Series Preview--Cubs at Braves: 7/17-7/19

The Cubs had about as good of a weekend as you could possibly hope in Baltimore. They don't have long to rest on their achievement with a trip south to Atlanta. The mid July matchup between two teams chasing the second wildcard spot might be one of the most suprising series in baseball. The Cubs were expected to add another high 90 win season, but have been mired around .500 all season. The Braves are in the same place as the Cubs but the narrative around them is one of triumph to finally be out of the cellar of the NL East.

The Braves come into the series matching the Cubs stride for stride recently. Both clubs swept the series coming out of the break, and both are 6-4 in their last ten. The Cubs hold a half game edge with a series few expected to be meaningful for both teams in March. The Braves offense is a better version of the one that ranked in the bottom of baseball. It is still a lower third offense by advanced metrics such as wOBA and wRC+, but they do rank highly in batting average. That is because they put a lot of balls in play and a lot of them find holes. The offense is lacking power and patience. That is why the Braves were willing to try Freddie Freeman at third base. This keeps Matt Adams sudden power surge in the lineup along with Freeman's amazing 2017 season slash line.

Braves pitching has not been good this season collectively, but a lot of that has been the spectacular failure of some reclamation projects and veterans. Bartolo Colon's 8.14 ERA is the most obvious example of this, but the starting staff as whole has under achieved all season. The only Braves starter with an ERA is Mike Foltynewicz, who the Cubs will not see in Hotlanta. The Braves bullpen on the other hand has been pretty good, and has been filled with some familar faces doing well in Arodys Vizcaino, Jason Motte and Rex Brothers. Currently Vizcaino and Motte are on the 10 day DL, but the Braves bullpen has been good this season.

The Cubs have a chance to go on that run we've been execting for an entire half season. It starts with Jon Lester righting the ship tonight. Any chance at making the postseasona and going deep once there rests on the very expensive left arm of Lester. It has been more than worth every penny so far, and it will need to continue to be in the second half. Typically Lester, as the Maddon helmed Cubs, have been stronger in the second half, and I have faith in the southpaw ace. John Lackey makes his first start off the DL and has a chance to prove he has something left in the tank. It is a good matchup given Lackey's biggest issue has been the gopher ball, and then Mike Montgomery gets at least one more shot in the rotation. The Cubs need to win series here up to the deadline to help set their course, and there is plenty of reason to think they can. But there was no reason to expect anything that has been 2017 to happen.

Watch/Listen:

Monday: 6:35 pm CT WGN/670 AM

Tuesday: 6:35 pm CT CSN/670 AM

Wednesday: 11:10 am CT CSN/670 AM

Lineups

Cubs
1. Ben Zobrist (2B)
2. Kris Bryant (3B)
3. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
4. Willson Contreras (C)
5. Kyle Schwarber (LF)
6. Ian Happ (CF)
7. Jason Heyward (RF)
8. Javier Baez (SS)
9. Jon Lester (P)

Nationals
1. Ender Inciarte (CF)
2. Brandon Phillips (2B)
3. Freddie Freeman (1B)
4. Matt Kemp (LF)
5. Tyler Flowers (C)
6. Nick Markakis (RF)
7. Sean Rodriguez (3B)
8. Johan Camargo (SS)
9. Julio Teheran (P)

Bullpen Usage:

bullpen-data
via Baseball Press.

Opposing pitchers:

Scouting Reports from Books Baseball.

Julio Teheran: "His fourseam fastball has some natural sinking action and has essentially average velo. His slider has primarily 12-6 movement and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sliders. His sinker has some natural sinking action. His change is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' changeups, has a lot of backspin and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' changeups. His curve comes in below hitting speed, has little depth, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' curves and has slight glove-side movement. "

Sean Newcomb"His fourseam fastball has good "rising" action, has well above average velo and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' fourseamers. His curvehas a sharp downward bite, is slightly harder than usual, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' curves and has slight glove-side movement. His slider sweeps across the zone, has exceptional depth and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' sliders. His change is much firmer than usual, has a lot of backspin, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' changeups and has slight armside fade."

