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Series Preview: Cubs at Diamondbacks, August 11 – August 13, 2017

Series Previews

You know what, I’m feeling good about the Cubs right now.


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Sure, the Cardinals have been surging in the standings and in the leaderboards (and are now just 1.0 game out of first), and sure the Cubs have lost three straight series and one of their very best players to a multi-week injury, but there’s plenty to be happy about too.

For example, how about the fact that the Cubs traded for the best available catcher at the deadline who’s been an offensive force for most of the year and has plenty of catching experience? I know it sucks to lose Willson Contreras, but in terms of a back-up, it’s hard to do any better than Alex Avila.

And yeah, sure, the Cubs are heading into Diamondback country after just losing a series to them last week, but that series could’ve easily gone the other way and things lighten WAY up starting Monday.

There are 49 games left in the season and the Cubs have a one-game head start on the Cardinals. Who are you taking?


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We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (59-54) have dropped three in a row to the Giants, Nationals, and Diamondbacks. They now have just a 1.0 game lead over the Cardinals, two games over the Brewers, and three games over the Pirates. It’s a four-team race and anyone can win it. Besides the Reds. They won’t win it.

The Arizona Diamondbacks (64-50) have lost two games in a row and are 17.0 games out of first place, thanks to the potentially record-setting Dodgers (they already have 81 wins!!). The D-Backs do hold a 5.5 game lead over the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot, though, so they’re still on pace for the postseason.

Game Times and Broadcasts

Location: Chase Field

  • Friday, August 11 at 8:40 CT on CSN-C, ESPN, 670 The Score
  • Saturday, August 12 at 7:10 CT on WGN, MLBN (out-of-market only), 670 The Score
  • Sunday, August 13 at 3:10 CT on ABC-7, 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.


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Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • John Lackey (4.81 ERA, 5.57 FIP, 4.67 xFIP; 2.76 K/BB)
  • Jon Lester (3.97 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 3.59 xFIP; 3.40 K/BB)
  • Jake Arrieta (3.83 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 4.04 xFIP; 3.07 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup*:

  1. Jon Jay, CF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  5. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Jason Heyward, RF
  8. Javy Baez, SS
  9. Pitcher

* I really don’t know where Joe Maddon intends on batting Avila, though we’ll find out soon enough. And, of course, against a lefty on Saturday, I’m expecting to see Albert Almora in the lineup and in center, with Jon Jay kicking Kyle Schwarber out of left. Ian Happ will also work in, but, again, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Joe will be thinking (tell me something you don’t know). 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Starters:

  • Taijuan Walker (3.60 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 4.21 xFIP; 2.72 K/BB)
  • Patrick Corbin (4.76 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 3.87 xFIP; 3.21 K/BB)
  • Zack Godley (2.94 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 3.27 xFIP; 3.37 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. David Peralta, LF
  2. A.J. Pollock, CF
  3. Jake Lamb, 3B
  4. Paul Goldshmidt, 1B
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF
  6. Daniel Descalso, 2B
  7. Ketel Marte, SS
  8. Jeff Mathis, C
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

Two of three pitchers (on both sides) pitched the last time these two teams met up, and for the Cubs that’s Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. Here’s what they did last Tuesday and Wednesday at Wrigley Field:


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Jon Lester 4.0 IP, 5H, 3ER, 3BB, 9K
Jake Arrieta: 7.0 IP, 3H, 1ER, 2BB, 8K

Obviously, Lester struggled a lot more than Arrieta, but the first game featured 16 Cubs runs and, ultimately, a win. Arrieta, on the other hand, was given 0 runs of support from his offense, and the Cubs lost 3-0. Shrug.

On the bullpen front, remember that each of Carl Edwards Jr., Wade Davis, and Justin Wilson seem to be going through a bit of a rough patch, while Koji Uehara just hit the 10-day DL. That’s the Cubs four primary back-end arms struggling or out all at once.

Hopefully, they decide to turn things around in Arizona.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

The Cubs will play this series (and probably at least a couple more) without either of Addison Russell (foot) or Willson Contreras (hamstring).


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On a positive note, Kris Bryant may be coming out of his funk a little bit, as he’s now working on a seven-game hit streak, featuring two multi-hit games, a double, and a triple. Of course, the power is still lagging WAY behind (.107 ISO, .429 SLG) – probably thanks to a sore pinky – but his overall production is still pretty solid (118 wRC+).

He did go just 2-14 with no walks or extra base hits in the last Diamondbacks series, though.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Pitching

Like the Cubs, two of the Diamondbacks pitchers from last week will be pitching over the weekend. Here’s what they did against the Cubs the last time out:

Patrick Corbin 3.0 IP, 10H, 7ER, 2BB, 3Ks, 3 HR
Zack Godley: 6.0 IP, 3H, 0ER, 2BB, 5K

Basically, the Cubs crushed Corbin and were crushed by Godley. Perhaps, with an extra look at the 27-year-old righty will give the Cubs the advantage they need for better results this time around.

In the second half of the season, the Diamondbacks bullpen has been middle of the pack by ERA (3.87 ERA), but has failed to strike many batters out (20.4% – 23rd). They have, however, done a great job at limiting hard contact (26.0% – 7th best in MLB, one spot behind the Cubs’ pen), which is – in part – why they have one of the lower HR/FB ratios in baseball.


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Arizona Diamondbacks – Offense

The Diamondbacks offense hasn’t been great in the second half of the season, registering just a 94 wRC+ (18th in MLB). One thing they have done extremely well, however, is taking walks.

Their 10.6% walk rate in the second half is tied for 2nd best in all of baseball. Fortunately, John Lackey (7.1%), Jon Lester (7.4%), and Jake Arrieta (7.5%) have all been pretty stingy with free passes this season. So maybe they can further dampen their greatest strength.

But make no mistake, that lineup has some serious fire power – including, of course, Paul Goldschmidt: .337/.441/.629 with 6 HRs in the second half – and did just see two of the three Cubs probables for the weekend.

Let’s see who comes out on top.


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Michael Cerami

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