Well, friends. This is a big one.
The Chicago Cubs trail the San Francisco Giants by 0.5 games in the Wild Card race, and now they get ’em in their place for four. The Cubs miss Madison Bumgarner, while getting to send both of Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester out in this one (as well as their three and four starters). The match-up doesn’t get much better, but this is a damn good team the Cubs are playing.
Obviously taking three of four would be a tremendous accomplishment and boon to the Cubs’ playoff hopes. Splitting would not be bad, all things considered (the Cubs have a much easier schedule from here than do the Giants). Losing three of four would be a serious blow, but not the end of the world. A sweep? Let’s not even go there.
If you believe that the Giants will wind up being the Cubs’ primary competition in the Wild Card race, then every game in this series is a two-game swing for the Cubs’ playoff hopes.
Buckle up. You’re going to feel stress this weekend.
We’re Going Streaking
The Cubs dropped last night’s game in Pittsburgh, but they’d won six in a row before that. They are playing well, and some of the bats are coming around.
The Giants, over a long enough horizon, have been scorching hot, winning 16 of their last 21. Dang. That’s a lot.
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Thursday, August 6 at 7:05 CT on CSN.
- Friday, August 7 at 3:05 CT on WGN-9, MLBN.
- Saturday, August 8 at 3:05 CT on ABC-7.
- Sunday, August 9 at 1:20 CT on CSN, TBS.
And, if you’re not in the blackout region, you can always watch on MLB.tv.
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: Jason Hammel (3.13 ERA, 3.27 FIP; 4.83 K/BB), Jon Lester (3.26 ERA, 2.94 FIP; 4.25 K/BB), Kyle Hendricks (3.67 ERA, 3.34 FIP; 4.12 K/BB), Jake Arrieta (2.50 ERA, 2.64 FIP; 4.11 K/BB)
Lineup (probably gonna be changing frequently):
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Kyle Schwarber, C/LF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Jorge Soler, RF
- Chris Coghlan, LF/RF
- Starlin Castro, SS
- Addison Russell, 2B
Starters: Chris Heston (3.24 ERA, 3.22 FIP; 2.73 K/BB), Mike Leake (3.52 ERA, 3.93 FIP; 2.64 K/BB), Matt Cain (4.91 ERA, 4.43 FIP; 3.00 K/BB), Jake Peavy (3.77 ERA, 3.87 FIP; 3.00 K/BB)
- Nori Aoki, LF
- Gregor Blanco, CF
- Matt Duffy, 3B
- Buster Posey, C
- Hunter Pence, RF
- Brandon Belt, 1B
- Brandon Crawford, SS
- Kelby Tomlinson, 2B
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Miguel Montero is expected to be back for at least part of this series, which will create some interesting rotational and match-up opportunities. We’ll see how Joe Maddon handles it.
Possibly speaking of which … since the day Maddon, John Mallee and Eric Hinske did some heavily-reported one-on-three work with Starlin Castro in the cage before a game against the Rockies (8 games ago), Castro is hitting .300/.344/.367. Meaningful or meaningless? Eh, I wouldn’t put too much into it, because these guys are working with all of the hitters constantly. But hopefully it suggests Castro is turning a corner, even if it means he’s going to go back to being a high-contact, no-walk, little-power guy like in his younger days. That’s not the dream the Cubs had for him, but it’s better than what he’s been this year.
Anthony Rizzo is on so very fire: .481/.483/1.148 over his last seven games. (Hey, where are the walks, guy!?)
Kris Bryant going all the way back to June 14: .185/.289/.370. Some of that is the depressed .240 BABIP, but a big, big chunk of it is the 32.6% K rate during that time. He is a young player, folks. Remember this when Kyle Schwarber inevitably goes through the same kind of adjustment period, whenever that is.
Lifted from the Bullets this morning: “At .228, the Cubs have the fourth lowest batting average with runners in scoring position, which has cost them a whole lot of runs. Contrast with the new holder of the second Wild Card spot in the NL: the Giants have hit an MLB-best .295 with runners in scoring position. The Giants are at .273 overall, by the way, whereas the Cubs are at .239.”
The Giants, best known for their pitching during their dominant run of the last several years, have actually had a bit of an offensive explosion. The team has eight(!) offensive regulars with wRC+ better than 120. Think about that for a moment. And that list includes guys like Gregor Blanco, Matt Duffy, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, and Nori Aoki. There’s something there, in the infrastructure, that is helping guys click (player selection obviously plays a big part, too). There’s just too much success to be a flukey coincidence (not unlike with the Cardinals). Credit where it’s due, man.
Panik will be out for the series, but the rest of the crew will be in place to give the Cubs’ pitchers fits. You may not be overwhelmed when you look at the Giants’ lineup, but don’t be mistake: this is a good offensive club.
The pitching ain’t bad either, with breakout rookie Chris Heston somehow dominating, and Mike Leake added to the fold. Hopefully the Cubs can have success against Leake having seen him so many times this year, and having just seen him a few weeks ago.