Nationals @ Cubs: Series Preview (8/10-8-12)

The Cubs return home after what at first appears to be a disappointing series win in Kansas City. You really wanted a sweep, and losing the last one in such silly and belching-like fashion is something of a kick to the solar plexus. But it only looks bad when combined with the split with the Padres before, as 4-3 against two of the worst teams in MLB would definitely not get a "satisfactory" on the report card.

But, with the Padres taking two of three from the Brewers yesterday, the Cubs haven't really lost anything, and in fact gained a game on their division lead. Sure, you don't want to cling to or win a division simply because everyone else fell down faster than you did. But considering the Cubs are still missing their closer, their #2 starter, their best player, and have a raft of youngsters still figuring it out, the Padres hilarious win yesterday should at least put the nerves at ease.

According to some, the Cubs being a "litmus test" today, as they will see the Nationals, Brewers, and Pirates for the next nine. And sure, two games with the Brewers in August is a thing. But the Nats and Bucs are barely .500 teams. If this is the litmus the NL can offer, then it needs to deepen the water.

For the 16th time in the past month or so it seems, the Nats are hoping that they've turned a corner and are finally going to resemble the team they were supposed to be. They took two of three from the Braves at home after taking three of four from the Reds, and for them this constitutes a hot streak. They're still 5.5 games behind the Phillies and 4.5 behind the Braves, and are four games behind the Dodgers for what would be the second coin-flip spot. There's work to be done and not a lot of racetrack left.

What we do know about the Nationals, or are gleaning, is that there might have been a reason Dave Martinez took so long to get a manager's job. He was Joe Maddon's right-hand man for so long it seemed odd that he didn't get job after job. Usually when you're the guy next to the guy considered one of the best in the game, your number gets called.

Well, the Nats have been a mess for most of the season. They've had players fighting with each other, whispers of a clubhouse out of Mean Girls, and pretty much everyone not named "Scherzer" underperforming, and basically being miserable. Martinez's "Leader Of Men" meter needs some boosting, it appears.

Still, the Nationals shouldn't really be where they are. They're in the top half in offense in terms of OBP, wOBA, and wRC+ as a team. Same goes for their starters' and pen's ERA and FIP. They've been terrible in one-run games (11-18), which could just be luck, with some fishy managing thrown in if you want to argue that. They're six games behind where their run difference says they should be, and if they get any kind of correction to that they'll at least be heard from in the NL East.

Perhaps the pressure of "THIS IS IT FOR US" has gotten to them, as with Harper possibly exiting stage right after the season one wonders if this is the end of their window. Still, Juan Soto might extend it, as at 19 he's been worth 2.8 fWAR in just 69 games. Rendon-Harper-Soto is a pretty meaty middle of the order, and will have to be negotiated this weekend.

Watch/Listen

Friday: 1:20 pm - NBCSN

Saturday: 3:05pm - ABC 7

Sunday: 7:05pm - ESPN (god help us)

All games can be heard on 670 The Score

Lineups

Nationals

1. Adam Eaton (L) RF
2. Trea Turner (R) SS
3. Juan Soto (L) LF
4. Anthony Rendon (R) 3B
5. Daniel Murphy (L) 2B
6. Ryan Zimmerman (R) 1B
7. Michael A. Taylor (R) CF
8. Matt Wieters (S) C
Cubs
1. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
2. Javier Baez (R) 2B
3. Jason Heyward (L) RF
4. David Bote (R) 3B
6. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
7. Ian Happ (S) CF
8. Addison Russell (R) SS
Note: This was Wednesday's, and expect Zobrist to come in for most likely Almora with Happ in center, as they will face Hellickson, a right-hander, to start the series. 
Bullpen Usage
Nationals
screen-shot-2018-08-09-at-7-31-54-pm
Cubs
screen-shot-2018-08-09-at-7-32-04-pm
Lineups and bullpen via Baseball Press
Opposing Pitchers
Jeremy Hellickson: In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Curve using a Knuckle Curve grip (77mph), Change (82mph) and Sinker (90mph), also mixing in a Fourseam Fastball (90mph) and Cutter (88mph).
His curve results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers' curves and has a sharp downward bite. His change has slightly below average velo. His sinker is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' sinkers, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers and has slightly below average velo. His fourseam fastball has below average velo and has slight armside run. His cutter explodes on the hitter, is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' cutters, has little cutting action and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' cutters. 
Notes: It only feels like Hellickson has been around forever. This is his ninth season, and his finest in a few. He's walking a career-low which is the key to his success. He's also getting the most grounders in his career. Most of that can be traced to doubling the usage of his curve.
Tanner Roark: In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Sinker using a Two-seam Fastball grip (92mph), also mixing in a Fourseam Fastball (92mph), Curve (75mph), Change (84mph) and Slider (85mph). He also rarely throws a Cutter (90mph).
His sinker has little sinking action compared to a true sinker. His fourseam fastball has essentially average velo and has slightly less natural movement than typical. His curvehas an exceptional bite, has slight glove-side movement and has slightly below average velo. His change has a lot of backspin and has slight armside fade. His slider has less than expected depth and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sliders. His cutter generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' cutters, has good "rise", results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' cutters and has slightly above average velo. 
Notes: By this point you know the deal with Roark, and the way he mispronounces his last name. He's going to pump fastballs into the zone, and occasionally feature a curve. He doesn't do anything particularly well except get out there every fifth day, which in baseball terms makes him a "gamer." How have the Nats not moved on from this guy yet?
Max Scherzer: In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (95mph), also mixing in a Change (84mph), Slider (86mph), Cutter (89mph) and Curve (79mph).
His fourseam fastball generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has some natural sinking action, has slight armside run and has slightly above average velo. His change dives down out of the zone and has slight armside fade. His slider generates a high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' sliders and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sliders. His cutter is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' cutters and has some natural sink. His curve generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' curves and has little depth. 
Notes: Not like you need to know much more. Only Jacob deGrom has been better. Scherzer is matching his career-high strikeout rate from last year, is walking hitters slightly less, and barely anyone can hit him hard. deGrom is going to take his Cy Young, but he's going to take it not have Scherzer give it to him. Scherzer is replacing his slider with more of a cutter this year, which is also nasty. Good luck. Maybe get the first two of this series would be a good idea.
Scouting reports from Brooks Baseball.

Comments

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  • fb_avatar

    2 out of 3 would be great.

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    The cubs are about to have such an epic collapse that fans will be talking about it for years to come. With the crappy SP the cubs have I can see them losing 15-20 out of next 30 games.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    That's it, I'm calling my bookie right now. I've got inside information from Greg Simmons...

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    In reply to Greg Simmons:

    What kind of life do you have when you go to an oppenent’s web site to make trolling comments. Sad

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    your prediction is as usual off to a great start Greg. Keep em coming!

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    In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Thanks Greg, you made me a dime on this game as I doubled down once I saw you put the curse of the mush on the Nationals.

    Man if I was a national fan, I would be furious w you. You already buried the Cards season, so now your trying to finish off the Nats?

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    This rumor has been confirmed by Kyle Schwarber who's been in Iowa since May...

  • The Cubs have been flat since the All-Star break, but I don't think there is anything to worry about with this team. I'd rather they hit their flat period now than in September, and face it, virtually all teams hit a flat period. Looking at the rest of the NL, not one team jumps out as a dominant team this year. Even if this flat period extends itself, the Cubs will probably play .500 ball. And when they do break out, and yes they will, the W flag be flyin' high boys and girls.

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    Lots of pitches and of course they score, even after Bote wowed us again.
    Ok, 1 run is doable but still concerning. They said Kyles 1st inn ERA is over 8 so maybe he needs an inning to settle in but he didn’t in years past.

  • Cubs getting no hit through 5 .... really? Hellickson?

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    Soto could get picked off by Kyle. Great try by Bote. I am more and more impressed with him.

  • Maybe getting no-hit would be the wake-up call they need. Somethin's gotta give!

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    I thought that when Schwarbs got to first we should have put a pinch runner in for him. That's such a huge run and could have scored on that last play, although if he had watched Harper he might have anyway but probably didn't want to make another out at a base--like
    we've done too many times recently.

  • I can't believe that someone gave Holland another chance..I can believe he just walked in a run.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to JTWilson:

    What is make 8 million a year?

  • $14M/yr

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to stix:

    Only in Anerica

  • fb_avatar

    I don’t want to incur the wrath of bolla but lousy time at bat by Baez. I wonder if Kyle is taking enough time to warm up before the game?

  • I give bolla a lot of credit for apologizing for his outburst a couple of nights ago and his commitment to police himself better. I think he's trying to be a better Denizen...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Kudos to you Cliff for not rushing to judgment as well I always say respect is a 2 way street and just because we don't always agree with everyone's comments doesn't mean that we have to mock them or talk down to others in condescending tones. I don't always agree completely with Bolla or many others but I try to be respectful with my disagreements and see others perspectives. I've appreciated a lot of my interactions with Bolla and have had a lot of good and insightful conversations in our personal interactions

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    In reply to kkhiavi:

    Comment was made in fun

  • All good I wasn't pointing fingers or referring to you or anyone specifically I was just presenting things from bollas perspective. I have no interest in being the Cubs den police and I've made comments that I regret or that have been taken a different way then I've intended. At the end of the day we're all cub fans and I enjoy what you and others contribute to this blog. Some of us that have been reading this site for years just don't want to see Cubs den lose its culture of respectfulness towards each other on these commenting boards and that's why others felt the need to address some of the insults we've seen lately

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    In reply to kkhiavi:

    Comment was trying to kid him

  • He does love him some Javy!

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    We had a great chance there, we had a great chance the inning before. But now we have the lead and one of the best bullpens in the majors.
    I noticed that the Cubs are 2nd in hitting in the majors, 2nd in OPS too. I also saw that in Aug we're 9th and in July we were 8th. Not bad, but our trend is going down, not up. Again, it's timely hitting. We have been very patient today and that usually wins games for us. Our problems start when the opposing pitchers keep throwing strikes, then our patience doesn't help.

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    Darvish was just put on the 60 day DL and the Cubs have signed Jorge De La Rosa.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    60 days from when?

  • fb_avatar

    I don't know. I thought he was closer to returning than that. I'm trying to find out.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Rosario sent down. This signing doesn't thrill me. He was designated for assignment earlier by the Diamondbacks and wasn't very effective. We have better relievers than him, although maybe they want a veteran in there the later part of the season.
    Good win!

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I don't think it's a bad move. Rosario hasn't pitched well recently and his underlying numbers throughout the year indicated a lot of luck. De La Rosa is what you said, not good but a veteran lefty. We'll take a shot with him, and if it doesn't work let him go. Rosario has options. Nothing lost and a possible gain.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Agreed Barley no risk and I've always thought that De La Rosa had a pretty good arm and just needed to get away from colorado even though he hasn't done much better with Arizona. I like it though for a waiver claim type of player you can do a lot worse than de la rosa and we need lefty relief options

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yup. I agree 100% BP. Someone put the Mush on Rosario ( a la Simmons) and poor Rosario has been brutal since.

    Hope he gets it together and comes back in September ready to throw strikes and becomes a LOOGY.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    It's far back-dated and just a clerical move to get De La Rosa onto the 40-man roster. Not at all indicative of any setback for Darvish.

  • From May when he first went on the DL

  • I guess Contreras and Rizzo took Soto down a notch on that pick off. I didn't see him striking a pose after that. Who did he think he was with that look and stride toward Kninsler after every pitch?

  • Yu Darvish on the 60-day disabled list, retroactive to May 23.

  • What a game! That Rizzo at bat in the 6th, the big hit by Heyward, the two pick offs at first and the patient at bats. Cishec is golden and I think Strip likes that closer job.

