Cubs @ Phillies: Series Preview (8/31-9/2)


The Cubs won a make up game in Atlanta against the Braves on Thursday night. It was their eighth win in their last nine games and moved them 25 games over .500. The game was just the first of 11 straight road games in four different cities. The second leg of the trip takes Chicago to the City of Brotherly Love for three games with the Phillies.

Philadelphia has gone just 3-7 in their last ten games to fall three back of first-place Atlanta in the NL East. Rhys Hoskins has been the Phillies best hitter in 2018 with 27 homers. The starting pitching has outpaced the bullpen so far this season. Jake Arrieta, who the Cubs will miss again, and Aaron Nola have been mainstays in the rotation.

Jason Heyward injured his hamstring and is likely out at least this series. The injury news isn't all bad, Kris Bryant is set to return on Saturday after missing over a month with a shoulder injury. The Cubs have a semi-comfortable division lead, but there is still time for that lead to evaporate. Surviving the current road trip will make said division lead a lot more reliable.


Friday: 6:05 pm CT on MLB Network/NBC Sports Chicago/670AM

Saturday: 6:05 pm CT on NBC Sports/670AM

Sunday: 12:35 pm CT on TBS/WGN/670AM



1. Daniel Murphy (L) 2B
2. Javier Baez (R) SS
3. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
4. Ben Zobrist (S) RF
7. Ian Happ (S) LF
8. Jose Quintana (R) P
9. David Bote (R) 3B
1. Roman Quinn (S) RF
2. Rhys Hoskins (R) LF
3. Cesar Hernandez (S) 2B
4. Wilson Ramos (R) C
5. Carlos Santana (S) 1B
7. Scott Kingery (R) SS
8. Odubel Herrera (L) CF
9. Nick Pivetta (R) P
Bullpen Usage

Lineups and Bullpen Usage via Baseball Press. Quick note on the usage for Tuesday, the suspended game seemed to cause an issue for Baseball Press. So statistics aren't available for that day.

Opposing pitchers

Scouting Reports from Brooks Baseball.

Nick PivettaNick Pivetta has thrown 4,709 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2017 and 2018, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season and The World Baseball Classic. In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (96mph) and Curve (81mph), also mixing in a Slider (85mph) and Sinker (95mph). He also rarely throws a Change (88mph) and Cutter (91mph).

His fourseam fastball generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has well above average velo and has some added backspin. His curve has a sharp downward bite, is slightly harder than usual and has slight glove-side movement. His slider generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers' sliders, has short glove-side cut and has some two-plane movement. His sinker generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' sinkers, is blazing fast, has little sinking action compared to a true sinker and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers. His change is thrown extremely hard and has slight armside fade. His cutter (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 11 of them in 2018) is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' cutters, has well above average velo and has strong cutting action.

Sean's Note: Pivetta has had a uneven season in 2018. His 4.76 ERA is much higher than his 3.61 FIP so he is the victim of some bad luck. He gets a lot of strike outs a 28% rate while only walking 6%. Home runs have been a problem for Pivetta with 20 allowed in 136 innings. The Cubs scored four runs off of him in five innings in early June.

Zach EflinZach Eflin has thrown 3,598 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2016 and 2018, all of them occuring in the MLB Regular Season. In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (95mph) and Slider (86mph), also mixing in a Sinker (94mph), Change (87mph) and Curve (78mph). He also rarely throws a Cutter (89mph).

His fourseam fastball results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' fourseamers and has slightly above average velo. His slider results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' sliders. His sinker generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' sinkers, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers, has slight armside run and has slightly above average velo. His change generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers' changeups, is much firmer than usual and has slight armside fade. His curve has slight glove-side movement. His cutter (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 12 of them in 2018) is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' cutters and is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' cutters.

Sean's Note: Eflin has been solid if not spectacular for the Phillies. The big righty is a fly ball pitcher, but has kept his home run total low.  Left handers hit him for a much higher average than same handed hitters. Eflin allowed just one run to the Cubs in 7.2 innings pitched at Wrigley.

Aaron NolaAaron Nola has thrown 8,312 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2015 and 2018, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season and Spring Training. In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (93mph), Curve (78mph) and Change (85mph), also mixing in a Sinker (92mph).

His fourseam fastball has some natural sinking action, has essentially average velo and has slight armside run. His curve has sweeping glove-side movement, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' curves and has a sharp downward bite. His change is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers' changeups, dives down out of the zone, is slightly firmer than usual and has slight armside fade. His sinker has slight armside run and has some natural sinking action.

Sean's Note: Nola could be the Cy Young winner in the National League. He generates a ton of ground balls at a 50% percent rate. His 2.10 ERA trails only Jacob deGrom in all of baseball. His strike out to walk ratio is an excellent 3.77. The Cubs scored three runs on Nola in six innings in the first series between the teams.

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  • fb_avatar

    I'm glad to see that Albert A is playing CF tonight and hope he does for the majority of the rest of the year. I also noticed that since Joe's been batting the pitcher 8th we've been winning--a coincidence? Maybe, but maybe not. It puts another batter in front of Murphy, Baez, Riz, etc. and the times that the pitcher comes up with RISP is outweighed by the times the 9th hitter gets on base or drives someone in.
    Let's win our 2nd road game tonight.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    In the playoffs, I expected this will be the lineup vs. RHP.

    Murphy 2B
    Bryant, 3B
    Rizzo, 1B
    Zobrist, RF
    Baez, SS
    Heyward, CF
    Contreras, C
    Schwarber, LF

    Against LHP, I could see Almora in center, Bote at third, and Bryant at third, but that seems less firm.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Good to see you back. I would add Josh Donaldson to the list of Cubs players. I have a funny feeling the Cubs will trade for him tonight, moving Bryant to the outfield.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I'll even throw in that I think it will be Tseng and Vosler going to the Blue Jays. I'm feeling edgy tonight.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    What about the luxury tax? The cubs were super close when they added murphy. I think the goal is to stay below the luxury tax n 2018 because they'll most likely go over in 2019

  • In reply to bolla:

    I think the prorated portion of Donaldson's salary is $3.5-4Mil. I thought the Cubs had about a $6Mil cushion remaining. I may have the numbers missing the last few moves.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Sorry Donaldson to Indians

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    No way will they add Donaldson. KB will be back and David Bode is more than adequate.
    Rumor is the Cards may be interested.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    If Russell is healthy I see him starting at SS with Baez at 2b for the playoffs.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    No way. Bet you a cold one on that. Russell will not play over Murphy in the playoffs. Heck, he might not start another game before clinching.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I’m not a big fan of the pitcher hitting 8th. But it’s minor on the grand scheme of things to have any issue with. Joe knows his lineups.

    I don’t have any issue how he’s played his OF. They have 12 guys capable of starting & he gets 10 of them in regularly. LaStella & Caratini have their roles. Joe plays the matchup game well. So when Almora plays I’m good with it & same when he sits...

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    It is just a coincidence they are winning with the pitcher batting 8th.
    You don't score more with the a position player batting 9th

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Joe batted the pitcher 8th in 2016 as a protection for Addy and that worked out. I’m only going by my watching the games and intuition—I have no evidence to back it up. I’d love to see stats on their record when that happens.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Joe’s hitting the pitcher 8th this year because the Cubs do not have a Fowler to lead off. With the untraditional lead-off hitters like Rizzo and now Murphy, maybe the 9 hole will be more likely to lead to a runner on base for an XBH. At least I think that is the reasoning.

  • fb_avatar

    I agree. Almora needs to play the majority of CF. Just because his bat is quiet, it doesn't take away the fact of his above average D. 5hat catch lastnite, 1 in a hundred shot. Heyward wouldn't make the catch imo. But javy's catch was amazing. That was some magic in it.

  • Bryant and Russell will be activated tomorrow

  • Where's BarleyPop been?

  • Brewers just traded for gio gonzalez. I know he's not having the best year or month of August but nice inexpensive pickup for them. Brewers GM David stearns has deservedly been getting a ton of criticism my Cubs den members and the media for how he handled the trading season and it's late to be adding a starter but personally I'd take Gonzalez over Matt Harvey and most of the underwhelming crop of starters that were available this deadline

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I disagree buddy, gio gonzalez sucks great pick up by the brewers.Go dive deep into the peripherals he's awful.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Why has he been so bad this year bolla I'm not following him closely but he was good just last year and he has a pretty good track record. I don't know if he's hurt or what's going on with him this year but the gio Gonzalez that I've seen for years is better than most of the available starters this market. Keep in mind too everyone said hamels stunk too sometimes a change of scenery makes a difference. Not saying that's the case here i haven't watched enough of him to diagnose his issues but I'm just saying the track record isn't bad

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Your guess is as good as mine

  • In reply to bolla:

    I don't mind the pickup as long as he's not declining or hurt. He had a 2.96 ERA just last season in 201 innings and he was one of the leaders of that nats team outstanding makeup. I don't love the pickup but personally I try not to come to conclusions using box score type analysis with pitchers with relatively strong track records. Really hamels and verlander looked bad by the numbers when they were traded and Gonzalez isn't even close to those guys prime levels but he's still been a successful innings eater. I hope you're right though and he wets the bed for those guys. Here's hoping the cards don't get Donaldson now

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Killed my fantasy team with his failures after midMay

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Remember Matt Harvey looked finish too with the Mets and now he's suddenly this valuable commodity. Personally I take Gonzalez over today's version of Harvey any day of the week unless Gonzalez is declining or I'm missing something on him

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Harvey should be in line for a nice contract this off season.

  • With Joe West behind the plate tonight I'll be shocked if the Cubbies
    win. This is the same umpire that screwed Jose Quintana with a
    strike zone the size of a bowling ball in Kansas City, forcing Jose to
    throw many pitches in the 2nd @ Kansas.

  • Happ is so over valued by this organization. Does anyone want him in a clutch pinch hit situation in the playoffs.

  • In reply to TheSarge#36:

    He’s got a month to prove himself over the others. What he has going for him is his switch hitting & utility all over the diamond. But his bat hasn’t been hitting much lately.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I swear, all I ever see him do is strike out. Don’t we have any outfielders in AAA that can hit.

  • In reply to TheSarge#36:

    So is schwarber,but he does charitable things and hosts block parties for firemen and hit hr's on top of scoreboards 3 years ago.

    Gleyber torres and eloy jimenez are gone because of schwarbs which makes me sick to my stomach.

  • In reply to bolla:

    "Hands bolla a bucket". I wonder if Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez will go into the Hall of Fame the same year?

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    No because the white sox are manipulating jimenez service time so he won't be up til 2019.Torres is a STUD, imagine a baez & torres middle infield.Oh god here comes the upchuck

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Long before Schwarber and Happ. Both are over valued by this FO.

  • In reply to bolla:

    ESPN showed Schwarber's swing tonight, broke it down and said if Schwarber can cut out the loop in his swing his batting average will start to climb.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Only if. Maybe they can fix JHays loop also.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Who was evaluating Schwarber's swing on ESPN Jessica Mendoza?

  • In reply to bolla:

    Yes organization values Schwarbs highly. But bottom line is we don’t win in 2016 if Kyle doesn’t bust his tail to get back and we don’t trade for Chapman.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Did you ever wonder, "what if" the Cubs had offered Russell instead of Torres? Who knows, maybe they did?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    It's documented, brian cashman initially wanted schwarber and baez for andrew miller he then wanted one to headline a miller trade(schwarber).Russell was in the middle of an all star season and was viewed as the ss of the future,baez was still a utility guy only play in favorable match ups player but everyone knew his potential.So the cubs had 2 middle infielders who were 23 and younger which made torres expendable because theo refused to give up schwarber for miller. Cashman really wanted schwarber to be dh at yankee stadium he had high value because he was injured and his rookie season was all anyone knew.

    The problem is schwarber and russell are no where near as good as projected or the fo hoped.Torres IS that good, they overvalued the wrong players.

  • And for he record I like happ but he does strikeout too much. he strikes out every freakin game multiple times, he has pop and can switch hit (much better from the left side but not by much)+ play multiple positions, good athlete. He's just gotta cut down on the k's and make more contact.

  • Cardinals up 4-2. Carpenter two run homer. Seem like they never lose.

  • Nice quality start by Quintana. Wish he could of gone one more inning though. Giving up the tying run in the 6th killed that idea.

  • Nice to see la Stella continue to hit but poor baserunning. He needs to be on 3rd base after murphys hit and I don't know what he was doing when he was doubled off during Javys line drive.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to kkhiavi:

    I can see him approaching 2nd on Murphy’s fly but as soon as that dropped he should have run to 3rd. That’s the aggressive approach we’ve taken all year and then he might have scored on Javy’s fly out.

  • Indians get Josh Donaldson not Cards.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    And that's good ! Cubs leave the bags loaded twice . Not good !

  • fb_avatar

    This year I’ve seen Zo more upset than ever before. Usually it’s on called “strikes” but that swing was checked.
    I still can’t believe that there is no definition of a checked swing in the rule book.

  • fb_avatar

    There should be a shot clock on reviewing calls. If you can’t tell in 30 seconds or so the call stands. That would shorten the games.

  • Joe West called a consistent strike zone tonight, unreal ! Cubbies left too many on base. They can't do it every night, oh well !

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Actually West was pretty good tonight, it was a good game, you’re right.....can’t win every one.

  • No game write-up as of now...(2 mornings in a row, strange...)

    Anyway, here’s the Magic Number scoop. StL beat CIN (Homer Bailey started for CIN - is anyone really surprised?) so there is no movement. The Magic Number remains at 25.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Maybe BarleyPop isn't commenting during intense negotiations with Cubs Den over becoming a staff writer...

  • fb_avatar

    Cubs are going to lose 8-10 and drop to 3rd place. The cardinals are better than the cubs at every position other than 3rd and ss. Their pitching is absolutely loaded with great fresh young arms. Any team that only has 3-5 players a game who stand in respect of the national anthem doesn't deserve to get national exposure during the playoffs. Or hopefully the only exposure they get is a 15-1 beating by a team like the cardinals that every player stands for the national anthem.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    You have better chances at winning the lottery or getting some strange tonight than that happening Simmons....

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Stillwell Simmons returns for a chocolate bar...

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Lol. You always make my day with your insightful posts. Keep up the good work.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    To say you are a Bozo or a lame Cards fan is an insult to both.

    Keep rooting for an organization that has people sent to prison for corporate espionage and calls out players in the media. Yep, that is the model organization.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Where is the spam filter when we need it?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to DropThePuck:

    We'll just have his comments put up in the clubhouse of the Cubs and use it as motivation.

  • Leaving 20 on base was a horrible example of situational hitting (Paging Mr. Davis, Mr. Davis, please come to the batting cage...).
    The bright spot for me was the pitching of Jose Quintana against a pretty tough lineup. I'll take that Quintana in the playoffs.

    KB returns tonight. Hopefully, he'll provide as much spark as Murphy did when he arrived.

  • Brewers are all in. Gonzales, Granderson, Cedeno.

    Looks like the Cubs picked up the LOOGY they've been looking for.

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