The Chicago Cubs pulled off an absolutely wild win yesterday, which included a Travis Wood ivy catch in left field and a game winning Jon Lester (yeah, that one!) sacrifice bunt.
I’m not so sure they can top that.
The Cubs will now host the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field, as their prolonged schedule at or around home comes to an end. Following the off-day Thursday, the Cubs will head to Oakland to take on the A’s for three, have another off-day Monday, and then head home for six straight against the Angels (2) and the Cardinals (4). They haven’t been utterly dominating their competition, but the Cubs have officially come out of the break strong.
We’re Going Streaking
So strong, in fact, that the Chicago Cubs (63-41) haven’t lost a series since the break (if you count the White Sox series as one split, instead of a loss and a win, that is). Specifically, since then, the Cubs have gone 10-6 (.625 WP%) against the Rangers, Mets, Brewers, White Sox and Mariners. Combined with a couple of Cardinal loses, the Cubs now hold a 7.5 game lead over St. Louis in the Central and are the only team with a winning percentage over six hundred in all of baseball.
The Miami Marlins (53-48) are in second place of the NL East, just 4.0 games behind the Washington Nationals (and 2.5 games ahead of the Mets). In fact, if the season ended today, the Marlins would be in the playoffs with the Second Wild Card, just narrowly edging out the Cardinals (wouldn’t that be swell). Perhaps not coincidentally, the Marlins have played the Cardinals seven times since the All-Star Break, winning the first series (2-1) and splitting the second one (2-2). They’ve actually been a pretty nice surprise this year.
Game Times and Broadcasts
Expected Starters and Lineups
These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Kris Bryant, 3B (or LF)
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist, LF (or 2B)
- Willson Contreras, C
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Javy Baez, 2B (OR 3B)
- Addison Russell, SS
- Dee Gordon, 2B
- Martin Prado, 3B
- Christian Yelich, LF
- Giancarlo Stanton, RF
- Marcell Ozuna, CF
- J.T. Realmuto
- Chris Johnson, 1B
- Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
Depending on where you make the cut off, John Lackey has had a rough go of it lately. Since June 25 (seven starts), for example, Lackey has kept a 5.70 ERA (4.96 FIP) with 17 walks (9.3%), 40 strikeouts (22.0%), 40 hits, and 8 home runs allowed in just 42.1 IP. HOWEVA, his last start against the White Sox was his best start since the beginning of June. Over six innings, Lackey allowed just 1 earned run on 4 hits, 1 walk and 4 strikeouts. He didn’t allow any home runs and got plenty of ground balls. Here’s to Lackey building off that start and not the 7-8 that preceded it.
How about some bullpen notes.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
Jason Heyward hasn’t had a multi-hit game since July 9, but has been looking much better here lately (and in all the right ways). Stay with me for a second. Since July 25, Heyward is slashing .250/.296/.458 (96 wRC+). Although he hasn’t gotten on base as much during this past week and a half as he has all season, we know that’s a skill he’s never lost (10% walk rate this season), and it’s everything else that’s more encouraging.
While his .250 average represents an upgrade over his season .230 mark, it’s the power surge that brings a single, joyful tear to my eye. It’s a very small sample (27 plate appearances), but Heyward has a .208 ISO over this stretch, resulting in a .458 slugging percentage that is over 130 points higher than his season mark (.324). Considering that a lack of power was/is the real issue this season, this is extremely encouraging trend to see, even in a small sample. Now, keep it going.
Miami Marlins – Pitching
In their first series after the break, the Cubs faced Yu Darvish (W) and Cole Hamels (L). In their second series, they lined up with Noah Syndergaard (L). In their third series, the Cubs played the Brewers and ruined this entire narrative. In the series following that, however, they matched-up with Chris Sale (W). And finally, following that series, the Cubs stepped up to the plate against Felix Hernandez (W). In other words, the Cubs have some ace pitching, lately, and have actually come out on top more times than not.
Since break, Cubs have seen:
F. Hernandez (W)
That's 3-2 against aces. That's a series win.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) August 1, 2016
And that’s an especially good thing, because they’ll face another one tomorrow in Jose Fernandez. Fernandez is not always healthy, but when he is, he’s as good as anyone in the game. Already, this season, he’s accumulated 4.3 fWAR, which is third best in all of baseball behind just Syndergaard and Clayton Kershaw.
But he is beatable, and he’s shown that lately.
In has past three starts, he’s allowed 9 earned runs (4.42 ERA), on 17 hits (including 3 HRs), and six walks in just 18.1 IP. But don’t start salivating just yet. He also struck out 30 (30!) batters in that stretch, which is good for a 38.7% strikeout rate, a 2.97 FIP, and a 2.11 xFIP. So, uh, yeah.
Miami Marlins – Offense
Giancarlo Stanton can still do disgusting things to baseballs, but he certainly hasn’t done them as often in 2016. In fact, his production is well down across the board:
He’s obviously still been pretty good (19% better than average, as a matter of fact), but his step backwards is undebatable. By now, though, I’m hoping you know how this works ….
In his last nine games (36 PAs), Stanton has hit an otherworldly .353/.389/.618, with a much more characteristic .265 ISO and 169 wRC+. Don’t be surprised if he deposits one or two onto Waveland.