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Series Preview: Giants at Cubs, May 22 – May 25, 2017

Series Previews

The Cubs split their rain-shortened series against the Brewers this weekend, though they’ll make-up the no-rain rainout on July 6. And that’s actually not that big of a deal, considering the proximity of the teams’ hometowns, the off-day shortly before that game, and the All-Star break shortly after the rescheduled contest.


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In the near term, however, there are still no off-days in sight. The Cubs are hosting the Giants for four-straight at Wrigley Field this week, before heading out west to face the Dodgers and Padres in their ballparks. Their next off-day comes a week from Thursday, before another ten-game home stand at Wrigley Field.

There’s a lot of baseball coming, and it starts with an NLDS rematch.

We’re Going Streaking

Since dropping their series against the Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs (22-20) have won four out of their past five games. Now in third place of the NL Central, the Cubs stand just a half-game behind the Cardinals and two games behind the Brewers. Their upcoming opponents, Giants and Padres, have struggled a lot this season, so now’s the time to make a move.

Overall, the San Francisco Giants (19-26) have had a rough go of it here in 2017. They’re in fourth place of the NL West and a firm nine games behind the Rockies. With that said, they did just win their last three series against the Cardinals (2-1), Dodgers (2-1), and Reds (3-1). That gives them a .700 record in their last ten games – which is better than the Cubs.


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Location: Wrigley Field

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Monday, May 22 at 7:05 CT on WGN, MLBN 670 The Score
  • Tuesday, May 23 at 6:05 CT on CSN-C, MLBN 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, May 24 at 7:05 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
  • Thursday, May 25 at 1:20 CT on ABC-7, MLBN

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 Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • John Lackey (4.37 ERA, 4.60 FIP, 3.65 xFIP; 3.77 K/BB)
  • Jon Lester (3.57 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 3.56 xFIP; 2.57 K/BB)
  • Kyle Hendricks (3.35 ERA, 4.33 FIP, 4.04 xFIP; 2.11 K/BB)
  • Eddie Butler (2.00 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 5.06 xFIP; 1.00 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Kyle Schwarber, LF (or is the Ben Zobrist move gonna stick?)
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Ian Happ, CF
  5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  6. Addison Russell, SS
  7. Jason Heyward, RF
  8. Willson Contreras, C
  9. Pitcher

For the third straight series, there are many significant lineup construction questions. The biggest two include whether or not Kyle Schwarber will continue leading off and if Ian Happ will stay in center field. Brett discussed both earlier today, so check out the bullets for more on Happ. Also: Javy Baez will work in at times, obviously.


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San Francisco Giants

Starters:

  • Ty Blach (4.15 ERA, 4.48 FIP, 5.27 xFIP; 1.10 K/BB)
  • Johnny Cueto (4.50 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 3.80 xFIP; 3.25 K/BB)
  • Matt Moore (5.37 ERA, 4.63 FIP, 4.89 xFIP; 2.14 K/BB)
  • Jeff Samardzija (4.57 ERA, 2.89 FIP, 2.85 xFIP; 7.10 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Denard Span, CF
  2. Joe Panik, 2B
  3. Brandon Belt, 1B
  4. Buster Posey, C
  5. Brandon Crawdord, SS
  6. Eduardo Nuñez, LF
  7. Christian Arroyo, 3B
  8. Mac Williamson, RF
  9. Pitcher

The Giants are very beat up right now. On the positional side, they’re missing Hunter Pence, Conor Gillaspie (thank god), Jarrett Parker, and Aaron Hill. And on the pitching side, they’re missing reliever Will Smith and starter Madison Bumgarner.

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

Once again, my most anticipated pitching performance of the series will be Eddie Butler’s start on Thursday afternoon. After mostly dominating in his first start, Butler struggled with his command (a lot) in his second start against the Brewers Friday afternoon.


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And while he only allowed two earned runs in that one, he was all over the place (5 walks) and very inefficient (3.0 IP). Early on, it seemed as though it was just the tight zone causing issues, but eventually it was clear that he was just missing his spots. And, as Brett has mentioned, given the cold weather that day, you’d be wise to have otherwise expected him to pound the zone as much as he could. Because poor command was his kryptonite in Colorado (and Triple-A Iowa), we are going to be extra sensitive to those issues early on in his Cub career.

Additionally, Kyle Hendricks has been on quiet a nice stretch lately, so I’m eagerly waiting to see if he can keep it up. We’ll discuss him more as his start nears.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

Kris Bryant was on an absolute tear before he added two more homers and a single yesterday, but because Brett already gave him the homer-crushin’ treatment, I thought we’d focus on someone else.

While plenty of Cubs have been quietly killing it lately, none stand out like Willson Contreras. Since May 9 (34 plate appearances), Contreras is slashing .367/.382/.667 (162 wRC+) with three doubles and two homers.


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Also, Anthony Rizzo is beginning to show more signs of life after a fairly deep slump. And he’s now hit safely in each of his past five game (including two homers). Rizzo is the type of consistent hitter you never really *worry* about, but the Cubs obviously need him to be himself in order to succeed.

San Francisco Giants – Pitching

The Cubs will see a lot of familiar pitching in this one, but they will be fortunate enough to miss Madison Bumgarner (who is on the disabled list after a very unusual extra-curricular accident).

Tomorrow, they’ll see Johnny Cueto, who’s having a bit of a rough season by his standards (4.50 ERA, 3.92 FIP), but is always a threat to dominate. After that, they’ll see Matt Moore for the first time since the 2016 NLDS. And, like Cueto, Moore has struggled, but was almost unhittable (for the Cubs) last October: 8.0 IP, 2H, 1 ER, 2BB, 10Ks.

And finally, the Cubs will see their old friend Jeff Samardzija, who, despite pretty terrible results (4.57 ERA) has been pitching really, really well (28.5 K%, 4.0 BB%, 2.89 FIP). He’s even getting a lot more weak contact than usual. Diagnosing the problem would require a deeper dive, but at the surface, it seems that a depressed ground ball rate may be the reason for his struggles.


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So, elevate that ball, Cubs.

San Francisco Giants – Offense

The Cincinnati Reds – follow me for a moment  have earned an MLB-leading 9.6 WAR from their group of position players. The Cubs, for further reference, have gotten 5.9 WAR out of their group, which is good for 10th best in baseball.

The San Francisco Giants, on the other hand, rank 28th in this category, having accumulated just 0.7 WAR to date. And furthermore, given that they’re dead last in wRC+, a majority of that WAR is coming from their defense. So, yes, their offense is struggling.

Of their qualified hitters, only Buster Posey (who’s actually killing the ball) and Brandon Belt are above average hitters. So, keep it away from those two, and Cubs’ pitchers should have success.


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Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.