Series Preview: Cubs at Mets, June 14-17, 2021

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Series Preview: Cubs at Mets, June 14-17, 2021

Chicago Cubs

I haven’t had this much fun watching Cubs baseball in a while. Maybe that has something to do with the expectations we had for this season and/or this stretch, in particular, but man, it’s just been such a blast.

But we can’t let ourselves get too comfortable. The Brewers are still rolling, and this tricky month isn’t over yet. The Cubs are now headed to New York, where they’ll face the first-place Mets and their stable of dominant starting pitchers, including the best starter in MLB, Jacob deGrom (0.56 ERA, 3.7 WAR).

NOTE: There’s a tiny chance the Mets could skip deGrom (right flexor tendinitis) this week, we won’t know until after his bullpen session today, but as of now, he’s on schedule to pitch in this series.

And he’s not even the Cubs only significant challenge this week. Taijuan Walker (2.07 ERA, 1.8 WAR) and Marcus Stroman (2.32 ERA, 1.3 WAR) are both on the schedule, as well, and both have been excellent this year.

Yes, the Cubs have gotten some nice performances out of their starters lately, as well, but Adbert Alzolay is on the IL, which means Alec Mills is filling in for one of these four games and another is still TBD. The “good news,” such as it were, is that the Mets are really banged up, so a lot of their key offensive contributors are out. That could mean some low-scoring affairs throughout the week, so maybe the Cubs bullpen can be the difference maker once again.

After this four-gamer, the Cubs are headed back home to face the Marlins and Indians, before heading out on the road to end the month against the Dodgers (four games) and Brewers (three games). That’ll be a HUGE week.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (38-27) just keep on winning — that’s five in a row! — and are now a season-high 11 games over .500. Unfortunately, the Brewers have won 9 of their past 10 games, including four in a row, so they’re tied atop the NL Central for the moment. Meanwhile, the New York Mets (32-25) just took 2 out of 3 from the Padres after splitting a two-game set with the Orioles. They’re seven games over .500 and in first place of the NL East.

Game Times and Broadcasts Info

•   Monday, June 14th at 6:10 CT on MARQ, ESPN, 670 The Score
•   Tuesday, June 15th at 6:10 CT on MARQ, ESPN, 670 The Score
•   Wednesday, June 16th at 6:10 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score
•   Thursday, June 17th at 6:10 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Jake Arrieta v. David Peterson (L)
Game 2: Alec Mills (R) v. Taijuan Walker (R)
Game 3: TBD v. Jacob deGrom (R)
Game 4: Kyle Hendricks v. Marcus Stroman (R)

Chicago Cubs

•   C – Willson Contreras
•   1B – Anthony Rizzo
•   2B – Sergio Alcantara
•   3B – Patrick Wisdom
•   SS – Javy Báez
•   LF – Joc Pederson
•   CF – Ian Happ
•   RF – Kris Bryant

Unavailable: Justin Steele, Matt Duffy, Nico Hoerner, David Bote, Trevor Williams, Adbert Alzolay, P.J. Higgins, Rowan Wick, Jonathan Holder, Austin Romine

New York Mets

•   C – James McCann
•   1B – Pete Alonso
•   2B – Jose Peraza
•   3B – Jonathan Villar
•   SS – Francisco Lindor
•   LF – Dominic Smith
•   CF – Kevin Pillar
•   RF – Billy McKinney

Unavailable: J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo, Albert Almora Jr., Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Johneshwy Fargas, Noah Syndergaard, Carlos Carrasco, Jose Martinez, Dellin Betances, Tommy Hunter, Jordan Yamamoto

By the Numbers:

Run Differential:
Cubs: +43 (8th)
Mets: +17 (11th)

Runs Scored Per Game:
Cubs: 4.62 (10th)
Mets: 3.78 (26th)

Runs Allowed Per Game:
Cubs: 3.95 (9th)
Mets: 3.48 (3rd)

Keep An Eye Out For …

The Cubs acquired Mets outfielder Billy McKinney alongside Addison Russell in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel deal with the A’s back in 2014. But he didn’t last long in the organization. Two years after joining the Cubs, he and Gleyber Torres (among others) were sent to the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman trade. A couple years later, the Yankees traded him to the Blue Jays as part of a deal for J.A. Happ. And a couple years after that, the Brewers claimed McKinney off waivers, where he’s been until the end of May, when he was traded back to New York, only this time the NL edition. And, guess what, he’s having a nice season (108 wRC+)! He’s been especially hot lately, with 9 hits, six for extra bases, over his last seven games. He was scratched with right knee soreness on Saturday, but is expected to return to the Mets this week against the Cubs, where he’s been a nice fill-in with so many players missing.

Francisco Lindor is slashing .220/.313/.354 (92 wRC+).

Cut out his month of April, and Ian Happ has a 130 wRC+ over his last 112 plate appearances. It’s built mostly on power (7 homers, 5 doubles) and free bases (13 walks, 1 HBP), but that’s his game. The Cubs still need this type of batter alongside the contact types. And for what it’s worth, his strikeout rate (25.9%) has been under control and his 90.2 MPH average exit velocity is really solid. He’s hitting too many ground balls at the moment, but this has been a solid stretch overall.

Another guy who wants to carve out the month of April? Joc Pederson. Since May 1st, the Cubs left fielder has slashed .288/.336/.536 (136 wRC+) with EIGHT(!) homers, five doubles, and a triple. His average exit velocity during this period? 94.0 MPH.

Author: Michael Cerami

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