R.A. Dickey"His knuckleball flutters and floats unpredictably toward the plate. His sinker is so slow that it is substantially gravitational, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers and has slight armside run. His fourseam fastball comes in below hitting speed, is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has some natural sinking action, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' fourseamers and has slight armside run. His change (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 19 of them in 2017) comes in below hitting speed, is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' changeups, results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' changeups and has slight armside fade."

Final Thoughts:

One of the most surprising players for the Braves is Tyler Flowers. The White Sox castoff has found a home in Atlanta and is flourishing with the Braves. He is hitting well, and his pitch framing has reached elite levels. That has made him among the most valuable catchers in baseball, but there is one flaw in his game. He does not possess a strong throwing arm. The Cubs pounded the Orioles pitching staff, but it is probably going to be a little less home run friendly environment in Atlanta. The Cubs lineup today isn't well suited to it, but it would be nice to see the Cubs take advantage of this chink in the armor. After all given Flowers framing abilities the edges of the zone might not be very favorable for the usual patient approach of Cubs hitters.

 

Comments

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  • fb_avatar

    The Cubs need to keep up the momentum achieved over the Orioles. It does no good to win three and then lose 3. I don't think they will. I think the Cubs have found their cleanup man in Willson and if Schwarbs can go the other way then this lineup has no holes in it. Lester has had enough time to refocus and let's go out and win the 2nd half of the season.
    Go Cubs!!

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I'll be happy with a series win.

  • 1. Love the line up. Bryant thru Baez is a real Murderer's Row.

    2. Love Contreras at clean up. He's hit well over .300 this season batting 4th or hire. He clearly get fired up when he's not down in the order.

    3. Love being fired up to watch the Cubs. The fire in my belly has been commensurate with the fire in theirs -- so merely warm in the first half, but a blast furnace since Friday.

    4. Don't love -- I guess I'm playing hard-to-get -- with Monty getting another start. Why not go with the piggyback starts using Butler and Montgomery? Seem to recall it worked out well when they did it earlier.

    5. Hate that we gave back Vizcaino for LaStella, who I never warmed up to, first, because he took away ABs from my guy Javy, and then of course, last year's pouting for which I'm not sure I'll ever get over. (Did we at least do something special with the International signing bonus slot we got in that deal?)

    Let's Go Cubs!

  • In reply to TTP:

    We've all discussed our love for Willson's passion, playing with his hair on fire in the box, squatting behind it, or on the basepaths. That exuberance extends to interviews, as well, as he proclaimed this team is back to 2016 levels of dominance. Not sure I'm there yet, but you have to love the enthusiasm.

    Go Cubs!

  • Help. Admin grabbed my comment.

  • This is a great matchup for the Cubs. Teheran has given up 13 HRs at home and has a ERA over 7. This is the wrong lineup to face if you struggle with the long ball. It's gotten to the point where the Braves may trade him. With his team friendly contract and his huge season last year, he was close to untouchable.

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    Delayed in Atlanta. No rain but dark skies here.

  • I think Kyle Hendricks might be ready. He just finished 5 perfect innings for Tennessee. Quick and tidy 61 pitches. Doubt we see him come out for the 6th.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Yep, he is done. Up to Duane Underwood Jr. to preserve the perfect game.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Underwood kept the perfect game going until one out in the 9th. Gave up a single, then a two out homer to blow a 2-0 lead, but the Smokies came back and won it in the bottom of the 9th.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    That is really good news.

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    Tarp off the field. Light rain. 830 Atlanta time 1st pitch

  • fb_avatar

    That's great news. I see he had 3 SO and no BB either. He seems to be ready to bring up. With him and Q that's 2 new pitchers for us--2 quality pitchers that aren't rookies.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Exactly. Thats a big boost to the rotation and to the pen, as I think Monty is a better fit in the pen.

