Just as the Cardinals seemed to be finding their stride after winning four straight series, including against the Pirates and Giants, the Cardinals took a step back. Against the two Texas American League team, the Cardinals failed to win a game. Keeping pace with the Cubs has proved impossible thus far. Even though the Cubs have proved to be a better team so far this season, the Cardinals should destroy the Cubs.
As the Cardinals took a step back this past week, the Cubs went 4-2, losing the series against Washington before sweeping the Pirates over the weekend. Reading too much into this series is probably a mistake, but if the Cardinals want to pretend like they have a shot at the division, they would need to sweep the Cubs. Right now, the Cubs are the best team in baseball, and even a sweep is not going to change that.
In this series, the Cubs might be without Dexter Fowler, who has an issue with his hamstring. Entering the lineup tonight will be Albert Almora, Jr., who isn’t much with the bat, but plays good defense and has a good arm. Though his overall line is still pretty poor, he’s been above average (108 wRC+) since May 11. Also in the outfield will be Kris Bryant, who has hit very well this season (140 wRC+) cutting down on his strikeouts this year (22.9%) after setting the rookie record for strikeouts last year.
In the infield, Javier Baez has come into his own a bit. Since getting another chance with the big league club after big strikeout totals in smaller samples the past two years, he’s down to about 21% in around 150 plate appearances, although he’s only drawn five walks. Over the last couple weeks, Baez has hit four homers.
Next to Baez at third base will likely be Addison Russell, who hasn’t figured everything out offensively, but still contributes with good defense. Second base is still Ben Zobrist, and he has more walks than strikeouts and is second on the team with a 146 wRC+ on the season. Taking the top spot on offense for the Cubs this year is Anthony Rizzo, who has 17 home runs and a 155 wRC+.
Early in his major league career, catcher Wilson Contreras started it with a bang, hitting a home run last night on the very first pitch he saw. Right now, his wRC+ is 1259, which would probably be some sort of record if it stayed that way. Overtaking Miguel Montero for at least some playing time, Contreras is just the latest in a line of position player prospects to head to Chicago.
In the first game of the series, salty bulldog John Lackey takes the mound for the Cubs. During his two games against the Cardinals this season, Lackey has struck out 20 batters against only two walks giving up 3 runs in his last start after allowing none back in April. Starting for the Cardinals will be Jaime Garcia.
In Tuesday’s matchup, Jason Hammel will pitch for the Cubs. Hammel has an unreal 2.26 ERA despite a 3.54 FIP due to a ridiculous 85% left on base rate. Earlier this year, Hammel gave up one run in each of his two starts against the Cardinals, striking out 10 with three walks in 13.1 innings pitched. Adam Wainwright will go for the Cardinals.
Righty Jake Arrieta will take his impeccable record against the Cardinals, who did get to him a bit in his last start against St. Louis, giving up 4 runs and lasting just five innings. Drawing the start for the Cardinals in the final game of the series is Michael Wacha, who had an encouraging start last time out.
Tonight’s game is at 7:05 pm CT and will appear on FOX Sports Midwest
Tomorrow’s game is at 7:05 pm CT and will appear on FOX Sports Midwest as well as MLB Network out of market. MLB.tv will also be having a special Statcast broadcast (MLB Plus), and we will have more on that broadcast tomorrow morning.
Wednesday’s game is at 1:20 pm CT and will appear on FOX Sports Midwest.