cardinals mascot fredbirdAfter taking two out of three from the Astros over the weekend, the Chicago Cubs Magic Number has dwindled down to five. That means there’s a chance to clinch the division with a series sweep in St. Louis.

… but if they don’t sweep, the Cubs will head back to Wrigley Field for a four-game weekend set against the Brewers starting Thursday (with a chance to clinch at home).

It’s going to take an uncharacteristic amount of losing, for the Cubs to wait to clinch until this Saturday, but considering that I’ll be at that game … maybe they’ll put their plans on hold for me.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (91-51) just took two out of three from the Astros, putting them at an even 40 games above .500 for the season. They have six more wins than any other team in baseball, and are zeroing in on clinching the NL Central.

The St. Louis Cardinals (75-67) just split a four-game set with the Brewers, and have gone 5-5 in their last ten games overall. They remain decidedly out of the divisional race, but have a shot at the Wild Card (0.5 games back).





Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Monday, September 12 at 7:15 CT on CSN-C, MLBN (out-of-market-only), 670 The Score
  • Tuesday, September 13 7:15 CT on ABC-7, ESPN, 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, September 14 at 12:45 CT on ABC-7, MLBN (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.

Cubs

Starters:

  • Kyle Hendricks (2.07 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 3.70 xFIP; 3.54 K/BB)
  • Jason Hammel (3.50 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 4.36 xFIP; 2.59 K/BB)
  • Jon Lester (2.51 ERA, 3.54 FIP; 3.52 xFIP; 3.64 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B/LF
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Ben Zobrist, 2B/LF
  5. Addison Russell, SS
  6. Jason Heyward, RF
  7. Willson Contreras, C
  8. Javy Baez, 2B/3B
  9. Pitcher

Also, Jorge Soler, LF



St. Louis Cardinals

Starters:

  • Mike Leake (4.61 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 3.75 xFIP; 4.44 K/BB)
  • Jaime Garcia (4.58 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 3.79 xFIP; 2.62 K/BB)
  • Carlos Martinez (3.05 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 3.95 xFIP; 2.06 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Matt Carpenter, 1B
  2. Kolton Wong, 2B
  3. Stephen Piscotty, RF
  4. Brandon Moss, LF
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. Jedd Gyorko, SS
  7. Jhonny Peralta, 3B
  8. Randal Grichuk, CF
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

We are all very familiar with Kyle Hendricks’ MLB-leading 2.07 ERA, but did you know that Jon Lester is in third place with 2.51 mark? Indeed, he’s been on quite a roll lately. In his past five starts (34.2 IP), Lester has won four times, with a 0.78 ERA (2.36 FIP), 32 strikeouts (25.4%) and just 8 walks (6.4%). Opposing batters are hitting just .178 off Lester, and he’s carrying just a 0.84 WHIP.

In addition, Lester’s 3.5 fWAR this season ranks 15th overall, snuggled neatly between Kyle Hendricks (3.6 fWAR) and Jake Arrieta (3.5 fWAR) – they’re seventh, eighth, and ninth in the National League respectively.

Also, taking a step back:

Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, and Jason Hammel are among the top 21 pitchers in baseball in inducing the most weak contact. Similarly, all five of the Cubs primary starters have allowed some of the least hard contact of any pitchers in baseball.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

Since returning to action on August 5, Jorge Soler has been astounding in limited duty. In just shy of 100 plate appearances, Soler is hitting .280/.362/.549 (140 wRC+) with an 11.7% walk rate and a 26.6% strikeout rate (which is high, but fine for his level of production). Even if he doesn’t get consistent playing time down the stretch, his bat can be an enormously crucial piece of the puzzle in the playoffs.

Kris Bryant continues to kill the ball: slashing .319/.408/.560 in the second half, and we’ll have more on Addison Russell later.



St. Louis Cardinals – Pitching

Since the Cardinals placed Trevor Rosenthal on the 15-Day disabled list at the end of July, Sueng-hwan Oh has pitched exceedingly well in his stead. Over 22.0 IP (since July 26), Oh has turned a 34.5% strikeout rate and a 4.8% walk rate into a 2.05 ERA (2.23 FIP). His 2.5 fWAR for the season ranks fourth overall among qualified relievers, just behind Aroldis Chapman and ahead of Andrew Miller.

St. Louis Cardinals – Offense

Yadier Molina has had himself a fairly nice year at the plate, slashing .291/.345/.411 (105 wRC+) in 507 plate appearances, but has been worth just 1.9 WAR overall. Even still, his numbers have looked better lately. Since August 23 (65 PAs), Molina has slashed .359/.369/.594 (158 wRC+) with six doubles and three home runs. Hopefully, the Cubs can shut him down.


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