Series Preview: Rays at Cubs July 4 - July 5, 2017

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Series Preview: Rays at Cubs July 4 – July 5, 2017

Chicago Cubs

Happy Fourth of July!

The Chicago Cubs are hosting the Tampa Bay Rays for two games this week, before making up a game against the Brewers on Thursday. After that, there are just three more against the Pirates (also at Wrigley Field), before the break.

Let’s see if the Cubs can finish strong before the All-Star Break.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (41-41) just lost a series against the Reds, after splitting back-to-back four-game sets against the Nationals and Marlins. They’re .500 for the season and in second place of the NL Central.

The Tampa Bay Rays (43-41) just beat the Orioles in two out of three, but dropped two out of three to the Pirates just before that. They’re two games over .500, but five back in the tough AL East.

Location: Wrigley Field

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Tuesday, June 30 at 1:20 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, July 1 at 1:20 CT on CSN-C, MLBN, 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


  • Jon Lester (3.69 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 3.64 xFIP; 3.15 K/BB)
  • John Lackey (5.24 ERA, 5.88 FIP, 4.58 xFIP; 2.77 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Ben Zobrist, RF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Ian Happ, CF
  5. Willson Contreras, C
  6. Addison Russell, SS
  7. Javy Baez, 2B
  8. Pitcher
  9. Jon Jay, LF

Tampa Bay Rays


  • Chris Archer (3.92 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 3.44 xFIP; 3.97 K/BB)
  • Blake Snell (5.36 ERA, 5.29 FIP, 5.33 xFIP; 1.33 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Mallex Smith, CF
  2. Corey Dickerson, LF
  3. Evan Longoria, 3B
  4. Logan Morrison, 1B
  5. Steven Souza Jr., RF
  6. Willson Ramos, C
  7. Tim Beckham, 2B
  8. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

Jon Lester has been really excellent for his last four starts: 2.42 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 3.19 xFIP. If those were his full-season numbers this year, his ERA would be 4th best in baseball, and his FIP/xFIP would both be 8th.

Given that he was a top ten pitcher last season, it’s nice to see his numbers start trending back into that territory.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

I’m not going to stop talking about Willson Contreras, because he’s quietly on a very long hot streak. Since May 9 (155 PAs), he’s slashing .285/.351/.533 which is good for a 127 wRC+. He added three hits, including a double and a homer in Cincinnati, to boot, and I’ve loved his at-bats lately.

But how about Ian Happ?

Happ is on a five-game hit streak, but has at least one hit in 17 of his past 19 games (25 hits overall). During that stretch he’s slashed .325/.358/.662, which is good for a 160 wRC+. But, honestly, even without focusing on his most recent stretch, his season numbers are impressive: .264/.331/.566 129 wRC+ with 12 homers, 10 2Bs and a 3B in 177 plate appearances.

Dude is having a great season.

Tampa Bay Rays – Pitching

Chris Archer hasn’t gone less than 6.0 innings pitched since May 15. During that stretch, he’s got a rough 4.15 ERA, HOWEVER he’s got an absolutely brilliant 2.86 FIP and 2.83 xFIP. Moreover, he has a 30.6% strikeout rate and 5.1 walk rate.

By the looks of it, he is pitching just fine.

The Rays bullpen has been pretty mediocre this season, though. Even their closer Alex Colome has a 3.72 ERA and an xFIP at 4.70. I’d get to the pen if I were the Cubs.

Tampa Bay Rays – Offense

Logan Morrison has slashed .256/.366/.579 this season, which is good for a .386 wOBA. Corey Dickerson also has a .386 wOBA, and Steven Souza Jr. is right up there at .372 wOBA, as well.

Together, those three are the most dangerous part of the Rays lineup. Once again, the Cubs pitchers have a tough lineup to get through, as the Rays’ offense has been the 5th best in baseball overall by wRC+.

Author: Michael Cerami

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