Having won seven of their last eight games, the Dodgers have arrived in Chicago and are preparing to face the Cubs, who are sitting smack-dab in the middle of the NL Central division standings with a 10-10 record.
Last year against the Dodgers, the Cubs won the season series 4-3 and outscored the Dodgers 35-23 in those contests.
The Cubs are well-known for their sluggish starts in recent seasons; however, they always seem to find their way into the playoffs. Last season, after losing the 163rd division-deciding game to the Brewers, Chicago was bumped out of the postseason by the Rockies in a disappointing, 13-inning 2-1 defeat.
Nevertheless, after staggering to a 3-8 start this year, the Cubs have won seven of nine games since then to climb back to .500. Pitching has been key to Chicago’s recent success. The staff has allowed just two runs or fewer in five of their last six contests.
On the offensive side of things, two of the Chicago big guns—Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo—have yet to get their respective motors running. The pair has combined for just four home runs and 19 RBI through the first 20 games. Rizzo is hitting a paltry .197/.367/.465.
As usual, shortstop Javier Baez is among the team leaders in almost every offensive category. He’s hitting .302/.333/.756 and leads the club with 17 RBI. Baez is tied with catcher Wilson Contreras for the team lead in long balls with six.
“We’re going to play hard against every team, no matter who it is, no matter what place they’re at,” Baez told reporters on Monday. “When other teams come to Chicago, things change.”
Seemingly, if the Cubs want to compete with the Dodgers, they’ll definitely need to put forth their best efforts, as Baez suggests. While Los Angeles has indeed been streaky, they bring the best record (15-9) in the National League into the series opener on Tuesday.
Obviously, Cody Bellinger is leading the way for the Dodgers, hitting .424 with 11 home runs and 28 RBI over 23 games. Joc Pederson has provided the pop at the top of the order and finds himself tied for third in the National League with 11 homers.
“He’s just playing incredible baseball,” skipper Dave Roberts said of Bellinger recently. “All the way, across the board. He just impacts the game in so many ways when he’s out there.”
As far as overall pitching goes, the Dodgers and the Cubs are right in the middle of the NL pack. Los Angeles is sixth in the league with a 4.10 team ERA while the Cubs are in seventh with a 4.21 mark. The Chicago bullpen continues to struggle and is third-to-last in the league with a 5.08 ERA, trailing only the Mets and the Nationals.
The tentative starting pitching matchups are as follows:
Tuesday: Jose Quintana, LHP (2-1, 3.43 ERA, 1.429 WHIP, 3.16 FIP) vs. Kenta Maeda, RHP (3-1, 3.80 ERA, 1.268 WHIP, 4.87 FIP)
Wednesday: Cole Hamels, LHP (3-0, 2.77 ERA, 0.846 WHIP, 3.14 FIP) vs. Walker Buehler, RHP (2-0, 5.40 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, 3.10 FIP)
Thursday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (1-3, 3.54 ERA, 1.672 WHIP, 3.95 FIP) vs. Ross Stripling, RHP (1-1, 3.07 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, 4.12 FIP)
Roberts may find himself deviating from his normal lineup for the first two contests, possibly structuring his batting order for better success against southpaws.
First pitch for Tuesday’s opener is set for 5:05 PM Los Angeles time.