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Series Preview: Cubs at Nationals, June 26 – June 29, 2017

Series Previews
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Here’s where we are right now:

After splitting a series with the Marlins and continuing to hover around .500, the Chicago Cubs are heading to Nationals Ballpark to play one of the best teams in baseball in four straight games without Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, Kyle Schwarber, Kyle Hendricks, or most of Addison Russell.

Oh, they’ve also played in 10 straight games without a day off and have seven more ahead of them before an off-day is coming. This is far from an enviable position. And the Cubs have their work cut out for them big time. Let’s see if they can make something happen. Or at least tread water.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (38-37) just split their four-game set with the Marlins on the road, and continue to linger around .500. They are still 1.5 games back of the Brewers, but are tied in the loss column with 37.


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The Washington Nationals (45-30) just beat the Reds in two of three games at home, but lost a three game set to the Marlins at their ballpark just before that. Even still, they have one of the better records in baseball and a crazy comfortable 9.0 game lead in the NL East.

Location: Nationals Park

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Monday, June 26 at 6:05 CT on CSN-C, MLBN, 670 The Score
  • Tuesday, June 27 at 6:05 CT on ABC-7, MLBN, 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, June 28 at 6:05 CT on CSN-C, MLBN, 670 The Score
  • Thursday, June 29 at 3:05 CT on CSN-C, MLBN 670 The Score

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • Eddie Butler (4.19 ERA, 4.48 FIP, 5.43 xFIP; 1.19 K/BB)
  • Jake Arrieta (4.36 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 3.78 xFIP; 3.56 K/BB)
  • John Lackey (4.74 ERA, 5.54 FIP, 4.39 xFIP; 2.89 K/BB)
  • Jon Lester (3.83 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 3.69 xFIP; 3.23 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  2. Kris Bryant, RF
  3. Ian Happ, 2B
  4. Willson Contreras, C
  5. Tommy La Stella/Jeimer Candelario, 3B
  6. Javy Baez, SS
  7. Jon Jay/Mark Zagunis, LF
  8. Pitcher
  9. Albert Almora Jr., CF

Obviously the injury situation throws all of this almost totally up in the air. Get a dart board, throw some darts.


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Washington Nationals

Starters:

  • Gio Gonzalez (2.96 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 4.38 xFIP; 2.18 K/BB)
  • Max Scherzer (2.09 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 3.11 xFIP; 6.04 K/BB)
  • Stephen Strasburg (3.57 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 3.45 xFIP; 4.04 K/BB)
  • Joe Ross (5.40 ERA, 4.74 FIP, 4.12 xFIP; 4.33 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Trea Turner, SS
  2. Brian Goodwin, LF
  3. Bryce Harper, RF
  4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
  5. Daniel Murphy, 2B
  6. Anthony Rendon, 3B
  7. Matt Wieters, C
  8. Michael Taylor, CF
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

Later today, Eddie Butler will take the mound for the Cubs coming off a short, but moderately effective outing against the Padres (4.0 IP, 5H, 1 ER). He still has plenty of upside, but he’s really had only two good starts out of eight tries this season. We’ll talk about Butler more later in a couple places.

For now, let’s check in on Wednesday’s starter, John Lackey. Lackey has actually put together back-to-back 6.0 IP, 1ER starts with four strikeouts in each. Neither were totally dominant performances, but he allowed just five total hits and five total walks combined. Hopefully, he can keep riding this little hot streak and provide the Cubs with some quality innings heading into the All-Star break.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

Willson Contreras had just two hits in the Marlins series (three starts), but he was striking the ball well, and continues to be in a prolonged period of success (113 wRC+ over past 129 plate appearances). Getting that kind of production from your 25-year-old catcher is absolutely lovely.

Javy Baez has been playing an awful lot lately, but that should only increase with Addison Russell going day-to-day with some shoulder soreness. Fortunately, that’s coming at the right time:


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Washington Nationals – Pitching

The Washington Nationals have the second most valuable starting staff in all of baseball right now, with a collective 8.6 WAR. And, unfortunately, the Cubs will see three of their best starting pitchers this week, in Max Scherzer (3.4 WAR), Stephen Strasburg (2.4 WAR), and Gio Gonzalez (1.2 WAR).

The only bright side is that they drew Joe Ross (10 starts, 5.40 ERA) instead of Tanner Roark (who been a little bit better). With that said, Ross has just put together back to back quality starts, with a 6.0 inning, 2ER effort against the Mets and a 7.0 IP, 1ER start against the Reds. Wonderful.

But hey, their bullpen did sorta just kill a guy (well, not really, but they were to blame!), so at least the Cubs have got that going for them.


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My advice, wear down the starters and get to that bullpen ASAP.

Washington Nationals – Offense

You know what sucks? Bryce Harper has the sixth best wRC+ in all of baseball (156), and he isn’t even the Nationals best hitter right now. Instead, that honor belongs to Ryan Zimmerman, who’s 168 wRC+ is second only to Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees.

Zimmerman is slashing .350/.391/.657 this season, which is just silly good. And to make matters worse, his slash line jumps up to .398/.437/.685 at home (which is good for a 188 wRC+). And since this seems to be the bad news train, I guess I should point out that Daniel Murphy (145 wRC+, 17th in MLB) and Anthony Rendon (142 wRC+, 23rd) are each in the top 25 themselves.

And, in case you were trying to figure it out, yes, all four of those offensive contributors are better than the Cubs qualified leader, Kris Bryant (139 wRC+, 25th).


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At least the Cubs starting pitching staff has been excellent on the road this year…


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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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