Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 56-49   Cardinals 56-49

GAMETIMES: Tuesday and Wednesday 7:15, Thursday 6:15

TV: NBCSN Tuesday and Thursday, WGN Wednesday

BARF: Viva El Birdos

PITHCING MATCHUPS

Yu Darvish vs. Adam Wainwright

Kyle Hendricks vs. Miles Mikolas

Jon Lester vs. Jack Flaherty

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Willson Contreras – C

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Jason Heyward – RF

Robel Garcia – 2B

Ian Happ – CF

PROBABLE CARDINALS LINEUP

Tommy Edman – 3B

Dexter Fowler – CF

Jose Martinez – RF

Paul Goldschmidt – 1B

Paul DeJong – SS

Tyler O’Neill – LF

Kolten Wong – 2B

Matt Wieters  – C

 

So I would love to tell you that this is where the Cubs can make things right. Even just a series win would leave them with a 4-5 road trip, which isn’t exactly acceptable but could be explained away by the anal horseshoe the Giants are toting around. It wouldn’t be total disaster, let’s say. If we want to get ambitious, a sweep would leave the Cubs with 5-4, and even with all the problems and concerns and ulcers provided over the weekend, in the end you’d have to be satisfied with that. As long as you continue to clean up at home, that is. You’d put three games between you and the Red Menace, with an August schedule that isn’t that demanding.

But if you were betting people, and drawing on the life lessons you’ve learned, would you lean toward the Cardinals making things all right or pouring more salt in the wound? I thought so.

What’s insulting is the Cubs shouldn’t be anywhere near this team. Its offense is not good. Its rotation is not good. Only its pen has been able to keep them from sinking into the locker, and the Cubs have hung and hung just long enough for one hot-streak to put St. Louis right in the middle of this. For shame.

While Godlschmidt’s binge the past month has propelled them, over the year as a whole only Ozuna has been a plus-hitter for them, and he’s on the shelf. DeJong continues to deflate from April, Fowler has been hot of late but overall barely average. And worse yet, this team is beat up. Carpenter and Ozuna are either unlikely to feature this series (Carpenter) or out (Ozuna). Molina is still out, though whisper this around that part of the country but Wieters has been better offensively than Yadier would have managed because if they hear you they’ll definitely whip their arm fat at you. But of course, they lose their “soul” without Yadi, or some such horseshit.

The rotation has been the very definition of “meh.” Not one carries an ERA below 3.80 nor above 4.20, which can’t be called anything other than fine. Jack Flaherty has been really good the past month, but Waino, Ponce de Leon (get a new name, jackass), and Hudson have been straight gasoline. Mikolas has evened out a bit with three quality starts in a row and four out of his last five, and of course is just the special kind of fuckwit who will allow the Cubs two hits over seven while striking out like, one guy. Can’t wait.

It’s the pen where lies the Cards’ strength. They strike out the second-most hitters in the NL, have the second-best ERA and FIP. Over the past month they’ve been the best in the league in pretty much every category. Giovanny Gallegos, John Brebbia, Andrew Miller have all been lights-out. And now converted starters Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez are coming out of there, with the latter acting as a de facto closer at times. Though you still wouldn’t trust him to not go to the zoo for an inning, he’s just less likely to do that when he’s only pitching for one inning. It would be a good idea to not enter the back half of games trailing. Not that it really matters with the Cubs’ pen, because they’ll soon be trailing anyway. The dark arts would swallow the Cubs in the late innings when they had a good pen in that haven of asshoolery, so why would now be any different?

For the Cubs, one of the bigger stories will be off the field in the next two days, as in what they do before the One Deadline To Rule Them All, assuming the Ricketts Family keeps the billions somehow concealed from view to the point where even they can’t see it. Truly a wondrous trick. The Cubs need at least one more arm in the pen, and probably another bat, but probably can’t get both. Hail Marys on Zobrist and Happ will probably the orders of the day.

I would say the Cubs need dominant outings from their starters, but they got that in the first two in Milwaukee and lost both. What they need is the offense to actually assert itself for three games, which it hasn’t done on the road in who the fuck knows. Score a goddamn touchdown every day and worry about the rest later.

