Back on April 18 as the Cardinals were preparing to play for the Cubs, I wrote a piece entitled, Cardinals should destroy the Cubs. The Cubs took two of three and many people seemed upset. Some even laughed. On May 23, I wrote a piece entitled, Cardinals should destroy the Cubs. The Cubs took two of three and again many people seemed upset and again some even laughed. On June 20, I wrote a piece entitled Cardinals should destroy the Cubs. The Cardinals swept a three-game series and nobody said anything. I didn't even laugh. The Cardinals should destroy the Cubs.
The Cardinals head to Wrigley Field for a four-game set against the division-leading Cubs. The Cardinals poor play over the course of the season, especially as the Cubs were struggling has prevented this matchup from becoming an important series for divisional purposes. The Cubs are now 12 games up and have a 99.7% chance of taking the division.
This series is not an important one for the Cubs unless you are a big believer in pride. The Cubs have played 12 teams at least four times this season and they have a losing record against only the New York Mets and Cardinals. As for the Cardinals, they are in a very close wild card race and every game matters.
As for the particulars of this Cubs roster, you are likely familiar with most of it. You know Kris Bryant. You know Anthony Rizzo. Same for Ben Zobrist. Addison Russell has been playing better. Jason Heyward has not.
Dexter Fowler was out for a bit with an injury, but he is back and healthy. Willson Contreras appears to have taken over catching duties for a decent portion of the games but also found himself out in the outfield. Javier Baez is playing Ben Zobrist’s old role and seems to be doing quite well with it. Jorge Soler is back and he still has some pop. Tommy La Stella is MIA and he wants to be either called back to the majors or he will retire, although maybe he should speak to Yasiel Puig about Des Moines, as the Dodgers’ minor leaguer appeared to have a good time there recently.
In the bullpen, the Cubs now have Aroldis Chapman at the end of games. They also added Mike Montgomery, giving them depth. I’ve heard that the Cardinals have never scored a run off Chapman or something of that nature, but I have no plans to work to confirm.
As it is a four-game series, the Cardinals will see almost all of the Cubs’ rotation. Missing will be Jason Hammel. Tonight, the Cubs send Jon Lester to the mound. Lester has been solid, but not great this season with a 3.93 FIP, and oddly enough, has missed the Cardinals in all three series’ this season. He was good his last two times out with 15 strikeouts against two walks in 13 innings while only giving up a pair of runs, but in his four starts previous, he gave up 18 runs in 16 innings with 15 strikeouts but 12 walks. Carlos Martinez will pitch for the Cardinals, and he will try to rebound from an uncharacteristically poor start where he gave up two home runs against the Braves.
Tomorrow, Jake Arrieta pitches for the Cubs. Did the Cardinals ruin Jake Arrieta? Heading into his start against St. Louis in late May, Arrieta had a 1.29 FIP and 2.54 ERA. Since then, it is 3.63 and 3.35, so he probably isn’t ruined. He has been walking more batters, though. Arrieta will face off against Adam Wainwright.
On Saturday, Kyle Hendricks will pitch for the Cubs. Hendricks’ development of his changeup took him from a five inning and out pitcher to something more. Hendricks probably isn’t quite as good at preventing hits as his .249 BABIP against would make him seem. His 3.35 FIP is more than a run higher than his 2.17 ERA. All the Cubs pitchers benefit from having a really good defense behind them, something Cardinals pitchers used to be familiar with.
Luke Weaver will make his debut on Saturday for the Cardinals. Weaver is not the Cardinals top pitching prospect and he does not have the same high upside as current bullpen callup Alex Reyes, but he does have the benefit of performing better so far this year. Weaver pitched in 12 games at Double-A, going a strong 77 innings while striking out 88 against just 10 walks. He also had one good start in Triple-A. His best pitch is a change, but his cutter has worked well for him this year. He has a low-to-mid-90s fastball and also throws a curve.
On Sunday, Salty Bulldog John Lackey takes the mound for the Cubs. Strikeouts, walks, and home runs have all increased for John Lackey this season, and that has made him a roughly equivalent pitcher to what we saw with the Cardinals last season production-wise. What you see is what you get. Mike Leake will make the start for the Cardinals.
Today’s game is at 7:05 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest and MLB Network for those out of market. The game is also an MLB Plus game, meaning you can access the special Statcast broadcast through MLB.tv.
Friday’s game is at 1:20 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest and MLB Network for those out of market.
Saturday’s game is at 1:20 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest.
Sunday’s game is at 7:08 pm CT and will air on ESPN.