The Chicago Cubs have still not lost a series in the second half of the season, and they’ve improved their rotation, bullpen, and catching situation via trade.
Things are good.
However, they’re hosting back-to-back tough teams in the Diamondbacks and Nationals over the next six days, and that won’t be an easy stretch. Even though they’re at home, I would be plenty happy with a 3-3 split over the next six days, given the strength of the opposing clubs. Let’s shoot for more, but be realistic about where this Cubs team was just a few weeks ago, too.
With all of that said, the Cubs do have Jon Lester going tonight and he’s earned a phenomenal 2.05 ERA in the second half of the season. Of course – and thanks to a 100% strand rate (lulz) – his 4.11 FIP is a good deal worse than that. And if you’re confused on how he can have a 100% strand rate, but an ERA that’s not zero, that’s because of the home runs. Lester has allowed four home runs in his past two games, alone.
I know, I know, #juicedball and all, but if Cubs’ pitchers are looking for a competitive advantage, the obvious one is trying to pitch into more grounders. These homers can kill you over the course of a season, and for many pitchers, they have. Fortunately, Lester’s 2.6% walk rate and stingy .135 average against in the second half have limited the damage.
On the other bump, you’ll find lefty Patrick Corbin. He hasn’t been too effective this year as a whole (4.36 ERA, 4.19 FIP), but, as we explored earlier today, his last 1.5 months have been pretty dominant (2.83 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 50 strikeouts and just 13 walks). He’s also maintained a (now) paltry 10.0% HR/FB ratio as well as a 50.7% ground ball rate. If you’re planning on doing damage against Corbin, it seems putting the ball in play (and not swinging for the fences) is your best bet.
He’s also been, as we discussed in the lineup post, devastating to left-handed hitters, which is why the bench is loaded with them tonight (Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Alex Avila). Oh, and for what it’s worth, when the Diamondbacks relievers face left-handers, they’re the very best group in baseball. So, the success of any pinch-hitting opportunities might be slim tonight.
The pitching match-ups only get worse from here, so let’s win this one tonight.
Chicago Cubs (55-48) at Arizona Diamondbacks (60-45) – 7:05 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
Game Thread and Series Preview
Your game thread is down in the comments, so let’s have some good, clean (safe-for-work) fun today.
Cubs: Jon Lester (L): 3.88 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 3.63 xFIP; 3.33 K/BB
D-Backs: Patrick Corbin (R): 4.36 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 3.94 xFIP; 3.11 K/BB
- David Peralta, LF
- A.J. Pollock, CF
- Adam Rosales, SS
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Brandon Drury, 3B
- Daniel Descalso, 2B
- Jeff Mathis, C
- Patrick Corbin, P
Chicago Cubs Lineup:
- Ben Zobrist, RF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Willson Contreras, C
- Albert Almora Jr., CF
- Addison Russell, SS
- Javy Baez, 2B
- Ian Happ, LF
- Jon Lester, P