cardinals mascot fredbirdThe NLDS rematch.

The first match-up of the year.

The first chance for John Lackey and Jason Heyward to face their former team.

Or, more simply, the rivalry.

Whatever storyline you want to imbue this series with, it’s going to be a big series. I guarantee you the energy will be electric from the word go, even though it’s still mid-April. These are good teams, which fought closely contested games last year, which met in the playoffs, and which will be fighting for a division title this year. And they’re classic, traditional rivals.

It’s gonna be good baseball. And if the Cubs can take two of three, it’ll be happy baseball, too.

We’re Going Streaking

The Cubs are 9-3 on the season, tops in the NL Central, but they’re coming off of a series loss to the Rockies. Before that, the Cubs swept the Reds.

Speaking of those Reds, they dropped two of three to the Cardinals, who have now won seven of nine since an opening series sweep at the hands of the Pirates. Of course, the three teams the Cardinals played in that stretch were the Reds, Braves, and Brewers, so taking seven of nine doesn’t necessarily tell us a lot about their ability.



Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Monday, April 18 at 7:09 CT on WPWR, ESPN
  • Tuesday, April 19 at 7:15 CT on CSN, MLBN
  • Wednesday, April 20 at 12:45 CT on CSN, MLBN

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.

Cubs

Starters:

  • John Lackey (5.68 ERA, 4.40 FIP; 2.75 K/BB)
  • Jason Hammel (0.75 ERA, 3.39 FIP; 1.29 K/BB)
  • Kyle Hendricks (2.84 ERA, 1.80 FIP; 10.00 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF
  2. Jason Heyward, RF
  3. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  5. Kris Bryant, 3B
  6. Jorge Soler, LF
  7. Miguel Montero, C
  8. Addison Russell, SS
  9. Pitcher


Cardinals

Starters:

  • Mike Leake (6.97 ERA, 3.23 FIP; 1.75 K/BB)
  • Jaime Garcia (2.40 ERA, 1.40 FIP; 4.75 K/BB)
  • Carlos Martinez (3.46 ERA, 3.37 FIP; 2.75 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Matt Carpenter, 3B
  2. Stephen Piscotty, RF
  3. Matt Holliday, LF
  4. Randal Grichuk, CF
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. Brandon Moss, 1B
  7. Kolten Wong, 2B
  8. Aledmys Diaz, SS
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

We talked about Dexter Fowler’s insane start to the season yesterday, but a small fall-off yesterday means that he got passed for the team lead in wRC+ if you include small sample guys. Fowler is at 208, but Matt Szczur (16 plate appearances) is now at 215. But he’s not the leader, either. It’s Jon Lester(!) at 310(!) … through 4(no exclamation point) plate appearances.

Anthony Rizzo’s batting average is a humble .167 right now, but it’s about as good as .167 can get – he’s still walking a ton (16.7%), he’s not striking out an ungodly amount (18.5%), and he’s crushing the ball when he actually gets a hit (.256 ISO). That .167 BABIP is the culprit, and I have absolutely zero concern about Rizzo right now.

Small sample, single statistic fun: your team FIP leaders are Kyle Hendricks (1.76), Pedro Strop (0.71), and Hector Rondon (-1.56 – yes, negative 1.56; I don’t even know what that means).

Speaking of Rondon, he’s obviously been flawless this year, but he’s made only three appearances for an inning apiece so far. The Cubs haven’t given him many chances for a close and late save, though he arguably could have been used in a close one yesterday, even though the Cubs were trailing. In any event, he should be plenty well-rested for this series.



Eric Fryer is a catcher on the Cardinals’ roster, and he went 3-3 yesterday against the Reds, knocking in the winning run, and being a critical part of that win. That’s cool. I just have one question. Who the hell is Eric Fryer?

Speaking of that kind of Voodoo Magic, how about Jeremy Hazelbaker, whose career appeared to be washed out until a .406/.432/.844 start with the Cardinals this year.

And then there’s Aledmys Diaz, who’s barely played above AA (where he didn’t actually have a ton of success), and who was pressed into service by injuries to Jhonny Peralta and Ruben Tejada. He’s hitting .406/.424/.813. Naturally.

The Cardinals are actually getting solid offensive contributions across the board (albeit against lesser pitching so far), as all of Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, Yadier Molina, and Brandon Moss have been above average offensively.

On the pitching side, the Cardinals’ worst pitcher has probably been Adam Wainwright, but the Cubs won’t see him this series.

Previous Series Review (Rockies v. Cubs):


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