Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Marlins 9-24   Cubs 19-12

GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday at 7:05

TV: NBCSN Monday and Tuesday, WGN Wednesday

VICE CITY: Fish Stripes

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Sandy AlcantaraCole Hamels

Caleb Smith vs. Jon Lester

Jose Urena vs. Kyle Hendricks

PROBABLE MARLINS LINEUP

Curtis Granderson – LF

Martin Prado – 3B

Brian Anderson – RF

Neil Walker – 1B

Starlin Castro – 2B

Jorge Alfaro – C

Miguel Rojas – SS

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Daniel Descalso – 2B

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Willson Contreras – C

Jason Heyward – RF

Albert Almora – CF

 

Now that the Cubs have ascended through the Central Division to the top like Beatrix Kiddo swimming through the dirt to emerge from the grave, they seek to keep the ball rolling. And there’s no better way to do that than having a series with the Miami Marlins, pretty much everything that’s wrong with sports today.

The Cubs will send Lester and Hendricks out to build on their dominant outings last out, while Cole Hamels will attempt to clean up a little after his slight wobble against the Mariners that saw him not survive the sixth, though he didn’t get much help from his defense that night. Luckily for all these guys, they’ll be facing a lineup that’s essentially that cartoon holding an umbrella while the anvil descends.

I don’t know why anyone thought Derek Jeter and the money he didn’t have were going to save the Marlins. Maybe it’s because he simply wasn’t Jeffrey Loria, who would have been kicked out/barred from any sport with an actual commissioner armed a passing interest in protecting anything resembling integrity. Jeter learned his cues from Michael Jordan, who continually has proven the only interest he has in owning a team is having access to an owner’s suite where he can smoke cigars. That’s pretty much Jeter. Jeter has only ever been interested in himself, and this should have been abundantly clear when he wouldn’t move off of short for Alex Rodriguez, a categorically better player than he was in every way.

The Marlins are at least four-and-a-half games behind anyone else in the NL, having won only nine games when everyone else has at least won 14. They have yet to score 100 runs, are second-to-last in OBP as a team (ahead of only the Giants, which, woof) and are 35 points behind the next closest team in wOBA. If you wanted to demonstrate how you tank an offense, this would be it. There isn’t a hitter worth mentioning here, aside from maybe Neil Walker and only because there was a time when he was a real thorn in the ass of the Cubs. He’s also one of two regulars in the lineup who are having anything resembling an average season in terms of wRC+, with the other being Jorge Alfaro. Alfaro is the only player in the lineup who might matter one day down the road when the Fish aren’t an embarrassment, but he’s 25 already so even that’s a touch of a stretch. The only help in the system that might arrive in the next year is Monte Harrison, but everything else is years away.

Somehow, the rotation hasn’t been that bad, ranking in the middle of most categories in the NL. It’s been remarkably healthy, which helps. The Marlins have been able to run out the same five guys through April. Pablo Lopez and Caleb Smith have been highly effective, and the Cubs will miss Lopez. Jose Urena has the stuff to be a top-half rotation starter, but just can’t seem to put it together. And he’s 27, so it could just be this is what he is.

Of course, that doesn’t matter much when your rotation is trying to hold up one or two runs from your offense, if that many, and your bullpen comes out armed with a variety of blow torches and Molotov cocktails. There’s nothing the starters can do that the offense and pen can’t ruin.

