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Series Preview #11: Diamondbacks vs. Cubs

Chase Field is invaded by Cubs fans for the first time this season.

Drew Smyly throws a pitch in the solid blue cubs jerseys Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Can a series win for a team that didn’t expect to get many be considered a disappointment? Because I feel like we were all left a little disappointed at the end of the Marlins series. The Diamondbacks had won the first two games of the series, one of which was by a decisive margin, only to lose the final game of the series 11-3. Not to mention, it was in heartbreaking fashion, with the Marlins putting up eight runs in the ninth inning. As I said, if it’s possible to need to bounce back following a series win, the Diamondbacks will be trying to do that here against the Cubs. Don’t look now, though, because the Diamondbacks only have three less wins than the Dodgers at the moment.

The Cubs are struggling. They are also fourth in their division, but unlike the Diamondbacks, they are a sorry 11-19, and only the Reds being in their division is saving them from last. Starting pitching has been an issue for them. Only Drew Smyly has an ERA+ of above 100, big offseason acquision Marcus Stroman is on the IL, and wasn’t pitching great before hand, it’s been tough. Especially when you consider that their hitting isn’t doing much better.

Game 1 - 5/13, 6:40PM *: Zach Davies (1-1, 1.21 WHIP, 122 ERA+) vs. Drew Smyly (1-3, 1.22 WHIP, 136 ERA+)

First things first, you will not find this game on any of your usual channels! It is an AppleTV+ exclusive, as part of the multitude of streaming deals that MLB signed over the off season. But fear not! You can still watch the game FOR FREE. All it requires is an Apple ID, which this article from MLB.com will walk you through how to get.

Drew Smyly has been by far the best starting pitcher for the Cubs this year, and the fact that his stats are only slightly better than Zach Davies should tell you a lot about what I was saying above regarding Cubs pitching. After starting out the season with back-to-back scoreless starts, he’s been a little more up and down. Most recently, he gave up three runs, two earned, against the Dodgers. However, in three of his five starts, he has not managed to get out of the fifth inning. That could be important for the Diamondbacks, if they can get him out early and gas the Cubs bullpen early in the series. He is also the only starter that has been named by the Cubs for the entire series.

Davies continues to pitch well. He has been consistently lowering both his ERA as well as his FIP. That FIP does remain about a run higher than his ERA, so there is probably some room for regression there, but the fact they both keep going down is promising that the regression will be less when it does come. He hasn’t given up an earned run in either of his two starts this month, only two unearned runs against the Rockies.

Game 2 - 5/14, 5:10PM: Zac Gallen (2-0, 0.70 WHIP, 426 [not a typo] ERA+) vs. TBD

Seven scoreless innings against Colorado lowered his ERA back below 1 again, and that ERA+ is blinding to look at. Remember, league average is 100, and the higher the better. He’s only averaging 1.3 walks per nine innings, and hasn’t given up a h... ya know what? I’m not going to finish that sentence. He’s been really good. The only minor knock against him is that his K/9IP is about two fewer strikeouts per nine innings than his career norm. BUT, since he is giving out so few walks, his SO/W ratio is still more than double his career number.

Game 3 - 5/15, 1:10PM: Humberto Castellanos (2-1, 1.20 WHIP, 94 ERA+) vs. TBD

Castellanos has had the one bad start where he gave up the five runs to St. Louis, but other than that, has been fairly solid in the fifth spot of the rotation after taking over for Caleb Smith. His last two starts were against the Marlins. He held them scoreless the first time in Miami, and kept the Diamondbacks in the game with a three run, 5.1 inning start five days later. He’s the weakest link in the rotation by a decent margin, but he’s still been a solid, dependable starter for the team.

Conclusion

Look, if this team is serious about their current position as a wild card team, this is a series they need to win, if not sweep in its entirety. I think a series win is easily achievable, if they at least get a half way decent showing from the bullpen. I will say, though, this would be a great series for Gallen to throw his first CGSO of the year. It would go a long way right now. It’s hard to make any predicitions without knowing who is pitching in two out of three games for the Cubs, but anyone they could throw out there doesn’t come close to what Gallen is doing this season, an at the very worst, whoever they throw out against Castellanos is probably going to be an even match up. I’ll stick conservative and say they take two of three, with Castellanos being the odd man out for picking up a win.

*All times are Arizona time