Barney, Bonifacio, Valbuena, Lake, Alcantara, Watkins, Villanueva, Valaika, Bruno, DeVoss, Stephens, Mota, Amaya, and Hernandez (plus a couple other guys, probably) all got hurt, and…

                The Commish, in a fit of insanity, imposed an absolute moratorium on all player movement between teams, and…

                The 2014 draft is cancelled, or all college infielders in the 2014 draft suddenly decide to retire from baseball, then…

                Candelario probably still isn’t the starting second baseman in 2015, but that scenario would set the stage for such a thing to become possible.

                • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                  [img]http://s2.quickmeme.com/img/fc/fc2fca5cc8833d35c92822a6af386914480a4e7c2411a6329d9742eb6bc89110.jpg[/img]

                  • DarthHater

                    [img]https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3760/13271952754_a369ced880_n.jpg[/img]

                    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                      My meme game needs work, but I will not give in to the dark side of meme generation

                • Diehardthefirst

                  Thanks for agreeing – I know you like his bat too- with your endorsement naysayers back off

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                    I’d say there is a better chance of aliens showing up to give everyone a free pony than there is of Candelario starting a game at second base for the Chicago Cubs in 2015.

                    If that qualifies as agreement, then my head hurts.

                    • Diehardthefirst

                      Well how do you really feel? Given nobody has inside track aliens may target Wrigley

  • cubmig

    damn……Hammel hit a bump twice. We gotta’ come back to even this up.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Instead of Jumbotron need to invest in retractable roof so fans can be 70 degrees comfortable – many empty seats for May game

  • Diehardthefirst

    With luck Cubs could be in 2nd place by Moms day

  • lnfihDeL

    Guy walks the bases loaded so Castro swings at the first pitch.

    Sigh.

    • baldtaxguy

      So did Rizzo.

    • Diehardthefirst

      Yea he lacks confidence of working pitcher which Rizzo is mastering-

  • KHRSS

    FYI
    Baez being interview on ESPN( Deportes) he said he asked the cubs if he will be switching positions and he said he was told when the time comes he will be told.

    They also asked him if he can be the savior of the franchise(what a dumb question). He answered that he is just working hard and trying to get better.

    They asked him some other stuff but not that relevant.

    • DarthHater

      He should be worrying about making contact, instead of switching positions.

      • baldtaxguy

        Agreed. Let’s see an 0-4 with no K’s and work our way up from there.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      “They also asked him if he can be the savior of the franchise”

      Let’s just all agree that I went off on a very lengthy, profound rant against sports journalism in general and ESPN in particular, and spare me from actually having to do it.

      • KHRSS

        I couldn’t believe when they asked him that.

  • BlameHendry

    LOL that ball 4 to John Baker was totally a strike. Thanks blue!

  • Diehardthefirst

    Seeing the owner work the crowd kinda pathetic Veeck mimic- Ricketts is no Veeck

    • itzscott

      Make all the fun of it that you want, but the fact is that he’s not hiding behind some desk, he’s man enough to put himself out there to take the slings & arrows of the paying customers and those things tend to pay dividends later on.

      I give him credit for for it.

      • Diehardthefirst

        No he’s pan handling for support against Rooftoppers- if was a man he’d be working the Rooftoppers crowd

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          And it would take him 2 minutes because there are 15 people on the rooftops right now

          • Diehardthefirst

            Too cold- if roof everyone would be inside the park

        • itzscott

          No, he’s probably asking people if they’re enjoying themselves and thanking them for their support.

    • baldtaxguy

      I think its cool that he walks around during the game and talks to fans.

      • Diehardthefirst

        No great feat- Veeck did it with one foot

        • itzscott

          Ok, ok … You win. Because Bill Veeck did it, no other owner can do it.

          Got it, chief.

  • Jason P

    Having Baker, Barney, and Hammel in the same lineup is crippling.

    • Jason P

      And right as I say that, Hammel smacks a 2-run double. Go figure.

      • Jason P

        *single

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