Because the Brewers are off tonight, the Cubs cannot clinch the NL Central with a win over the Cardinals. They can, however, officially eliminate the Cardinals from the NL Central, and that’s not a bad consolation prize.
The only downside of the Cubs winning tonight, if you can call it that, is that it sets up the possibility of a passive, in-game clinch tomorrow, because the Brewers start (and can lose) their game before the Cubs’ game in St. Louis is over tomorrow night. Obviously, there’s a lot of moving parts and clinching is clinching, but all things equal, I rather they do it on a win/on their own time.
We’re Going Streaking
The Chicago Cubs (87-68) have won ten of their past twelve games, accomplishing what they needed to at all the right times. In all likelihood, their 5.5 game lead over the Brewers and 6.0 game lead over the Cardinals should stand.
The St. Louis Cardinals (81-74) are obviously the hottest team in baseball, having won five of their past ten games. Though, they did lose their last two and stand on the brink of NL Central elimination tonight.
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Monday, September 25 at 7:15 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
- Tuesday, September 26 at 7:15 CT on CSN-C, ESPN (out-of-market only), 670 The Score
- Wednesday, September 27 at 6:08 on CSN-C, ESPN, 670 The Score
- Thursday, September 28 at 6:15 on WGN-9, 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.
- Jon Lester (4.56 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 3.85 xFIP; 2.91 K/BB) – L
- Jake Arrieta (3.43 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 4.11 xFIP; 2.94 K/BB) – R
- John Lackey (4.67 ERA, 5.39 FIP, 4.61 xFIP; 2.84 K/BB) – R
- Kyle Hendricks (3.14 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 3.90 xFIP; 2.92 K/BB) – R
- Jon Jay, CF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Willson Contreras, C
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Javy Baez, 2B
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Addison Russell, SS
Obviously, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist will work into many of these games, as well. And with four righties on the mound for the Cardinals, we’ll probably see Alex Avila at least once and not a ton of Albert Almora Jr. (don’t shoot the messenger).
St. Louis Cardinals
- Luke Weaver (2.05 ERA, 2.36 FIP, 2.52 xFIP; 5.91 K/BB) – R*
- Carlos Martinez (3.63 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 3.60 xFIP; 3.15 K/BB) – R
- Michael Wacha (4.00 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 3.90 xFIP; 2.78 K/BB) – R
- Lance Lynn (3.47 ERA, 4.77 FIP, 4.73 xFIP; 2.00 K/BB) – R
* Eight starts, three relief appearances.
- Matt Carpenter, 1B
- Tommy Pham, LF
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Jedd Gyorko, 3B
- Yadier Molina, C
- Kolton Wong, 2B
- Paul DeJong, SS
- Stephen Piscotty, RF
* Hot-hitting (29-year-old) rookie Jose Martinez has been diagnosed with a strained right thumb and it kept him out of the starting lineup in each of the last two days. X-rays and an MRI were all negative, but it sounds like Martinez might not return this season. He was slashing .309/.376/.516 in 2017.
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
We’ll talk about Jon Lester more later today, but for now let’s talk about John Lackey’s last start.
After getting on something of a roll through the end of August and into September, Lackey was thrown out of a solid start against the Cardinals last (last) weekend and followed that up with a dud against the Brewers: 4.0 IP, 6H, 3ER, 2BB, 1K. Hopefully, he quickly rights the ship again and helps the Cubs clinch on Tuesday. He always seems to pitch well in St. Louis.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
Willson Contreras has had an interesting time at the plate since returning from the disabled list. He’s hitting for plenty of average (.286 AVG), he’s walking a TON (22.2 BB%), he’s rarely striking out (11.1 K%), he’s getting on base like crazy (.444 OBP), and … he’s hitting for no power (.321 SLG, .036 ISO).
Given the power explosion he showed at the beginning of the second half, this is quite jarring, but presumably it’s a combination of a small sample (36 plate appearances) and just getting back into a rhythm at the plate.
He’s still producing plenty (119 wRC+), of course, you’d just prefer the power numbers return before the postseason, where homers and extra bases are especially valuable thanks to the frequently-tight contests.
St. Louis Cardinals – Pitching
Like Lester, we’ll talk about the Cardinals’ dominant rookie right-hander (and tonight’s starter) Luke Weaver later today in the Pre-Gamin’ post. Instead, we’ll focus on Thursday’s starter Lance Lynn.
Lynn has given the Cubs fits over the years, but his last start out was arguably the very worst of his entire career: 0.2 IP, 6H, 8ER, 2BB, 1K.
Yep, he managed to get just two outs before getting absolutely rocked by the Pirates on Saturday. Hopefully, that one lingers with him and the Cubs can pounce all over him early on Thursday. You may recall, his start before that came against the Cubs, and he lasted just four innings (3 ER).
St. Louis Cardinals – Offense
As I mentioned above, one of the Cardinals hottest hitters, Jose Martinez, might not play this series (or the rest of this season), and that could be very good news for the Cubs, and especially Jon Lester.
If you can believe it, Martinez was slashing a terrifying .414/.493/.862 (246 wRC+) against southpaws this season, while Lester has been getting similarly beaten up by right-handers. In other words, this is a matchup that would’ve almost certainly not gone in the Cubs favor.
Yadier Molina still hits lefties, too (121 wRC+), so maybe he’ll play the part of the thorn in the Cubs’ side.
The Cardinals’ other 29-year-old “young” breakout hitter, Tommy Pham, just keeps crushing it: .310/.410/.526. Maybe Bijan Rademacher will break out for the Cubs in three years.
Also, at .374, Pham has the highest BABIP in the NL. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify (he’s juuuuust short), Jon Jay would be second, at .371.