The Cubs are back in the win column. Their convincing win over the Pirates on Sunday kept them at 2.5 games behind division leader Milwaukee,and was their first road series win in two calendar years. The Cubs get a brief stop at home this week before heading out on the road for an 11 game swing through Miami, Washington, and Cincinnati. Tonight offers the most favorable matchup for the Cubs with a theme of homecoming. Clayton Richard will be the starter facing off against Cubs ace Jon Lester tonight. Richard has been having a solid year in comfy Petco Park. HIs 4.30 ERA is actually higher than his 3.86 FIP. Richard gives up a lot of contact as his league leading 103 hits given up indicates, but the Cubs will not be given many free passes.
The other homecoming belongs to Matt Szczur. There was some minor consternation in Cubdom when Szczur was finally waived to make room for Maddon's flavor of the week 13th arm or 14th arm in the staff. Szczur has struggled. He has been relegated to a bench role and has a dreadful .179/.324/.339. Szczur hasn't seen a start since 6-11, but with the Cubs throwing back to back lefties to start the series that streak ends tonight.
The Cubs lineup is the latest combination of the Anthony Rizzo-Ian Happ daily double that has emerged in June. Rizzo still has yet to not reach base to start a game in his new role. Maddon also inserts Jon Jay and Albert Almora into the lineup tonight. Jay takes over in the nine spot, and provides a pesky hitter at the bottom of the order. Addison Russell has another day off with Javier Baez at second. Willson Contreras helps round out the very good defense up the middle. Happ is not the strongest defender at second base, but every other up the middle player offers some loud defensive tools to help the Cubs ace. It will be interesting to see how long Rizzo stays red hot in that leadoff spot, and how Maddon continues to mix and match to keep his stated goal of a well rested team later in the year.
Monday: 7:05 pm CT CSN/670 AM
Tuesday: 7:05 pm CT CSN/670 AM
Wednesday: 1:20 pm CT WGN/670 AM
1. Jose Pirela (LF)
2. Yangervis Solarte (2B)
3. Wil Myers (1B)
4. Hunter Renfroe (RF)
5. Austin Hedges (C)
6. Erick Aybar (SS)
7. Chase d'Arnaud (3B)
8. Matt Szczur (CF)
9. Clayton Richard (P)
(courtesy of Brooks Baseball)
Clayton Richard: "His sinker has heavy sinking action, is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers and has an obvious tail. His curve has primarily 12-6 movement, is much harder than usual and has little depth. His change is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' changeups, has an obvious armside fade, dives down out of the zone and results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers' changeups. His fourseam fastball generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has heavy sinking action, has an obvious tail and has essentially average velo. His cutter (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 7 of them in 2017) generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' cutters, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' cutters, has surprisingly little cutting action and has some natural sink. "
Jhoulys Chacin: "His sinker is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers, is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' sinkers and has slight armside run. His slider sweeps across the zone, results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sliders and has below average velo. His fourseam fastball has essentially average velo. His curve has little depth and has slight glove-side movement. His change generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' changeups and results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers' changeups. His cutter (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 2 of them in 2017) generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' cutters, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' cutters, has good "rise", has little cutting action and has slightly above average velo. "
Miguel Diaz: "In 2017, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (96mph), also mixing in a Curve (83mph) and Change (89mph). His fourseam fastball has well above average velo and has slight armside run. His curve generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers' curves, is much harder than usual and has little depth. His change is thrown extremely hard and has slight armside fade"
At a certain point in the season it doesn't really matter who the Cubs are facing. The Cubs were expected to be defending their hold as the dominant team in baseaball. Instead what we've seen is a team only briefly teasing us with flashes of that expected play. The schedule works out in such a way that if the Cubs are going to get on a hot streak it needs to happen now. The Cubs managed a road series win for the first time in forever. They managed that with their most talented player sitting in 2 of 3 games. The Rizzo leadoff experiment has worked in the sense that Rizzo was red hot. Managers seldom look bad maximizing the number of appearances for their most potent bats. The lineup seems to have helped Ian Happ find a consistent role. He is moving around the diamond with Zobrist finally placed on the DL. The Bryant time off has been soaked up by Tommy La Stella. The Cubs need to find a way to continue consistent winning. The Padres at home should provide a perfect opportunity because it becomes a much more difficult task to right the ship on the road with a stop in Washington.