  • CB Buckner at home plate...$#%&

  • Watching pirates v brewers and Trades are crazy. 09' cubs throw in low prospect josh harrison to get grabow & AAA gorzelanny. Great deal at the time for the cubs. 5 years later pirates come out ahead.

  • I jinxed Arrieta right into pitching a great game the other night and I'm going to try and do the same thing for Lester tonight. He just seems to pitch around every hitter this year. I know he doesn't give in, I know that's his trademark, but it seems batter after batter he nibbles, falls behind and then it forces him to come out relatively early in games. I'd like to see him go after some hitters and get ahead early in the count.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to INSaluki:

    Let's see if it works.

  • Baez is too Jekyll and Hyde for SS.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    He looked like the foot slipped on his throw causing it to sail. I've seen players slide a few times so the field might be pretty slick.

  • fb_avatar

    CB strikes again!

  • The two teams ahead of the Cubs in the wildcard race are in free-fall. The D-backs have lost 11of 15 and the Rockies 15 of last 21. May get interesting.

  • In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    And I may have to eat my words. I said not even a week ago it was looking like NL Central or bust. I noted how far ahead the teams in the West were, and said if we went on enough of a run to catch them, we'd run away with the Central in the process. I honestly wanted to add the caveat of unless they falter. I didn't, and they are. Which makes me embarrassed and happy as hell.

  • This feels more like the 2017 Cubs offense.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    You were saying ?

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    A well timed reverse jinx

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    In Balt we hit something like .700 with RISP. Let's see what happens here. How about that!!

  • Z!

  • Pitt leading the Brew Crew in the bottom of the 8th. Let's go Pirates !!!!

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    Brew Crew loses !!!! Let's win this game and start putting the pressure on them !!!

  • After Lester yelled at him, CB switched over to our side.

  • I know that Hamilton guy in Cincy is pretty fast, and many baseball fans judge baserunning ability by stolen bases, but I don't know that there is a better baserunner than KB. He put on a show in the 5th inning. Respect 90? How about Punish 90. Comebacker to the mound, easy DP, and Bryant was 20 feet past first base when the throw got there. Then stole 2nd easily. I don't know about ya'll, but this kid is growing on me. He might be a keeper.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    He should take some tagging lessons from Baez. I think if Baez was at 3B he'd of gotten the tag on Enciarte. I think the best D is with Baez at 3B & KB in LF when Lester is pitching.

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    I do like speedy players and ones that put pressure on the defense because if a pitcher's concentration is divided he is more prone to make an error in where he throws the ball. It also helps on defense too.
    Another point I was going to mention (wow--Freddy is a one man wrecking crew tonight). Anyway, I've noticed that every time a pitching coach calls to the bullpen he uses a corded phone. No cell phones. Maybe because they want to keep it there or not lose it, but it is curious that wireless technology has not yet appeared in the dugout.

  • Freddie MFin Freeman. He has saved at least 4 runs with his fantastic defense tonight. They might want to rethink that moving him to 3B thing.

  • Schwarber has a knack for making great catches look bad.

  • In reply to Bamacub:

    Ha!

  • This just feels like a playoff game. Both teams need this one...RIZZO!

  • I like the way Maddon kept Schwaber in for that at bat in the 7th and not have Almora hit for him and be a defensive replacement. No other manger would do that.

  • Have to watch Braves announcers bc I'm in their market. One of them said they believed Heyward's swing issues arose from the way he turns his wrist on his top hand inward when he's loading his swing. He saw him during his best years in ATL, & said he did not do that with them. Watching his swings tonight he's been doing it pretty bad. He's turning it inward enough to see the swoosh on his top hand. He believed if he fixed that hitch he could get closer to the hitter he was in ATL. I've been seeing if other hitters do anything similar but haven't noticed it yet

  • In reply to Bamacub:

    I am in a Braves market also and Chip Caray and Joe Simpson are still a million times better than the Reds announcers

  • In reply to TD40:

    They've been pretty good. They know their stuff & are pretty fair. I thought he made an excellent point about Heyward's swing. When you try to immitate it you can see how it can lead to issues. He's been better this year, but it might be causing him to roll over more pitches

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    Imagine if this were the playoffs. Davis gave up the runs and now has to shut the door.