Remember, this is how the Marlins wanted it, despite their protestations this isn’t what they expected. They simple exist to siphon off tax dollars from Miami for their stadium no one wanted and everyone got (stuck with the bill). They are now Jeter’s plaything, are years from being memorable, and before then they’ll probably blow it up anyway because no one wants anything to do with them and MLB makes it exceedingly easy and rewarding to not try. But hey, that owner’s suite for Jeter…

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 5-9   Marlins 4-12

GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday 6:10

TV: WGN Monday, NBCSN Tuesday and Wednesday

WELCOME TO MIAMI: Fish Stripes

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Yu Darvish vs. Trevor Richards

Jose Quintan vs. Pablo Lopez

Cole Hamels vs. Sandy Alcantara

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Ben Zobrist – RF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Jason Heyward – CF

Willson Contreras – C

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Daniel Descalso – 2B

 

PROBABLE MARLINS LINEUP

Curtis Granderson – LF

Brian Anderson – 3B

Neil Walker – 1B

Starlin Castro – 2B

Jorge Alfaro – C

Miguel Rojas – SS

Lewis Brinson – CF

Austin Dean – RF

 

Nothing like a sojourn down to the former Orange Bowl for a team to get healthy. Or to escape the snow. Or both, and hopefully it’s both for the Cubs.

They’ve caught a break in that even the gods didn’t want to see a Tyler Chatwood so badly they provided Chicago with a blizzard in the middle of April, which is a choice. Seems a touch exuberant on their part, but you understand the emotion. Because of that, the Cubs can stick with a four-man rotation thanks to off-days for the next two weeks, not bringing Jon Lester back until the 27th or so if they so choose. Which would give him nearly a full two weeks of recovery. Although they have two off-days on either side of a trip to Seattle, so they could hold their nose, close their eyes, and plunge into a singular Chatwood start and give Lester yet another week. Questions for down the road.

The only other questions are just lineup rotation. Will Albert Almora Jr. get to show off his hitting-grounders skills in his hometown? Or is the shifting of Heyward into center just something we’re going to have to get used to? Is Kyle Schwarber’s recent slump just a bad week or his inability to recognize breaking pitches going to raise Almora back into the lineup, with Zobrist shifting over to left? Didn’t Kris Bryant used to play outfield? Why is that a thing that doesn’t happen anymore to give Bote more looks? Does Bote need more looks? I don’t even know anymore.

The other boon of playing the Marlins is that you can declare the bullpen officially a Hazmat site if they can’t get the Marlins out. There’s no one here, so if they still refuse to puncture the strike zone, you can leave the lot of them down there and return to Chicago with a fresh batch. Darvish, Quintana, and Hamels will all seek to build on good starts (to varying degrees) against a lineup that were all paid $20 on the corner to come pose as MLB players for a few days while Derek Jeter steals more stadium cash.

And that’s really the story with the Marlins, a chance for Derek Jeter to do Yankees cosplay where it’s warmer and no one cares. They’re supposedly in a rebuild, which they’ve been in for at least 15 years and started when they had the best young outfield in the game (Ozuna, Yelich, Stanton) and traded it because…they felt like it? It was never quite clear. Of those trades, only Lewis Brinson is in the every day lineup and he’s striking out a third of the time and when he’s not doing that the contact he makes is more of a timid question. The only player hitting anything you would want to hide behind several curtains is Jorge Alfaro, who was once traded for Cole Hamels and more recently was part of the J.T. Realmuto deal. Miguel Rojas is literally the only other regular hitting over .230. If Darvish gets nibbly with this lot…

The rotation shows a little more promise. Pablo Lopez has nearly a 10-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and Sandy Alcantara’s high groundball ways are paying off. Both have been let down by the Marlins tendency to play defense like it was jai alai (local joke!). Trevor Richards has a plus-change-up but that’s about it, and is currently riding an incredible save of luck by seeing a .209 BABIP against while stranding nearly 90% of the runners he lets on. The crash is going to be hard on this one. The pen has been extremely walk-heavy, and basically if Sergio Romo and his walker are in your bullpen, you know you suck. But hey, he’ll come in and frisbee up some sliders for you. You wouldn’t know these guys if they came into your house and shit on your floor, which isn’t a bad representation of what they’ll be doing out of the pen soon enough.

It’s baseball, so you can never say the Cubs should win all three games. But the Cubs should win all three games, and then get just as healthy agains the strip-mined Diamondbacks and Bob Brenly and his less and less veiled racism show up for the weekend.