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Series Preview: Cardinals at Cubs, June 2 – June 4, 2017

Series Previews
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The Cubs are undefeated in June!

The Cubs are hosting the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend, and it figures to be a surprisingly big series for how early into the season we are. The Cardinals are just 1.5 games up on the Cubs and in second place of the Central, so a three-game swing in either direction can be a pretty big development.

After the Cardinals series though, the Cubs will play just four games of their next TWENTY against teams above .500* (Marlins, Rockies*, Mets, Pirates, Padres, Marlins). Battling to a series victory this weekend, then, could lead to a nice stretch of baseball. Could.

Also: welcome back to Wrigley Field, Dexter Fowler.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (25-27) just lost six games in a row to the Dodgers and Padres and stand two games under .500. They’re in third place of the NL Central and 3.0 games behind the Brewers overall.


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The St. Louis Cardinals (26-25) have dealt with issues of their own, but managed to win their last two games against the Dodgers, splitting a four-game set. Cubs/Cardinals is always exciting, but this figures to be a must-watch series.

This might be the first time I’ve been *nervous* for a series in the regular season since 2015.

Location: Wrigley Field

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, June 2 at 1:20 CT on CSN-C, MLBN 670 The Score
  • Saturday, June 3 at 1:20 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, June 4 at 6:35 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 Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • John Lackey (5.18 ERA, 5.04 FIP, 3.95 xFIP; 3.16 K/BB)
  • Jon Lester (3.86 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 3.59 xFIP; 2.91 K/BB)
  • Kyle Hendricks (3.75, 4.22 FIP, 3.81 xFIP; 2.67 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  2. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  3. Kris Bryant, 3B
  4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  5. Ian Happ, CF
  6. Jason Heyward, RF
  7. Willson Contreras, C
  8. Addison Russell, SS
  9. Pitcher

Javy Baez will work in at shortstop for Russell and at second base for Ben Zobrist. Ian Happ may also move in and out of center field, substituted by Albert Almora or Jon Jay. And, of course, Miguel Montero will probably catch one of these three games (though not tomorrow, with Jon Lester on the mound). [UPDATE: Today’s lineup is out, and there are a number of switcharoos.]


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St. Louis Cardinals

Starters:

  • Lance Lynn (2.93 ERA, 4.73 FIP, 4.24 xFIP; 2.65 K/BB)
  • Mike Leake (2.24 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 3.52 xFIP; 4.36 K/BB)
  • Michael Wacha (3.99 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 3.75 xFIP; 2.82 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF
  2. Matt Carpenter, 1B
  3. Stephen Piscotty, RF
  4. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. Tommy Pham, LF
  7. Paul DeJong, 2B
  8. Aledmys Diaz, SS
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

For a series against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field at this particular moment in time, the Cubs are sending arguably the three pitchers you’d most like to see to the mound.

Today’s starter, John Lackey, hasn’t been great lately (we’ll talk about this more later), but has had a lot of success against his former organization over the past year. Jon Lester has been the Cubs’ most consistent pitcher this season (though to be fair his last start was his worst) and is at his best at Wrigley Field. And finally, Sunday’s starter, Kyle Hendricks, has been trending in the right direction ever since his third start of the year. If the Cubs are going into this series cold, at least they’re bringing their best guns.

***

The Cubs’ top two relievers – Wade Davis and Carl Edwards Jr. – both have top ten ERAs in all of baseball right now. But, surprisingly, it’s Edwards (0.90 ERA, 20.0 IP) not Davis (0.98 ERA, 18.1 IP) who takes the top spot on the team.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

While Anthony Rizzo did begin to get hot for a while there, he is 0 for his last 13 and just 2 for his last 26. Sigh. This Cubs offense needs to get back on track.


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Similarly frustrating, Kris Bryant hasn’t had a multi-hit game in any of his past ten tries and has just two extra base hits during that stretch, to boot.

I am, on the other hand, loving what I’ve seen from Willson Contreras over the past month or so. In May, he hit .253/.333/.453 which is good for a 108 wRC+. But, if you start the cutoff right after he literally caught 18 innings straight against the Yankees, he looks even better: .320/.390/.600 with three homers and two doubles in 59 plate appearances.

Dude is raking.

St. Louis Cardinals – Pitching

The Cubs may be sending their best pitcher, Jon Lester, to the mound on Saturday afternoon, but the Cardinals are doing the same with Mike Leake.

After disappointing in his first season with St. Louis last year, Leake has come out of the gate quite strong in 2017 (his 2.24 ERA is third best in MLB and best in the NL). How is he doing it? The same way he always has: loads and loads of ground balls (53.2% – 11th in MLB) and not a ton of hard contact (29.1% – 24th best in baseball).


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If the Cubs want to beat him, they’ll have to elevate the ball and square him up, because, basically, he doesn’t walk anyone (4.2 BB%) and rarely strikes guys out (18.1 K%).

St. Louis Cardinals – Offense

As a whole, the Cardinals offense (94 wRC+) has been only just better than the Chicago Cubs (93 wRC+) and below average overall. They are also middle of the pack in walk rate and well below average in ISO.

Jedd Gyorko has been – by far – the best hitter on the team, slashing .321/.370/.560 in what’s shaping up to be a career year, though Matt Carpenter remains firmly above average (113 wRC+). Other than that, no one on the Cardinals has a wRC+ on the right side of 100 – Dexter Fowler’s close (98), but he wouldn’t pick this weekend to turn things around, would he?

***

Like my Apple Watch always annoyingly tells me at the worst times, my friends, BREATHE. And, you know, enjoy an exciting, meaningful weekend series with the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.


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Michael Cerami

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

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