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It’s the weekend!

And it’s also the Cubs’ final home series at Wrigley Field. Of course they are also guaranteed to play at least a couple more games at Wrigley after Sunday, but let’s hope it becomes much more than that.

The Cardinals are coming to town, and although the Cubs have all but buttoned up their plans for the playoffs, the Cardinals are still fighting for a spot. Let’s not help. [Brett: Unless you feel like the Cardinals are the best match-up for the Cubs in the NLDS ]

Today also marks the return of Pedro Strop, expect him too get five or so innings before the regular season is up.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (97-55) just swept the Cincinnati Reds for the bajillionth time this season, matching their win total from 2015 with ten more games left to play. The magic number for best record (and all of the associated playoff perks) is down to 2.

Since the St. Louis Cardinals (80-72) lost two out of three to the Cubs a week back, they split their series in San Francisco and took two out of three from the Rockies. They also had an off-day yesterday, so they’ll be coming in rested and with a lot to accomplish. They are currently the odd man out, 0.5 games back of both the Mets and Giants for (one of) the Wild Card(s).



Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, September 23 at 1:20 CT on ABC-7, ESPN, 670 The Score
  • Saturday, September 24 at 12:05 CT on Fox, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, September 25 at 7:08 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.

Cubs

Starters:

  • Jake Arrieta (2.96 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 3.73 xFIP; 2.41 K/BB)
  • Jason Hammel (3.56 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 4.29 xFIP; 2.73 K/BB)
  • Jon Lester (2.36 ERA, 3.40 FIP; 3.45 xFIP; 3.83 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 (4.54 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 3.73 xFIP; 4.37 K/BB)
  • Alex Reyes (1.03 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 4.07 xFIP; 2.22 K/BB)
  • Carlos Martinez (3.16 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 3.86 xFIP; 2.45 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

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

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

We haven’t seen a lot of Hector Rondon lately, but when he has appeared out of the bullpen in relief he’s been very good. In his 4.2 innings since returning from the disabled list (September 6), Rondon has allowed just 1 earned run (1.93 ERA) on 4 hits (.235 AVG), no walks and four strikeouts. Even with the injuries and lower-than-usual inning totals (48.1 IP) for the year, you have be thrilled with his body of work as whole: 2.42 ERA (2.96 FIP), 30.2% strikeout rate, 3.3% walk rate. He’s the real deal.

Also the real deal: Carl Edwards Jr.

But, after dominating for most of the year, Edwards finally ran into some serious trouble against the Brewers. In his inning of work, Edwards allowed 3 earned runs on 3 hits (2 HRs) and a walk. It happens. Besides one other appearance against the Cardinals in early August, that is the only time he allowed more than a run all season long. In fact, Edwards has only allowed a run in six of his 31 appearances this season. Since the Brewers game, Edwards rebounded with a mostly clean inning against the Reds.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

The month of September has been all about resurgence for the lefties on the team. Check out the production from four of the Cubs left-handed hitters in September (last X plate appearances):

  • Jason Heyward (25): .429/.520/.667 (219 wRC+); 16.0% BB-rate, 12.0% K-rate
  • Miguel Montero (34): .355/.412/.645 (181 wRC+); 2HRs, .290 ISO
  • Chris Coghlan (24): .364/.417/.545 (152 wRC+); 2B, HR, 6 RBI
  • Tommy La Stella (25): .286/.375/.381 (108 wRC+); 12.5% BB-rate, 8.3% K-rate

Each stretch of improved offensive production comes over a relatively short period of time, but were nearing a point in the season where one hot streak – timed just right – can completely define a player’s season. So, while I am well aware of the fact that Heyward, for example, has had pockets of improved performance before, I’ll urge you not to dismiss the most recent one.



St. Louis Cardinals – Pitching

After being suspended for the first 50 (Minor League) games of the year, Alex Reyes has finally been up with the St. Louis Cardinals for a good, long stretch – let’s see how he’s done … uh oh, he’s been pretty good.

Through just ten appearances (three starts), Reyes has already been worth nearly a full win above replacement. He’s rocking a 1.03 ERA (2.76 FIP) and a 28.6% strikeout rate through 35.0 innings. He does have his struggles (12.9% walk rate is enormous, and his 44.3% ground ball rate is just okay), but he’s largely found a lot of success. As a starter, opponents are hitting just .188/.278/.222 off Reyes, with just three earned runs in 17.2 IP.

He’ll start opposite Jason Hammel on Saturday, and the Cubs will have to be patient if they want to beat him. [Brett: Of course, last time they WERE really patient against him and still couldn’t score.]

St. Louis Cardinals – Offense

Matt Carpenter is working on a nice five-game hit streak in which he’s hit .350/.350/.400, but he hasn’t been taking his walks or hitting for much power. In fact, he’s been rather cold in the month of September, hitting just .235/.307/.302 (87 wRC+) over his last 75 plate appearances. He’s fallen a long way from his early season mashing.

Yadier Molina is having a nice season at the plate, slashing .296/.351/.408. He’s recorded a hit in eight straight games and nine of the last ten. Since the beginning of September, he’s slashing .344/.394/.492 good for a 141 wRC+. Sorry!


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