Series Preview: Padres at Cubs, June 19 – June 21, 2017

Well how about that? A series victory against a divisional rival on the road in 2017. It’s funny how much yesterday’s victory can sway our mood (can you imagine how bummed you’d be if Sunday’s win was a loss?), but I’m not arguing with it. Let’s let the good feel good.

The Cubs are in the middle of a long stretch of baseball without any off-days, though they are at home for three straight. After this series against the Padres, the Cubs will head out to play eleven straight against the Marlins (four games), Nationals (four games), and Reds (three games).

I’m both nervous and excited for that four-game set against the Nats. They’re playing really well this year, but were arguably projected to be worse than the Cubs before the season. Could be a good test for this Cubs club if they’ve started to show signs of rebounding by then.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (34-34) made up some ground by taking two out of three from the Pirates, which means they’re right back at .500 for the year. And although they’re still trailing the Brewers by 2.5 games, the Cubs have managed to put some space between them and the third place Cardinals (5.5 games back). Given the three monsters in the NL West, however, the Wild Card will not likely be a path to the playoffs. No, for the NL Central, it’s win the division or bust (probably).

Fortunately, the San Diego Padres (28-42) are not one of the “monsters in the NL West” to which I referred. Instead, they’ve been one of the worst teams in baseball for most of the season. You know, except for when they swept the Cubs at Petco Park exactly three weeks ago ….

Location: Wrigley Field

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Monday, June 19 at 7:05 CT on CSN-C 670 The Score
  • Tuesday, June 20 at 7:05 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, June 21 at 1:20 CT on WGN, MLBN (out-of-market only) 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.

    Chicago Cubs

    Starters:

  • Jon Lester (3.89 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 3.67 xFIP; 3.07 K/BB)
  • Mike Montgomery (2.56 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 4.44 xFIP; 1.46 K/BB)
  • Eddie Butler (4.41 ERA, 4.60 FIP, 5.28 xFIP; 1.17 K/BB)
  • Approximate Lineup:

    1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B (I mean, duh)
    2. Ian Happ, CF
    3. Kris Bryant, 3B
    4. Jason Heyward, RF
    5. Willson Contreras, C
    6. Kyle Schwarber, LF
    7. Addison Russell, SS
    8. Pitcher
    9. Javy Baez, 2B

    Although they’re technically more “bench” players than the eight guys above, each of Jon Jay, Albert Almora, Miguel Montero, and Tommy La Stella figure to work in quite a bit over the series.

    San Diego Padres

    Starters:

  • Clayton Richard (4.30 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 3.62 xFIP; 2.91 K/BB)
  • Jhoulys Chacin (5.10 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 4.19 xFIP; 2.54 K/BB)
  • Miguel Diaz (7.36 ERA, 6.54 FIP, 5.57 xFIP; 1.41 K/BB)
  • Approximate Lineup:

    1. Allen Cordoba, LF
    2. Franchy Cordero, CF
    3. Wil Myers, 1B
    4. Yangervis Solarte, 2B
    5. Hunter Renfroe, RF
    6. Cory Spangenberg, 3B
    7. Erick Aybar, SS
    8. Austin Hedges, C
    9. Pitcher

    Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

    Chicago Cubs – Pitching

    Jon Lester is coming off a really nice start in New York (his second best start of the year by Game Score), and he’ll look to keep on track tonight. But we’ll discuss him in greater detail later today.

    For now, I’d like to talk about Wednesday’s starter Eddie Butler. More specifically, I’d like to talk about his last few starts. Although Butler hasn’t gotten his Cubs debut off to the greatest start in the world (4.41 ERA, 4.60 FIP), things have looked a bit better lately. In the two starts prior to his most recent in Pittsburgh, Butler walked just two batters total and allowed just four earned runs.

    Then, in his last start, he was cruising through the first three innings (just one walk, no hits or runs allowed), before giving up his first hit (a single) with one out in the fourth. After getting the next two batters to ground out, he went into the fifth almost entirely unscathed. He did allow a solo homer in the 5th inning to Josh Bell, but again, even through 5 innings it was one Butler’s best starts of the year.

    It wasn’t until he had two outs in the sixth inning that the wheels came off. A single, a walk, and a triple later and Butler was out of the game. Pedro Strop then allowed one of Butler’s inherited runners to score, furthering the damage. Butler was one batter away from a 6 inning, 1 run effort, and couldn’t quite close the door.

    Obviously, that’s not an excuse, those runs count like any other, but it was hard not to see progress. Hopefully, with a slightly shorter leash and three good-ish starts to work off of, Butler can deliver the Cubs a quality start.

    Chicago Cubs – Offense

    I mentioned this earlier today in reference to his home run post, but Cubs’ rookie Ian Happ is working on a five-game hitting streak with three homers to boot. His walk rate is still really great (11.0%) and his strikeout rate has actually dropped about four percentage points from its height (now 32.2%), and the power has looked just so real (.320 ISO) this season. Overall, he’s got a 120 wRC+ in 118 plate appearances. That’s really encouraging, especially considering that he clearly went through a struggle as the league adjusted, but he appears to have already adjusted right back.

    It won’t necessarily be smooth sailing from here on out, but it’s hard not to like what we’ve seen. And, just for fun, check out his June slash line:

    .234/.321/.681; 11.1 BB%, 29.6 K% – .406 wOBA and 151 wRC+

    I mean, yeah!

    San Diego Padres – Pitching

    With Jon Lester today, Montgomery tomorrow, and Butler on Wednesday, the reliability of the Cubs starters arguably goes down every day. Fortunately, the same can be said about the Padres starters.

    Today, they’ll get former Cub, Clayton Richard, who’s actually got some solid peripherals (3.62 xFIP – 18th best in baseball and one spot better than Jon Lester). So, having Lester on the mound today will give the Cubs their best shot at winning.

    But against Montgomery tomorrow, the Padres are throwing Jhoulys Chacin, who’s been pretty terrible this season overall (5.10 ERA). Of course, now that I look more closely, he is coming off back-to-back 7.0 IP, 2ER starts against the Reds and Royals. Perhaps the Cubs offense will give him more fits than either of those teams.

    And against Butler on Wednesday, the Padres are throwing rookie right-hander Miguel Diaz, who has a 7.36 ERA through 2 starts and 21 relief appearances this season. These guys are just beatable. The Cubs’s bats really need to take off this series.

    San Diego Padres – Offense

    The Padres positional group is dead last in WAR across all of MLB. Their .294 team wOBA is second to last, as is their 81 wRC+.

    Among their qualified hitters (of which there are only three) just Yangervis Solarte (101 wRC+) and Wil Myers (113 wRC+) are above average by wRC+. This is, plain and simple, a bad team. They have no pitching and no offense to speak of. (Again: this team recently swept the Cubs. Oof.)

    Given that this game is at Wrigley Field, I’d say, yes, the Cubs REALLY should take at least two out of three. Of course, we said similar things last time these two teams met up. So, shrug. Give it your best shot, Cubs.

    written by

    Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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