The Cubs got their East-ish Coast road trip off on the right foot, taking two of three from the Reds in Cincinnati. Last night’s late-inning loss was a bummer, but all things considered, the Cubs are doing what they need to do lately.
Now, they’ll head to Citizens Bank Park to take on the Phillies for three straight, before retuning to Wrigley Field on Monday. Then they’ll play six straight at home against the Pirates and Braves, before heading back out onto the road.
There’s a lot of baseball coming up, with very few off-days. This is what they call the home stretch.
We’re Going Streaking
The Chicago Cubs (68-58) just took two of three from the Reds after taking all three from the Blue Jays. They’re 7-3 in their past ten games and have a 3.0 game lead in the NL Central.
The Philadelphia Phillies (46-80) have gone an opposite 3-7 record in their past ten games, and are among the worst teams in baseball. They’re coming off a series loss to the Marlins, after splitting a four-gamer with the Giants and getting swept by the Padres.
Game Times and Broadcasts
Location: Citizens Bank Ballpark
- Friday, August 25 at 6:05 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
- Saturday, August 26 at 6:05 CT on ABC-7, 670 The Score
- Sunday, August 27 at 12:35 CT on CSN-C, 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.
- Jose Quintana (4.27 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 3.98 xFIP; 2.92 K/BB) – L
- Kyle Hendricks (3.52 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 4.08 xFIP; 2.53 K/BB) – R
- John Lackey (4.90 ERA, 5.57 FIP, 4.74 xFIP; 2.68 K/BB) – R
- Jon Jay, CF
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist, 2B
- Alex Avila, C
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Javy Baez, SS
*Addison Russell could return sometime this weekend, but it’s still more likely be sometime next week at Wrigley Field.
- Jarad Eickhoff (4.46 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 4.84 xFIP; 2.22 K/BB) – R
- Ben Lively (3.70 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 5.76 xFIP; 1.40 K/BB) – R*
* Eight Starts
- Cesar Hernandez, 2B
- Freddy Galvis, SS
- Nick Williams, CF
- Rhys Hoskins, LF
- Tommy Joseph, 1B
- Hyun Soo Kim, RF
- Maikel Franco, 3B
- Cameron Rupp, C
* Odubel Herrera is on the 10-day DL, though he could return as soon as today.
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
After putting together a really nice stretch, John Lackey hit the inevitable speed bump. In his last start, he lasted just 5.0 innings and allowed six earned runs on nine hits, including two homers, and a walk against just three strikeouts.
Before that, he had kept a 3.29 ERA throughs even starts with a walk rate under 8.0%. Oh well, I didn’t quite expect him to be that guy every single start the rest of the way. Hopefully, he bounces back against a weak Phillies offense (we’ll get to that in a minute).
Pedro Strop has hit a rough patch, no doubt: 15.75 ERA (3.88 FIP), 13.0 K%, 13.0 BB% over his past … 4.0 innings pitched. Yeah, it’s only been four, one-inning outings. You know what he did in the 45.2 IP before that?
2.36 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 27.2 K%, 9.8 BB%.
When it comes to relievers, you have to both understand that the valleys may seem terrible, but sometimes they’re really just 4.0 bad innings in a row. You simply cannot live and die with the “what have you done for me lately” mentality when it comes to relievers. You just have to get the best arms you can and hope they succeed in the innings that matter most.
Usually, Pedro Strop does.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
Brett took a closer look at Ian Happ’s scorching hot August, so I’ll leave him aside for a moment and focus instead on Kyle Schwarber. He’s still having a really great second half of the season (.248/.342/.524, 8HRs, 123 wRC+) and has struck out just nine times in his past nine games (23.7%).
That’s a massive improvement, and one that sits alongside a 10.5% walk rate and a .281/.395/.500 (137 wRC+) slash line during that stretch. Heck yeah.
Ben Zobrist has begun to turn things around a bit lately, as he’s now slashing .279/.354/.395 since August 9 (~50 PAs). That’s a just barely below average slash line (99 wRC+), but also one that represents a massive swing from his numbers before that date (78 wRC+).
Philadelphia Phillies – Pitching
The Phillies starting staff has a combined 4.85 ERA, which ranks 8th worst in baseball (5th worst in the NL), and their peripherals (4.84 FIP) show that they’ve earned that ranking.
Their best starter this season, Aaron Nola, just pitched in the first half of a double-header on August 22, which would set him up to be the starter in Sunday’s finale, but that’s still TBA.
If he does pitch, though, that’ll be a tough one. His 3.58 ERA ranks 16th best in baseball while his 3.30 FIP would make him one of the league’s ten best starters. He does a great job of getting ground balls (49.0% – 15th) and doesn’t allow a ton of hard contact (31.2% – T-26th). In short, he’s been one of the better pitchers in baseball this season. The Cubs might do well to win the first two in this series.
Philadelphia Phillies- Offense
Of course, the Phillies offense will have a challenge of their own, and that’s without even considering who’s on the mound for the Cubs.
After all, their team-wide 87 wRC+ is fourth worst in all of baseball, while their 22.8 K% is higher even than the notoriously strikeout prone Cubs (22.2%). Their two best qualified offensive performers, Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez, have been just 5% better than league average (105 wRC+), and Herrera is on the 10-day disabled list. To be sure, he could return today, but he did suffer a strained hamstring, so he may not be at 100%.
There is breakout youngster Rhys Hoskins doing ridiculous things, but he’s gotta cool down eventually, right?
On paper, you have to like the Cubs chances in this three-gamer on the road.