Series Preview: Rays at Cubs, April 18 - April 20, 2022

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Series Preview: Rays at Cubs, April 18 – April 20, 2022

Chicago Cubs

The Tampa Bay Rays are coming to town!

Or should I say staying in town, as they just wrapped up a three-game series against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Rays lost two of three to the Sox (and 3 of 4 to the A’s before that), so they’re getting off to a fairly slow start this season, despite some really strong performances from Ji-Man Choi and Wander Franco. The Cubs, by contrast, have not yet dipped their head below .500 and have their three top starting pitchers scheduled for the night-time series at Wrigley Field.

After these three games, the Cubs will stay put for four more against the Pirates before getting an off-day on April 25. But they really need to take care of business over this seven-game homestand, because after that off-day, the Cubs will face, in order, the Braves, Brewers, White Sox, Dodgers, and Padres. Oh my.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (5-4) have still not dipped below .500 this season, thanks to a split earned during the finale in Colorado. They’ve led at one point or another in all nine games this season, and have certainly been a more entertaining team than I think even the most optimistic among us expected.

The Tampa Bay Rays (5-5) just dropped two out of three to the White Sox to move down to .500 on the year. That series loss came after another series loss to the A’s, who took 3 of 4 in Tampa Bay, so it’s been a pretty uneven start for the Rays this season.

Hot or Not and What to Watch

After a scorching hot start to the season, Willson Contreras is 1 for his last 12, though the one was a homer. He’s still slashing .286/.375/.607 (172 wRC+) overall with just a 21.9% strikeout rate, so I’m guessing he’s still locked in. It’s just been a slow two games.

Patrick Wisdom turned his season around in Colorado. After recording just one hit in his first six games, he’s got six hits in his last three games, five of which have been doubles (and he added a couple of walks, to boot). I think I’m going to dig into his numbers with greater details in another week or so, but early on I can see that he is making more contact overall, especially on pitches in the zone. That would be a very big development for him, so I’m anxious to see if it keeps up.

It’s hard not to love what Jonathan Villar has brought to the Cubs so far this season. He’s got nine hits, two walks, and just three strikeouts over his first 22 plate appearances. He’s also a switch hitter, who looks comfortable at the plate, and can cover multiple positions around the diamond. So far, he’s looking like a very good offseason pickup for Jed Hoyer.

Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi has an absurd .455/.613/.864 (324 wRC+) slash line to start the season, in large part because he’s managed to work a staggering 9 walks in 31 PAs. The ten hits underscore just how good he’s been, but this line is begging for some regression. Hopefully, the Cubs can give it to him.

Game Times and Broadcasts Info

•   Monday, April 18 at 6:40 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score
•   Tuesday, April 19 at 6:40 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score
•   Wednesday, April 20 at 6:40 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Kyle Hendricks (R) vs. Shane McClanahan (L)
Game 2: Justin Steele (L) vs. TBD
Game 3: Marcus Stroman (R) vs. Drew Rasmussen (R)

Chicago Cubs

•   C – Willson Contreras
•   1B – Frank Schwindel
•   2B – Nick Madrigal/Jonathan Villar
•   3B – Patrick Wisdom/Jonathan Villar
•   SS – Nico Hoerner
•   LF – Ian Happ
•   CF – Jason Heyward
•   RF – Seiya Suzuki
•   DH – Rafael Ortega/Clint Frazier

Unavailable: Wade Miley, Andrelton Simmons, Alec Mills, David Bote, Adbert Alzolay, Brad Wieck, Codi Heuer

Tampa Bay Rays

•   C – Mike Zunino
•   1B – Ji-Man Choi
•   2B – Brandon Lowe
•   3B – Yandy Diaz
•   SS – Wander Franco
•   LF – Randy Arozarena
•   CF – Kevin Kiermaier
•   RF – Manuel Margot
•   DH – Harold Ramirez/Josh Lowe

Unavailable: JT Chargois, Ryan Yarbrough, Tyler Glasnow, Yonny Chirinos, Nick Anderson, Brendan McKay, Shane Baz, Pete Fairbanks, Luis Patiño

By the Numbers:

Run Differential:
Cubs: +7
Rays: 0

Runs Scored Per Game:
Cubs: 4.89
Rockies: 4.40

Runs Allowed Per Game:
Cubs: 4.11
Rays: 4.40

Author: Michael Cerami

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