After their series sweep in San Diego, the Chicago Cubs travel north to Los Angeles for a three-game set against the first place Los Angeles Dodgers.
Of course, what constitutes first place in the NL West (71-56) would actually translate to a 10-game deficit in the NL Central. These Cubs, they good.
Following this weekend series, the Cubs will head back to Wrigley Field for a seven-game home stand, with three against the Pirates and four against the Giants – marking the beginning of the final march into the playoffs.
We’re Going Streaking
After going on an eleven game winning streak, the Chicago Cubs (81-45) lost two to St. Louis and then won eight of their next ten games. So, if you’re keeping track, they’re 19-4 in their past 23 games. That’s how you build and maintain a 14.0-game lead in your division and have six more wins than any other team in baseball.
The Dodgers (71-56) may have ten fewer wins than the Cubs, but they are no slouches themselves. They did just split a four-game series with the Reds, but sandwiched it between two series wins against the Phillies and Giants. They have a loose grip on the NL West, though (just 2.0 games), so they’ll be fighting every inning.
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Friday, August 26 at 9:10 CT on ABC-7, 670 The Score
- Saturday, August 27, at 3:05 CT on WGN, FS1, 670 The Score
- Sunday, August 28, at 3:10 CT on CSN-C, TBS (out-of-market only), 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.
- Mike Montgomery (2.41 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 3.51 xFIP; 2.84)
- Jason Hammel (3.07 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 4.28 xFIP; 2.61 K/BB)
- Jon Lester (2.81 ERA, 3.67 FIP; 3.51 xFIP; 3.58 K/BB)
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Kris Bryant, 3B/LF
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist, 2B/LF
- Addison Russell, SS
- Willson Contreras, C
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Javy Baez, 3B/2B*
*And Jorge Soler will work in, too. There’s not an easy way to illustrate the versatility and fluidity of this Cubs lineup … which is awesome.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- Bud Norris (4.69 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 4.11 xFIP; 2.32 K/BB)
- Chase Utley, 2B
- Corey Seager, SS
- Justin Turner, 3B
- Josh Reddick, RF
- Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
- Yasmani Grandal, C
- Joc Pederson, CF
- Howie Kendrick, LF
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
With John Lackey still out on the disabled list, Mike Montgomery draws another start for the Cubs. And if you recall, he was actually quite good during his last one, giving up just one earned run on one hit and two walks against five strikeouts in 4.1 innings pitched at Coors Field. If he could repeat that outing once again, perhaps with another inning tacked on, he would definitely earn a gold star from me.
Jason Hammel gets the ball in game two, but is returning from quite a rough start in Colorado. Making it through just 3.1 innings, Hammel allowed six earned runs on ten hits and two walks, striking out just two Rockies in the process. After a really strong stretch of a pitching leading up to that game in Colorado, Hammel had lowered his ERA down to 2.75 over 134.1 innings pitched. After that game, however, his ERA ballooned all the way up to 3.07. That’s not easy to do this late in the season. But like I said, he was dominant in the seven starts that preceded the game at Coors Field, pitching to a 1.26 ERA (3.10 FIP) with 40 strikeouts in 43.0 innings.
Hopefully, he’ll return to form in Los Angeles and we’ll all quickly forget about that start.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
Who’s ready for their Addison Russell update? Since the beginning of August (85 PAs), Russell is slashing .288/.353/.616 with seven home runs and a strikeout rate under 20%. His ISO is an astounding .329 during that stretch and his BABIP is actually a bit low (.264) – meaning he could probably have had a few more hits fall in. Even stretching back to the beginning of July (192 PAs), Russell has a 121 wRC+ and a 356 wOBA. Dude has simply been raking.
Also raking in August: Kris Bryant. Since the beginning of the month (98 PAs), he’s slashed a laughable .372/.439/.698 which is good for a 199 wRC+. Yep, in the month of August, KB’s been nearly 100% better than the league average hitter – funny, right?
Bryant’s line is so good that it makes Rizzo’s .360/.427/.535 (157 wRC+) August production seem completely pedestrian, even though it’s also fantastic. And just for good measure, it’s worth pointing out that Ben Zobrist has also been killing it in August, with a .306/.393/.472 slash line, good for a 130 wRC+.
Wondering why the Cubs are winning so many games this month? Well when the production of your 2-5 hitters looks like this, there’s really no mystery:
- Bryant – 199 wRC+
- Rizzo – 157 wRC+
- Zobrist – 130 wRC+
- Russell – 149 wRC+
Los Angeles Dodgers – Pitching
The Dodgers pitching staff has been in a state of ruin lately, with each of Brett Anderson and Scott Kazmir breaking down over the past week (that, after most of the rotation has been ravaged the rest of the year), forcing the team to use seven different starting pitchers in the past seven days. Thus, the final two starters of this weekend series are still to be determined. Bud Norris will be pitching for the Dodgers tonight, however, so let’s check in on how his season has gone.
Okay, that was a bit harsh, but Norris, 31, isn’t quite having the season he’d like to have. Through 103.2 innings, he’s got a 4.69 ERA, with peripherals to support it. He’s not quite striking enough batters out (21.3%) and is walking a bit too many guys too (9.2%), but neither mark is the reason for his struggles. Instead, batters have simply been squaring him up all season long – and that goes double for lefties. We’ll cover it in greater detail in the Pre-Gamin post later today, but expect tonight’s lineup to be loaded with lefties (where are Chris Coghlan and Tommy La Stella when you need them?).
Los Angeles Dodgers – Offense
By a couple measures (wOBA, wRC+) the Dodgers’ offense has been just slightly below average this season, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a weakness. Of the nine batters with more than 200 plate appearances at the Major League level this year, eight of them have a wRC+ of 100 or better (meaning that they have eight above average hitters) – the ninth is Yasiel Puig who is not yet back with the Major League team.
And their biggest contributor, Corey Seager, continues to dominate. Through 123 games, Seager is slashing .322/.377/.538 with 22 home runs and a strikeout rate under 20.0%. With excellent defense at shortstop, too, he’s already been worth 6.7 WAR this season – just 0.3 WAR behind Kris Bryant. In the month of August, Seager is slashing .375/.433/.568 with four homers. He’ll be your NL Rookie of the Year.
Since June 4, Justin Turner is hitting .315/.357/.646 with 21 homers in just 283 plate appearances. Remember when he was a light-hitting utility guy with the Mets, who never slugged over .400?