Series Preview: Cubs at Athletics, August 5 - August 7, 2016

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Series Preview: Cubs at Athletics, August 5 – August 7, 2016

Chicago Cubs

oakland a's logo

The Chicago Cubs pulled off a wild ninth-inning comeback Wednesday, to secure the win and the series sweep over the Marlins at home.

After an off day (boo!), the Cubs will now swing out west to take on the Oakland Athletics for three games, before another off-day (boo!) on Monday.

Then, they’ll begin a ten game home-stand, with two against the Angels, four against the Cardinals, an off-day (seriously?) and four more against the Milwaukee Brewers (including a double-header). The end of that home stand will mark the end of the prolonged stretch of home or near-home baseball for the Cubs (this Oakland series notwithstanding), but they have certainly taken advantage of the it in the meantime.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (66-41) have won four games in a row, and have gone 13-6 since the All-Star break. Their winning ways have pushed their season win total up to 66, tying them with the number of wins secured by the end of the 2013 season. We just checked-in on their standings and relative rank through the league here, so suffice it to say, the Cubs are in first and holding strong.

The Oakland Athletics (48-60) are in last place of the AL West and have just sold off significantly at the deadline. Although they had been doing quite well coming out of the break (9-4), they recently lost five straight against the Indians and Angels. 2016 is not their year.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, August 5 at 9:05 CT on CSN-C+, 670 The Score
  • Saturday, August 6 at 3:05 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, August 3 at 3:05 CT on WGN (out-of-market only), 670 The Score

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.

Chicago Cubs


  • Jon Lester (2.95 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 3.65 xFIP; 3.29 K/BB)
  • Jake Arrieta (2.75 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 3.36 xFIP; 2.84 K/BB)
  • Kyle Hendricks (2.22 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 3.74 xFIP; 3.09 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B (or LF)
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Ben Zobrist, LF (or 2B)
  5. Willson Contreras, C
  6. Jason Heyward, RF
  7. Javy Baez, 2B (OR 3B)
  8. Addison Russell, SS
  9. DH – Not really sure how they’ll attack the DH spot this series.

Oakland Athletics


  • Dillon Overton (9.33 ERA, 9.29 FIP, 6.72 xFIP; 1.83 K/BB)
  • Sonny Gray (5.84 ERA, 4.79 FIP, 4.10 xFIP; 2.17 K/BB)
  • Sean Manaea (4.68 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 4.10 xFIP; 3.43 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Coco Crisp, LF
  2. Max Muncy, 2B
  3. Danny Valencia, RF
  4. Stephen Vogt, C
  5. Khris Davis, DH
  6. Yonder Alonso, 1B
  7. Marcus Semien, SS
  8. Jake Smolinski, CF
  9. Ryon Healy, 3B

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

Kyle Hendricks may have just missed out on winning Pitcher of the Month in July, but he was about as good as it gets that month. And that was before he threw a complete game shutout on August 1. It’s not easy to discern if Hendricks will always be (even a version of) the guy he has been this season, but I’m fine riding out the highs as long as they last.

After three straight starts without completing the sixth inning, Jake Arrieta has now delivered four straight with 6.0 or more innings pitched. His last time out, against the Mariners, Jake went 7.0 innings, giving up just 2 hits and 2 earned runs on 3 walks and 4 strikeouts.

Since becoming the Cubs set-up man, Hector Rondon has been lights out. In his 5.1 innings pitched, he’s allowed no earned runs on just 3 hits, no walks and 3 strikeouts. He’s also recorded four holds and grabbed a win, if you’re into that sorta thing. His slash line over those 5.1 innings reads 0.00/2.00/2.32. Transition -> successful.

Aroldis Chapman has posted .4 fWAR in 4.2 IP for the Cubs.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

Although he’s shown a bit more power lately, Jason Heyward remains in a prolonged slump. In his past 51 plate appearances, he’s slashing just .208/.235/.333, good for just a 46 wRC+. Worse, he’s almost completely stopped walking (2.0%) during that stretch. For most of the season, even when he was badly slumping, Heyward continued to draw walks, which kept him on base. If he loses that too, things might look a bit ugly.

Also struggling in his last 50 (or so) plate appearances is Javy Baez. Since July 20 (49 PAs), Baez has slashed .255/.265/.404 (73 wRC+), with a 2.0% walk rate and a 36.75 strikeout rate. Although everyone goes through slumps and his season slash line still looks quite good, I think we can be a little more sensitive to Baez’s ups and downs, especially if the down is a strikeout-based slump. Something to keep an eye on.

Oakland Athletics – Pitching

The A’s starting rotation has been among the bottom five rotations in baseball this season, and they just traded away the brightest spot, in Rich Hill. Aside from Sean Manaea (1.1 fWAR), Hill (2.5 fWAR) was the only starting pitcher in the rotation with more than one win above replacement. Everyone else has been a mess.

Sonny Gray, for one example, is a part of that “young aces pitching like crap” club in 2016. Over his 111.0 innings pitched, Gray has a 5.84 ERA, a 4.79 FIP and a 4.10 xFIP. This, after a year of slashing 2.73/3.45/3.69 with 3.8 WAR. He still has plenty of upside, but man this just isn’t his year.

The A’s bullpen, on the other hand, has been just outside the top ten all year long. While they haven’t had many lights out performers (other than, perhaps, Ryan Dull), they have had contributions throughout. It’s still a very beatable bullpen, but I’d prefer the Cubs do their damage early and against the starters.

Oakland Ahtletics – Offense

But maybe they won’t have to!

Oakland’s group of position players has been the second least valuable group in baseball this year. And that was before they traded away one of their most valuable offensive and defensive contributors in Josh Reddick. Now, they have just two qualified hitters with a wRC+ over 100: Khris Davis and Marcus Semien.

And their best hitter, Davis, is slashing just .254/.296/.513. If you can just prevent the long ball (he does have 27), he can’t do too much damage.

In short, the A’s starters have been very bad, their bullpen is beatable, and their hitters have struggled. With the Cubs three best starters going in this one, you’d hope they can take advantage and keep their foot on the gas.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami