Arizona Diamondbacks (64-50) vs Chicago Cubs (59-54)
The D-Backs are still struggling a bit this half, 11-14 since the All-Star Break, 4-5 in August. They have 7 games left in the toughest stretch of their schedule; if they can win the series against the Cubs then split with the Astros, Arizona will have finished 5-5. I’ll take 5-5 all day against the best teams in each league and the World Series champs.
After a 13-4 start to the second half which caused many to think that the Cubs had overcome their previous ailments, the Cubs have returned to their meh ways. They have gone 2-6 in their last 8 games, leaving the NL Central wide open. The Cardinals, Brewers, and Pirates are all within 3 games of the division lead. Every member of the Cubs pitching staff has posted an ERA worse than they did last season, which generally does not lead to repeat championships. On offense, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are both having great seasons (though not as great as last year), catcher Wilson Contreras is playing well, and the rest of the team has disappointed. While Kyle Schwarber has hit 18 dingers, he also has a batting average of .193 which is, uh, problematic. Rounding out the outfield we have Jason Heyward and Albert Almora, who are both below average hitters. Looking at the past week, no Cubbies are on notable hot streaks.
Nick Ahmed, Yasmany Tomas, and Randall Delgado are all without a timetable to return. Robbie Ray, on the other hand, is progressing nicely. He will not start during the Cubs series, but has thrown at least one bullpen session since being struck in the head by a line drive.
Catcher Wilson Contreras and shortstop Addison Russell will both be on the disabled list for this series. The same goes for relief pitcher Koji Uehara.
Game 1: John Lackey RHP (9-9, 4.81 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) vs Taijuan Walker RHP (6-5, 3.60 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
After years of being a reliable starter since he entered the league in 2002, John Lackey has been mediocre 21 outings into 2017. He won’t go out and give up 9 runs, but he’s also unlikely to put the team on his back and produce an 8 inning, 1 run performance. A game like that isn’t impossible, just improbable with his age and how he has pitched this season. He’ll go out, throw his low 90’s fastball, throw his slider, give up a few runs, then hand the game over to the bullpen after 5 or 6 innings.
Taijuan Walker in 2016: 4.22 ERA, 1.81 HR/9
Taijuan Walker in 2017: 3.60 ERA, 0.94 HR/9
I wonder if these two stat-changes are related. Hmm...
Game 2: Jon Lester LHP (8-6, 3.97 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) vs Patrick Corbin LHP (8-11, 4.76 ERA, 1.56 WHIP)
Lester has been a bit of disappointment this season, failing to be a dominant force for the Cubs. While the overall numbers aren’t where Lester would like them to be, his statistics against lefties are staggering. Left-handed batters have a triple slash of .180/.214/.261 when facing the 33-year-old.
Here is one way to view Patrick Corbin’s last outing:
6 IP, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 SO
Cool! Nice quality start! Way to go Patrick!
Here’s another way:
6 runs allowed
Oh. I will prefer to look at it the first way. However, still have to give the advantage to Chicago.
Game 3: Jake Arrieta RHP (11-8, 3.83 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) vs Zack Godley RHP (5-4, 2.94 ERA, 1.02 WHIP)
Like his comrade Lester above, Arrieta has not been the ace which Chicago has so desperately needed in order to return to World Series form. However, the former Oriole is on a nice stretch right now, with a 2.18 ERA since July 2. When the D-Backs faced Arrieta at the beginning of August, he had an impressive line of 7 innings pitched and 2 runs (1 unearned) allowed.
Of starting pitchers with 100+ innings pitched, Zack Godley ranks 9th in the MLB. Who called that one? Remember, the only reason Godley has a spot in this rotation is Shelby Miller’s injury. When this season is said and done, I hope people look back and take the time to truly appreciate what a God-send (ha) that Godley has been. Advantage D-Backs
I like Arizona’s chances against an under-performing Cubs squad, although it would be nice to get a Greinke start this series. Oh well. I’ll go crazy and predict an Arizona sweep.
How many games does Arizona take against the Cubs?
This poll is closed