  • I almost screwed that game up but good. I turned on the TV in time to see the Cubs not score in the 7th (or cause it), then the two walks in the top of the 8th. I turned it off and they got out of the jam and went on to win. How do they even know and why do they care?

  • What a huge win for the cubs only 4 hits and the nats stranded their runners after starting off the 8th inning with runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out. Huge hold by Edwards he maybe the player of the game and again Stroppy doing a nice job in that closers role. Our bullpen has had some issues with this nats offense over the past couple of years and it's great to see them show they can pitch to this nats team. Credit to our pitching staff and Kyle Hendricks for all the criticism our staff has gotten by fans including myself they came up huge today against a hungry and desperate nats team. Let's get 2/3 now we need to be able to beat teams like this if we're gonna go anywhere.

    Off topic and I know some of you criticized this move but I don't mind the signing of Jorge De La Rosa it's a no risk move unless he blows a few games lol. I haven't seen him pitch much this year and I know he's an aging pitcher but he's always had a pretty good arm and he's always been tough on lefties. Last I saw him he was throwing mid 90's out of the pen and I know he's stunk this year but we need to accumulate some lefty relievers and I think De La Rosa has decent stuff and some upside as a left handed specialist at the least. With the way Duensing is pitching we can use more options from that left side especially a lefty specialist type our lefties like Montgomery and Justin Wilson aren't much better against lefties.

  • Today's game was a great example of what can happen when hitters work the counts and make the pitcher work. Hellickson started the 6th inning with a pitch count in the 60s, and left it approaching 90. Rizzo drew a walk after 7 foul balls and pretty much demoralized Hellickson to where he walked the next two batters.

  • Is there something going on between Soto and Contreras, maybe Hendricks? It looked like after Soto struck out he glared at Willson and then tried to stare down Hendricks on his way back to the dugout. Later, when Willson picked him off 1st, he was really demonstrative, as if it was extra special because it was Soto. Did I miss something?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Soto is just surly, I guess. He acted as if he was going to charge the mound in the 8th after every pitch. Willy just gave him a needed lesson.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Just scraping the mustard off the hot dog :)

    W!

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Lol!

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Rizzo' s hard tag was right in Soto' s groin. Not intentional, just the baseball gods working their manic.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Ha ha....I saw that too, welcome to the big time, here’s something to glare at.....

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Kintzler, who of course was his teammate in Washington, was asked about it after the game. He said the staring is "his thing" and that Soto is a "good kid". Apparently Soto was getting an earful from the bleacher crowd while he was in left field, and there's a photo making the rounds where he positioned his batting glove in his back pocket to "flip the bird" to the hecklers.

    As Wickdipper said, there will be more veteran players scraping the mustard off that 19-year-old hot dog.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    It's truly a different age in baseball. I can think of a number of past pitchers that would have rewarded such arrogance with some "chin music." Doesn't seem like a good way to begin a career in MLB, but it is what it is...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Wouldn’t mind seeing him do “the glare” at someone like Bumgartner.....lol.....Soto would need a good dry cleaner....

  • fb_avatar

    To show the difference between the Cubs of recent years and (not) so long ago. When Willson was called out running to first and Schwarbs had to return to 1st the old Cubs would have been deflated and would not have been able to overcome the physical and emotional errors. This team seems to say, ok, the play is over, we can go out and do it. It's talent and inner strength that this FO drafted or traded for and they knew who to pick and who was strong enough. We have obviously turned the page. On the other side, I think that Washington hasn't been able to do that. They have been good the last few years with maybe the best starting pitching and a great lineup but once they get to the playoffs they wilt. Two talented teams with different temperaments and success. We are good!

  • Its amazing the Cubbies are in first and gaining with all the injuries. Good things are coming when the Cubs start getting their players back.
    David Bode looks like the real deal, the product of great drafting from the front office.
    3 Up tonight as the Brewers got clobbered in Atlanta !

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