This is now the business end of the season. Keep in mind that starting 8/27, the Cubs will have two days off the rest of the season. They don’t want to hit that stretch looking up at anyone, which means they need head-from-rectum removal right fucking now. But it feels like we keep saying that.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cardinals 20-11   Cubs 16-12

GAMETIMES: Friday 1:20, Saturday 3:05, Sunday 6:05

TV: NBCSN Friday, WGN Saturday, ESPN Sunday (Oh boy)

GROSS: Viva El Birdos

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Jack Flaherty vs. Kyle Hendricks

Michael Wacha vs. Yu Darvish

Adam Wainwright vs. Jose Quintana

PROBABLE CARDINALS LINEUP

Matt Carpenter – 3B

Paul Goldschmidt – 1B

Paul DeJong – SS

Marcel Ozuna – LF

Jose Martinez – RF

Yadier Molina – C

Kolten Wong – 2B

Harrison Bader – CF

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Daniel Descalso – 2B

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Willson Contreras – C

Ben Zobrist – RF

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Jason Heyward – CF

 

And now to it. The first invasion of the unwashed and illiterate from West East St. Louis, as the Cubs and Cardinals test out each other for the first time at the top of the Central Division. The Cardinals loaded up with Paul Goldschmidt this winter, and while the Brewers may crow about last season, it was the Cubs the Cardinals had in mind for what they had to overhaul. And even with the horrific start, the season’s first month has borne that out.

The Cardinals are baseball’s hottest team at the moment, winning eight of their last 10. Goldy has been the juice to the offense the Cards hoped, as they’re second in runs, third in OBP, and fourth in wOBA. But he’s not doing it alone. Paul DeJong is slugging nearly .600 and playing excellently in the field which is the real upset. Marcell Ozuna has been the player the Cards thought they were trading for last year. Even Dexter Fowler has returned from the dead, or being a sleeper spy, and his managing a 133 wRC+. Goldschmidt is Goldschmidt, and he’ll be in the top-10 of the MVP picture because that’s just a thing that he does.

How much of this is real? Fowler’s .407 BABIP would suggest that’s mirage. DeJong is getting serious rub of the green as well so far. But Wong, Goldy, Ozuna, and even Harrison Bader are probably doing this most if not all the season. The wooden spoon in the lineup so far is former stalwart Matt Carpenter, who has made starting slowly something of a signature move at this point. Then he’ll hit 25 homers June-August before going back into the toilet (really anywhere in STL) for the season’s last month. Also he’s a performance art piece at third.

The rotation though might be as big of a problem as the offense is a force. Flaherty is striking out over 10 hitters per nine, but he can’t seem to keep the ball in the park and he doesn’t get a ton of grounders. His HR/FB rate won’t stay at near 25% all season but seeing as how half the contact he’s giving up has been of the hard variety, this could be a problem all season. Especially if everything is in the air. Adam Wainwright is a million years old and is having some of the same control problems he did last year as he can’t miss bats the way he used to. Michael Wacha is also in need of a GPS, and seems destined to always break your heart (or entertain you endlessly, if you hate the Cardinals like most of the world). Last year’s hero Miles Mikolas can’t get anyone out and is giving up twice the homers he did last year, at least at that pace. Sometimes when you don’t miss bats this is what happens. There’s some asshole named Dakota taking starts. This will be an issue for the Cards all season, even if Mikolas straightens out.

The pen has been able to bail them out. Jordan Hicks is finally more than just a ridiculous fastball that people still hit anyway. John Gant has a 0.90 ERA. Something named John Brebbia has also been a weapon. There are two other guys averaging more than 10Ks per nine innings, and neither of them is Andrew Miller. Miller has been better of late but has spent most of the year spraying deliveries around like an Uzi. Perhaps it was a good idea to not hand him a multi-year deal after he showed decline and injury problems last year.

For the Cubs, they’ll need Hendricks to find it again and Darvish to build on the last four innings of his last outing, otherwise the Cards can sprint out in games in a hurry. Hendricks’s first inning problems against Goldschmidt today isn’t exactly settling the stomach. But the Cubs should also get some runs off this outfit.

A sweep puts the Cubs in first. Just sayin’…