  • This is killing me

  • HE WENT! OMG!

  • MB Pelicans Pitchers tonight – Rucker, Norwood and Mekkes:
    11IP 2H 0R 1BB 17K

  • In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:

    Incredible

  • In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:

    Tseng went 8 scoreless innings w/ 2H & 8 K.
    Hendricks had a perfect game through 5 IP. He's expected to join the rotation this weekend. Then Underwood continued the perfect game through 1 out in the 9th, then almost lost the game.
    Good night of SP throughout the Cubs organization. Could it be the Quintana Effect

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Bamacub:

    Hendricks down in Tennessee .... do we have a better example in our whole system for the young pitchers down there to see first hand and emulate? Now it's time to get him back to where he belongs.

  • I had a drink on a Monday. If it becomes a problem, it's the Cubs fault

  • In reply to TD40:

    I think only a sociopath would watch that inning go down & not have even a little clinch factor going on

  • In reply to TD40:

    I had to drinks in distress, and I blamed it on the Cubs. Then I had two drinks in celebration, again because of the Cubs. I could do some Sublime lyrics about doing two, and then two more, and blame it all on the Cubs, but I'll save those for another day.

    W. Go Cubs!

  • Davis doing his best Mitch “Wild Thing“ Williams impersonation.

  • I remember Rod Beck having 9th innings like this all the time in 98..but he also usually managed to get out of it. Still, a 4 game winning streak, another strong starting pitching performance and moving up to 3.5 back after Milwaukee's loss has me feeling a bit more optimistic.

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    In reply to JTWilson:

    Just have to get it under 3 games because thats when the real pressure comes and the Brewers will be at a crossroads. They will have to decide if this is their year or not and act accordingly from top to bottom.

    If it is their year, they are going to have to man up and start playing better. Plus the FO needs to get the some help. A TOR cost controlled starter, a LOOGY, and another bat ( rental ) all w/o sacrificing too much of their future.

    If they decide that it isn't their year then they need to start selling off pieces. Boy that would be a really painful message to the players and to Greg Counsel who I heard is a serious competitor.

  • With the Pirates resurgence and return of Marte, the Central is becoming a 4 Team race.

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    That was a real fun game. I loved how the offense worked in the 5th inning. Clutch AB by Zobrist.

    Guess we find out Wade Davis is human right now. I hoped he got it out of his system in Miami at the all star game, but it doesn't look like it. Hopefully this is a blip not a chink in his armor!

    What's up w Bryant? Whenever I feel like he's dialed in and ready to go on a hot streak, he has an O-fer. ( haters please don't take this at a stab at KB or anything as he's been solid all season. He just hasn't gone on one of his "KB type tears" where he carries the offense for 2 weeks)

  • What a game! It was like playoff baseball with a little bit of everything. I had a feeling that those insurance runs would be important. Davis has been pretty automatic, but nobody is perfect. Still no blown saves though.

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    This is a game of hundredths of a second. Freddie F got his glove down in time twice and saved at least 4 runs. Addy didn't and lead to 2 runs and bases loaded. Every sport is like that but in the last three years we've shown that we have the talent to either come back or hold the lead.
    Great starting pitching the last 4 games and our BP has generally been very good and gets Monty back when either Lackey or Hendricks returns.
    Milwaukee must be feeling the pressure now--how we lead by so much on Fri but came back and now have won 4 in a row. They must feel they have to win every game.
    A tense but good win tonight.

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