The Cubs got off to a great start yesterday and have already guaranteed a split in Washington (success!). You’d obviously love if they kept the pressure on and went back to Wrigley up 2-0, but there’s nothing wrong with heading home with the series tied 1-1 (but also, let’s not).
Jon Lester gets the ball this afternoon/evening, and I’m not exactly sure which Lester we’ll get. On the one hand, his last two starts of the season were pretty great:
@STL: 6.0 IP, 5H, 1ER, 2BB, 4Ks
vCIN: 5.0 IP, 4H, 0ER, 0BB, 7Ks
And we know he has the capability to dominate in big games. But on the other hand, he preceded that start with seven earned runs against the Rays and had recently dealt with some shoulder fatigue near the end of August that he never really seemed to get over until the very end of the season. With the extra rest, though, I’m fairly convinced he’ll look good.
Of note: The Nationals had the 7th best wRC+ in MLB against lefties this season.
Opposing Lester and the Cubs is Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez. At first glance, Gonzalez’s 2017 seasons looks fairly awesome (201.0 IP, 2.96 ERA) and it certainly wasn’t bad. But there’s definitely some bad stuff lurking beneath the surface. For example, Gonzalez benefited from a ridiculously high 81.6% strand rate this season despite a middling 22.7 K%. Further, his ground ball rate is down two clicks from last season and eight (!) percentage points from 2015.
And finally, although this isn’t necessary new, Gonzalez walks a lot of hitters (9.6%) and the Cubs have historically been quite accepting towards free passes. So, all things considered, this isn’t a bad matchup for the Cubs.
I’m tentatively expecting a higher-scoring affair than last night’s opener, but hopefully Lester and a perfectly rested bullpen (with an off-day to look forward to) can lock things down.
Chicago Cubs (1-0) at Washington Nationals (0-1) – 4:38 CT on TBS, 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): 4.33 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 3.85 xFIP; 3.00 K/BB
Nationals: Gio Gonzalez (L): 2.96 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 4.24 xFIP; 2.38 K/BB
- Trea Turner, SS
- Bryce Harper, RF
- Anthony Rendon, 3B
- Daniel Murphy, 2B
- Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
- Jayson Werth, LF
- Matt Wieters, C
- Michael Taylor, CF
- Gio Gonzalez. P
Chicago Cubs Lineup:
- Albert Almora Jr., CF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Willson Contreras, C
- Addison Russell, SS
- Ben Zobrist, RF
- Javy Baez, 2B
- Ian Happ, LF
- Jon Lester, P