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Series Preview: Cardinals at Cubs, July 21 – July 23, 2017

Series Previews

Well, that’s a start.

The Chicago Cubs have come out of the second half gate blisteringly hot, winning each of their first six contests. The offense is clicking, the rotation looks brand new, and the bullpen is still doing their thing. With any luck, they’ll ride this hot streak right all the way through their series with the Brewers at the end of the month.


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But first, the Cubs will host the Cardinals and White Sox at Wrigley, before taking the final two games of the Sox series at Guaranteed Rate. Then, it’s off to Miller Park for what could be an important, relatively late-season divisional battle against the Brewers.

Long-term rivals first, city-rivals second, and divisional-rivals third – it’s going to be ten crazy games of baseball.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (49-45) just swept the Atlanta Braves in three straight after doing the same to the Baltimore Orioles. They’re riding a season-high six-game winning streak and are trying to reach five games over .500 for the first time this year.

The St. Louis Cardinals (46-49) are three games below .500 and in fourth place of the NL Central, thanks to a series loss against the Pirates and a four-game split with the Mets (which ended with a walk-off victory for the Mets, when Trevor Rosenthal failed to cover first on the potential last play of the game).


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Location: Wrigley Field

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, July 21 at 1:20 CT on ABC-7, 670 The Score
  • Saturday, July 22 at 3:05 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, July 23 at 7:05 CT on ESNP, 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:

  • Jake Arrieta (4.17 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 4.05 xFIP; 2.76 K/BB)
  • Jon Lester (4.07 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 3.62 xFIP; 3.05 K/BB)
  • Jose Quintana (4.20 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 3.90 xFIP; 3.03 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup*:

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

* The lineup above assumes Kris Bryant will be back at some point, but it sounds like that’s a maybe at best. Thus, you can probably more of Javy Baez, Albert Almora, and/or Tommy La Stella this weekend. Also: today’s lineup is kinda crazy.


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St. Louis Cardinals

Starters:

  • Carlos Martinez (3.36 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 3.68 xFIP; 2.89 K/BB)
  • Adam Wainwright (5.08 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 4.07 xFIP; 2.63 K/BB)
  • Michael Wacha (3.71 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 3.78 xFIP; 2.94 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Matt Carpenter, 1B
  2. Tommy Pham, LF
  3. Dexter Fowler, CF
  4. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. Paul DeJong, SS
  7. Kolton Wong, 2B
  8. Randal Grichuk, RF
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

All three of the Cubs starting pitchers this series are coming off really nice performances:

  • Jake Arrieta allowed just 2ER in his 6.2 innings of work against the Orioles.
  • Jon Lester allowed just 1 ER in his 7.0 innings of work against the Braves.
  • And Jose Quintana went 7.0 scoreless innings against the Orioles, with 12 strikeouts and zero walks.

But how about the resurgent former 1-2 punch of the Cubs bullpen? Pedro Strop has allowed just one earned run in his last 12.2 IP (0.71 ERA), while Hector Rondon has allowed just two earned runs in his last 13.0 IP (1.38 ERA). Furthermore, Rondon’s carried a ridiculous 37.5% strikeout rate during that stretch, which pairs nicely with a .186 batting average against.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

There are a lot of Cubs we can talk about here, but I’ll focus on Javy Baez today, because he deserves it.


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Baez is working on a four-game hit streak which also happens to be a four-game MULTI-hit streak. Dude. I can give you monster slash lines in short sample sizes if you want, but instead, let’s just go all the way back to the beginning of May to see how good he’s been.

Since May 1 (283 PAs), Javy Baez is slashing .296/.372/.527 which is good for a 116 wRC+. He’s striking out a bit more than you’d like (24.9%), but it’s nothing gaudy and with those power numbers (.232 ISO, 527 SLG, 11 HRs), you turn a blind eye.

Oh, and to hell with it. Here’s Baez’s slash line since July 2: .432/.447/.730 (206 wRC+). I told you, he’s a monster.

St. Louis Cardinals – Pitching

By fWAR, the Cardinals’ starting staff has been top ten in MLB. Carlos Martinez (2.2 WAR) and Michael Wacha (2.1) have been leading the way, and the Cubs will see both this weekend.


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Martinez is coming off a stellar start against the Pirates, wherein he allowed just two earned runs on five hits and a walk over 7.0 innings pitched. HOWEVER, he allowed a combined 10 earned runs in the two starts before that. With that said, the Cubs have hit Martinez before, and I suspect they will again this weekend.

Michael Wacha is also coming off a brilliant start, a complete game shutout of the Mets with just three hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts, and it doesn’t get much better than that. Again, with that said, Wacha has a career 6.35 ERA against the Chicago Cubs. So, I don’t know, maybe they know something about him others don’t.

St. Louis Cardinals – Offense

The Cardinals’ .310 wOBA against left-handed pitchers is 18th worst in baseball, so the Cubs were smart to lineup each of Jon Lester and Jose Quintana’s starts over the weekend.

Among Cardinals with at least 50 plate appearances against southpaws this season, Randal Grichuk (just returned from “rehabbing” in the minors), Aledmys Diaz (demoted to the minors), and Stephen Piscotty (“rehabbing” in the minors) have been the worst. Though, as you can see by my informative parentheticals, each has been working on their swing in the Minor Leagues for various reasons and the latter two could miss the series entirely.


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Tommy Pham has been – by far – the biggest overall offensive threat, slashing .306/.390/.515 with 12 homers in his 264 plate appearances this season. And to really drive this home, look at his numbers since June 29 (last 69 PAs): .377/.449/.623.


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Michael Cerami

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