The first half of this brief, NL Central homestand went as well as it could have, with a Cubs sweep over the Pirates.
Now, the Cubs will host the Cardinals for three straight at Wrigley Field, before heading out on the road for a pair of four-game sets against the Marlins and Mets, sandwiching a three-game set against the Reds.
The All-Star break is rapidly approaching. Can you believe that?
We’re Going Streaking
The first time the Chicago Cubs (47-20) played the Pittsburgh Pirates, they swept them after a disappointing series split against Atlanta. The second time the Cubs played the Pirates, they took two out of three, after a disappointing series loss to the Padres. The third time the Cubs played the Pirates (this past weekend), the Cubs swept them once again after a disappointing series loss to the Nationals.
The 2016 Pirates: the Chicago Cubs’ slump busters. The Cubs have won three straight and seven of their past ten. They remain in first place over the Cardinals by a very healthy 12.5 games.
The Cardinals (35-33) are just a couple games over .500 right now, after losing five straight against the Rangers and Astros. Their roster is in a bit of flux and their season is in jeopardy of losing it’s heading. Even with a sweep over the Cubs this week, they’d be 9.5 games back. They’ll need a heck of stretch to get back into the divisional conversation.
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Monday, June 20 at 7:05 CT on CSN, 670 The Score
- Tuesday, June 21 at 7:05 CT on ABC-7, MLBN, 670 The Score
- Wednesday, June 22 at 1:20 CT on ABC-7, 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.
- John Lackey (2.66 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 3.43 xFIP; 4.33 K/BB)
- Jason Hammel (2.26 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 4.14 xFIP; 2.67 K/BB)
- Jake Arrieta (1.74 ERA, 2.47 FIP; 3.05 xFIP; 3.26 K/BB)
- Dexter Fowler, CF*
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Kris Bryant, LF
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist, 2B
- Javy Baez, 3B (or Albert Almora, Matt Szczur, Chris Coghlan)
- Addison Russell, SS
- Miguel Montero, C (or David Ross, Willson Contreras)
*While we’re awaiting word on Fowler, this lineup is tough to pin down, and there’s no point in guessing. I will say that, at a minimum, you won’t likely see Fowler this series, and that Contreras is expected to start tonight.
St. Louis Cardinals
- Jaime Garcia (3.93 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 3.58 xFIP; 2.52 K/BB)
- Adam Wainwright (4.78 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 4.27 xFIP; 2.77 K/BB)
- Michael Wacha (4.56 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 4.00 xFIP; 2.33 K/BB)
- Matt Carpenter, 2B
- Aledmys Diaz, SS
- Matt Holliday, LF
- Stephen Piscotty, RF
- Jhonny Peralta, 3B
- Yadier Molina, C
- Brandon Moss, 1B
- Kolton Wong (apparently? or Tommy Pham), CF
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
John Lackey is quickly becoming a must-watch pitcher, having allowed just 26 earned runs over his 13 starts (88.0 IP) this season. In fact, going all the way back to the beginning of May, and he has a sub-2.00 ERA (1.72, to be exact) in nine starts. He’s striking out more than a batter per inning in that stretch and has walked just 15.
Adam Warren, on the other hand, is mightily scuffling. After the two earned runs he allowed yesterday, his season slash line is at a gruesome 4.56/5.39/5.29 over 25.2 innings. It seems like not too long ago we were gushing over the variously optimistic projections for his season. There’s still plenty of time for him to turn it around, but sooner would be nicer than later.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are not so quietly entering into a legitimate home run battle, and nothing can make me happier than that. They each hit a home run on Saturday and Sunday, bringing both totals up to a dead even 17 on the season (T-10th overall in MLB). Of course their overall production remains the most important angle here, but who wouldn’t want a good ole fashioned home run battle as the Cubs approach the fall?
How about some bulleted June fun to close out the section:
- Anthony Rizzo has a .470 OBP and a .789 SLG (.518 wOBA)
- Kris Bryant has a .348 OBP and a .633 SLG (.400 wOBA)
- Jason Heyward’s slash line: .290/.362/.484, 3HR, 3 2Bs
- Javier Baez’s slash line: .302/.339/.604, 4 HR, 4 2Bs
St. Louis Cardinals – Pitching
The Cardinals pitching staff has been their kryptonite. As a whole, they haven’t been terrible (about middle of the pack by fWAR), but their starters have an ERA over 4.00 and their relievers have been worth a collective 1.0 WAR this season (though, to be fair, the Cubs bullpen has been worth just 0.7 WAR).
The one thing the Cardinals starters have been, surprisingly, is healthy. Each of Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright, and Mike Leake have made 13 or 14 starts this season. With the exception of Leake (well, sorta, as he was on the DL for part of last season), each of those pitchers has had some serious health questions in the recent past, so that’s quite surprising. Still, every one of them has basically been middle of the pack, and none have been worth more than 1.5 WAR so far. By contrast, all of the Cubs pitchers besides Hammel have been worth more than 1.5 WAR (and Hammel is at 1.4).
St. Louis Cardinals – Offense
Although the pitching staff hasn’t exactly been excellent, the Cardinals group of position players has provided some real value. In fact, Cardinals hitters have been worth the 5th most WAR (12.1) in baseball (the Cubs are in first at 17.9 WAR). A vast majority of that success has come from Matt Carpenter (2.9 WAR) and Stephen Piscotty (1.9). Here’s what their season numbers look like:
- Carpenter: .301/.419/.559, 10 HR; 16.0% walk rate, 17.0% strikeout rate
- Piscotty: .300/.384/.477, 8 HR; 10.1% walk rate, 17.0% strikeout rate
Matt Holliday hasn’t had a bad year either (.257/.332/.478, 12 HR), but his line looks a little worse in June: .234/.327/.426. That said, he’s been the recipient of just a .211 BABIP. His .191 ISO and 12.7% strikeout rate indicate that he’s probably been just fine over that stretch. I wouldn’t take any of these three lightly.