phillie phanaticHooray! The Cubs are good again.

Since losing back-to-back series in Milwaukee and San Francisco, the Cubs have gone 10-3 against the Cardinals, Phillies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks, winning each of those four series.

Now, they’ll head out on the road to visit the Phillies, Braves and Nationals, before returning home for a big six-game home stand against the Pirates and the Cardinals. Even though the Cubs are playing as well as they have been, I’m not looking forward to nine straight against the Nats, Bucs and Cards. Should be fun, though.

They’ll have to get through this road series first, which begins with a rematch against the Phillies, this time on their home turf. Interestingly, this series will feature the exact same six starters from both sides … in the same order. The Cubs won all three last time, so we’ll see if that stays the same, too. Maybe we are in a time loop; at least it’s a good one.

We’re Going Streaking

Although the Cubs (39-16) lost Sunday’s finale against the D-backs, they did take the series overall – their fourth in a row. And, on the home stand, the Cubs lost just two times in ten tries, both on Jake Arrieta days. They still have a commanding lead in the NL Central, as well as the best record in baseball.

Speaking of that home stand, it all began with a series sweep over the very Phillies (28-29) that will host the Cubs today. The Phillies had entered that series against the Cubs five games over .500, before getting swept in back-to-back series by the Cubs and Nationals. They then split a series with the Brewers over the weekend and now find themselves a game under .500 for the season. This is much closer to what people expected of them at the beginning of the season, but they have shown that they can beat good teams.



Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Monday, June 6 at 6:05 CT on CSN, ESPN-2, 670 The Score
  • Tuesday, June 7 at 6:05 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, June 8 at 12:00 CT on CSN, MLBN, 670 The Score

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.

Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • Jon Lester (2.29 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 3.36 xFIP; 4.06 K/BB)
  • Kyle Hendricks (2.84 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 3.40 xFIP; 3.92 K/BB)
  • John Lackey (2.88 ERA, 3.19 FIP; 3.45 xFIP; 4.00 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

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


Philadelphia Phillies

Starters:

  • Adam Morgan (7.07 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 5.02 xFIP; 2.40 K/BB)
  • Jared Eickhoff (3.93 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 3.82 xFIP; 4.15 K/BB)
  • Vincent Velasquez (3.67 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 3.70 xFIP; 3.32 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Odubel Herrera, CF
  2. Freddy Galvis, SS
  3. Maikel Franco, 3B
  4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
  5. Carlos Ruiz, C
  6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
  7. Tyler Goeddel, SS
  8. Pitcher
  9. Peter Bourjos, RF

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

Like I said, the Cubs will send the exact same three starters up to the mound as last time, so let’s look at how well everyone has pitched, using the beginning of that series as a cutoff. Surprise! The Cubs pitchers have been excellent.

Jon Lester’s two starts since (and including) the Phillies series, featured 15.1 innings, allowing only 2 earned runs on 10 hits, 2 walks, and a massive 17 strikeouts. First, he handled the Phillies by limiting the damage to just 1 earned run over 6.1 innings pitched. Then he threw a complete game against the Dodgers in what may have been his best start with the Cubs.

Kyle Hendricks would know a thing or two about complete games, though, because in his last two starts since (and including) the Phillies series, he’s nearly thrown two of them: 17.0 innings pitched, 3 earned runs, 8 hits, 1 walk and 13 strikeouts. First, he threw a complete game against the Phillies that should have been a complete game shutout if it weren’t for some really weird bounces and falls (he allowed a run on a pop-up, a ground out and a strikeout), before following it up with eight strong innings of 2 run ball against the Dodgers. He’s no longer quietly good. He’s just good.

Lastly, you know John Lackey wouldn’t allow himself to be the weakest link of the bunch, so in his last two starts since (and including) the Phillies series, Lackey’s lasted into the 7th inning, allowing a total of just 1 earned run (off a solo homer) on 9 hits, 6 walks and 15 strikeouts over 13.2 innings pitched. He went seven innings against the Phillies, allowing just the one earned run, before going 6.2 strong innings against the D-backs on Friday, without letting a single batter cross home plate.

The Cubs pitching, man. It’s just on right now.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

But the offense is carrying its weight, too, outscoring their opponents 41 – 15 since the beginning of the Phillies series. Particularly hot right now? Anthony Rizzo. In his 31 plate appearances since May 27 (Game 1 v. Phillies), Rizzo has slashed .375/.516/.708 with a 12.9% walk rate and just a 9.7% strikeout rate. But to be fair, his season line is stellar, as well: .251/.390/.524 with 13 home runs.

Also hot since the beginning of the Phillies series? Jorge Soler. In his 24 plate appearances since May 27, Soler’s slash line is .250/.375/.450 with a 12.5% walk rate, a 20.8% strike out rate (both excellent marks for him) and a .200 ISO. He still hasn’t hit as many home runs as we all expect him to do eventually, but he is on pace for 20, given a full 600 plate appearance season.



Philadelphia Phillies – Pitching

Let’s take a similar look back at the same three pitchers the Cubs saw a week and a half ago. They have been … less good.

In Adam Morgan’s start against the Cubs on May 27, he lasted just 4.0 innings, after giving up 6 earned runs on 8 hits (including 3 homers to Soler, Ross and Bryant), 1 walk and just 3 strikeouts. He followed that clunker up with another 6 earned run effort against the Washington Nationals that also featured a couple of homers in his six innings pitched. Morgan has been hittable.

Eickhoff was a little bit better against the Cubs than Morgan (6.0 IP, 4ER, 1BB, 7K), but still allowed 8 hits and a home run in his 6 innings of work. Since then, he did have a nice start against the Brewers (6.2 IP, 2ER, 1BB, 4Ks), who have some legit pop in their lineup.

Lastly, Velasquez must have been disappointed by his start against the Cubs (4.2 IP, 7ER, 9H, 2BB, 6Ks), because before that he was the proud owner of a flashy pitchers slash line: 2.75/3.32/3.63; 28.8% k rate, 8.0% walk rate. But after the Cubs game, he went on to last just 4.1 innings against the Brewers, and suddenly has an ERA nearly a full run higher than he did before May 29. Those damn Cubs.

Philadelphia Phillies – Offense

The Phillies remain one of the worst offenses in baseball. Here are their collective team stats by a variety of metrics.

  • AVG: .233 (28th)
  • OBP: .289 (30th) (Seriously, their OBP is .289; Red Sox Team BATTING AVERAGE is .293)
  • SLG: .368 (29th)
  • BB-rate: 6.7% (26th)
  • K-rate: 21.9% (20th)

Aside from Odubel Herrera (.317/.426/.436; .377 wOBA) and Cameron Rupp (.286/.318/.468; .338 wOBA), no one (100 PA min) on the Phillies has a wOBA over .310 (Maikel Franco is right at .310 – without him, no one has a wOBA over .300(!)). But even Herrera hasn’t been great lately. Since the start of the Cubs series, he’s slashed just .270/.357/.324 – in other words, he’s getting on base plenty, but hasn’t hit for any power.

Rupp has been on fire, though, slashing .304/.385/.609 with a .421 wOBA. That said, he hasn’t been walking too much (7.7%). He’s just been crushing the ball (.304) and not really striking out (19.2%). If the Cubs can manage these two hitters, they should be just fine.


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