There is no shortage of exciting storylines to follow this week as the Philadelphia Phillies come to Chicago – including, of course, Bryce Harper’s 2019 Wrigley Field debut … in a non-Cubs uniform. But there’s just no way we can get through this intro without talking about the matchup between Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta later tonight.
Arrieta is a bit of a hometown hero around these parts, not only for helping the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years, winning a Cy Young award, throwing TWO no-hitters, and teaching us all about the importance of beards, but also because he departed while he was still able to contribute, seemingly spurned by the Cubs, who elected to go with Darvish in free agency instead of him.
Neither pitcher has been nearly as good as they in their glory days, but Darvish has significantly lagged in performance and missed almost all of last season, while also costing the Cubs $50M more in guaranteed money than Arrieta is costing the Phillies. And although it doesn’t exactly work this way, I can’t help but shake the feeling that many fans “blame” Darvish for the lack of Arrieta in Chicago (even though that’s not really how it worked out, at the direction of the front office).
It all comes to a head later tonight, and for Darvish, so much is on the line. Until he starts a playoff game in Chicago, he won’t have a better single-game opportunity to win over Cubs fans, many of whom already feel like his signing was a big mistake. This is some legit drama, my friends.
We’re Going Streaking
The Chicago Cubs (27-17) managed to eek out a series win in Washington D.C. after dropping two of three in Cincinnati. They’re still in first place of the NL Central, but another decisive series win against a good team would help me sleep.
The Philadelphia Phillies (27-19) just won three games in a row against the Rockies, and currently sit atop the NL East. HOWEVA they also just lost three of four to the Brewers (before the Rockies series), and have the same number of wins as the Cubs (but two more losses).
Game Times and Broadcasts Info
- Monday, May 20th at 7:05 CT on NBC Sports Chicago, MLBN, 670 The Score
- Tuesday, May 21st at 6:05 CT on WGN, ESPN, 670 The Score
- Wednesday, May 22nd at 7:05 CT on NBC Sports Chicago, MLBN, 670 The Score
- Thursday, May 23rd at 1:20 CT on ABC-7, 670 The Score
- Yu Darvish: 5.14 ERA, 5.53 FIP; 1.67 K/BB
- Jose Quintana: 3.68 ERA, 3.81 FIP; 3.33 K/BB
- Cole Hamels: 3.13 ERA, 4.00 FIP; 2.70 K/BB
- Jon Lester: 2.09 ERA, 2.98 FIP; 4.67 K/BB
Active Depth Chart:
- C – Willson Contreras
- 1B – Anthony Rizzo
- 2B – Daniel Descalso
- 3B – Kris Bryant
- SS – Javy Baez(?)
- LF – Kyle Schwarber
- CF – Albert Almora
- RF – Jason Heyward
Unavailable: Brandon Morrow, Tony Barnette, Pedro Strop, Ben Zobrist, Javy Baez(?)
- Jake Arrieta: 4.02 ERA, 4.68 FIP; 2.04 K/BB
- Zach Eflin: 2.89 ERA, 4.00 FIP; 5.00 K/BB
- Cole Irvin: 2.77 ERA, 3.49 FIP; 3.50 K/BB
- Aaron Nola: 4.47 ERA, 4.41 FIP; 2.86 K/BB
Active Depth Chart:
- C – J.T. Realmuto
- 1B – Rhys Hoskins
- 2B – César Hernandez
- 3B – Maikel Franco
- SS – Jean Segura
- LF – Andrew McCutchen
- CF – Odúbel Herrera
- RF – Bryce Harper
Unavailable: Victor Arano, Roman Quinn, David Robertson, Vince Velasquez, Tommy Hunter
Keep An Eye Out For …
Cubs Pitcher: Yu Darvish has a lot on the line tonight, BUT he is coming off one of his best starts as a Cub, with 11 strikeouts, and, most importantly, NO WALKS in Cincinnati. He’s getting a ton of strikeouts and a ton of ground balls and very little hard contact this season, so if he can keep the walks under control, he can be a very good pitcher very quickly.
Cubs Player: Albert Almora, Jr. keeps getting results lately, but the peripherals are so unconvincing. For example, over his past ~75 plate appearances (i.e. his “hot streak), Almora is slashing a beautiful .338/.356/.606 (155 wRC+), but has a 1.4% walk rate, a 57.1% ground ball rate, and a 24.1% soft-hit rate. That much weak contact on the ground with almost no free passes is just not going keep the slash line where it is. It won’t. I’m not hoping he’ll suddenly turn into a walk machine, but he needs to start elevating the ball and hitting it with more authority. Otherwise, that .377 BABIP is going to vanish and his numbers will alongside it.
Phillies Pitcher: Jake Arrieta has allowed 8 earned runs over his past 11.0 innings. And while he’ll always have a special place in my Cubs fandom, I would really really love it if he delivered a turd tonight at Wrigley Field. You might like Jake more than Yu, but the latter is a Cub now and will be for the next four years after this one. Let’s hope he can win the Chicago-faithful back, starting tonight. He’ll have to pitch well to do that, but if Arrieta struggles, that would certainly help.
Phillies Player: Bryce Harper is walking a ton (per usual) this season, but is striking out over 30% of the time. His overall slash line is still 25% better than the league average and his 9 homers is a fine total for May 20th, but I think it’s safe to say he’s not quite living up to the expectations.