The Chicago Cubs are headed to Texas, to take on the Houston Astros at their place over the weekend.
The Cubs did just lose a series to the Brewers, but with their magic number currently at eight, there’s at least a chance they could clinch the division (over the Cardinals) in St. Louis next week. I’d love that.
After the series against the Cardinals, the Cubs will return home for a ten game home stand against the NL Central. In fact, aside from this series against the Astros, it’s all NL Central the rest of the way.
We’re Going Streaking
The Chicago Cubs (89-50) just dropped a series to the Brewers, but took three out of four from the Giants and all three from the Pirates just before that. They’re doing just fine and should clinch their spot in the 2016 Post Season sometime soon.
The Houston Astros (74-66) are doing fairly well, but still have to earn their playoff berth. After splitting a series with the Indians this week, they remain 2.5 games out of the AL Wild Card. The Yankees’ surprise contention has really thrown that race for a loop.
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Friday, September 9 at 7:10 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
- Saturday, September 10 at 12:05 CT on Fox, 670 The Score,
- Sunday, September 11 at 7:05 CT on ESPN, 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.
- Jon Lester (2.61 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 3.57 xFIP; 3.49 K/BB)
- John Lackey (3.36 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 3.75 xFIP; 3.64 K/BB)
- Jake Arrieta (2.84 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 3.68 xFIP; 2.51 K/BB)
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Kris Bryant, LF/3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist, 2B/LF
- Jorge Soler, DH
- Addison Russell, SS
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Willson Contreras, C
- Javy Baez, 3B/2B
- Joe Musgrove (5.06 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 3.80 xFIP; 4.38 K/BB)
- Collin McHugh (4.96 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 3.99 xFIP; 3.47 K/BB)
- Mike Fiers (4.29 ERA, 4.55 FIP, 4.21 xFIP; 3.22 K/BB)
- George Springer, RF
- Alex Bregman, 3B
- Jose Altuve, 2B
- Carlos Correa, SS
- Yulieski Gurriel, DH
- A.J. Reed, 1B
- Teoscar Hernandez, LF
- Jason Castro, C
- Jake Marisnick, CF
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
After taking some time off after a right shoulder strain, John Lackey returned to the Cubs and has already made a fairly successful (albeit artificially shortened) start. In his first game back, Lackey lasted 5.0 innings, allowing just 1 earned run on 1 hit, 1 walk, and 4 strikeouts. He was limited to just 76 pitches, but I’ll bet he’ll get a longer leash this time around. Hopefully, he continues to feel good and pitch well, because he’ll be in the playoff rotation come October.
Also, this is neat:
Justin Grimm has given up just two (2!) earned runs since June 25. That's pretty good.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) September 9, 2016
Chicago Cubs – Offense
In his last 103 plate appearances, Javier Baez is slashing just .227/.252/.340 with a 1.9% walk rate and a 26.2% strikeout rate. He still makes amazing plays in the field and has plenty of offensive upside (hey, he is slashing .271/.307/.431 overall), but the honeymoon phase is clearly winding down. Time to get into a rhythm for the playoffs.
You know who hasn’t slowed down, though? Willson Contreras. Since August 1 (92 PAs), Contreras is slashing a cool .271/.326/.471 (112 wRC+), which is far more than you can ask for from a rookie (and mostly novice, but effective) catcher heading down the stretch.
Houston Astros – Pitching
The Cubs should have the pitching edge in this series, given that all three of the Astros pitchers have ERAs and FIPs over 4.00. Tomorrow’s starter, Collin McHugh, for example, has been having his worst season in the past three years. Despite a fairly normal strikeout rate (22.2%) and a good walk rate (6.4%), his ERA is nearing 5.00 because opposing batters are hitting .300 off him. He’s also allowed 1.42 HR/9 innings which is nearly double his mark from last season.
Cubs hitters should do damage with their bats, instead of their patience.
Houston Astros – Offense
But their offense is pretty exciting.
Jose Altuve, for one example, is having a particularly great season, and has already been worth more WAR (6.5) than he was all of last year (4.5). As a candidate for the AL MVP, Altuve has slashed .342/.404/.548 with an 8.8% walk rate and a mere 10.4% strikeout rate. He’ll be a tough out all weekend, as he has been for nearly all of his career.
Since coming stateside and joining the Astros, former Cuban star Yulieski Gurriel has slashed .333/.353/.521 with two homers in just 51 plate appearances. He’s acclimating well so far.
Of course, none of this is to mention Carlos Correa (123 wRC+) or George Springer (126), who’ve each been having nice seasons of their own.