Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Indians 92-64   White Sox 68-87

GAMETIMES: Tuesday-Thursday 7:10

TV: WGN Tuesday, NBCSN Wednesday/Thursday

THEY’RE STILL SHITTY: Let’s Go Tribe

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Indians Spotlight: Could Frankie Lindor go?

The White Sox begin the last homestand of the season, and half of it will be against a team that still has a lot on the table. So while it’s not games that matter for them, they can play a “spoiler” role, if that indeed matters to players. This seems like a bunch it might to. Sadly, their rotation is on the spoiled side already.

With Lucas Giolito being shut down for the year, the Sox will have a bullpen game or two in here, sending out Hector Santiago and Ross Detweiler and then diving behind the couch. Dylan Cease will get a chance on Thursday to make it look like an actual baseball game. Meanwhile, the Indians have their two big guns of Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber lined up for this, with Clevinger available for Sunday and Bieber ready to go for any wildcard game.

As that’s what’s on offer for Cleveland. They sit a half-game behind the Rays for the right to go to Oakland next Wednesday, and they have the extra game to play, which comes Thursday. They’ll finish in DC, which could be an issue as the Nationals are playing for the same thing in the other league. But they might have it wrapped up by then, and the Indians could get three games against an opponent twiddling its thumbs and keeping powder dry for the coin-flip.

Right now the schedule is in Cleveland’s favor, as the Rays have two home dates with the Yankees, and the Yanks still chasing the AL’s best record to not have to deal with the noise in Houston a fourth time (which got them just two years ago). But that could flip at the weekend with the Rays getting the long-dead Jays and as mentioned the Tribe heading to the capital.

It’s kind of a miracle the Indians are still here. They lost Jose Ramirez a month ago, though he’s starting to make noise like he could come up for air in the season’s last week even though it was thought a broken hand would end his season. The same malady definitely has ended Jason Kipnis‘s season, who was having something of a revival season but now is on the shelf. They’ve parsed out the responsibility, but the big hand should probably go to Franmil Reyes over the past month. After his trade to The Land he was simply lost, but over the past 30 days has lit up with a 130 wRC+.  The rest of the lineup has been average or better, so it’s mostly been a death by 1000 cuts sort of thing.

Civale and Adam Plutko have saved them in the rotation with Kluber nowhere and Carrasco only just coming back in the pen. But he got whatever the rest of the pen has got the past month, as it’s been gasoline out there in September.

You certainly wouldn’t fancy seeing the Indians in a five-game series, except if they have to blow Bieber and possibly more in the coin-flip and only have Clevinger for more than one start. And considering how gettable the pen has been, they might be the same rollover belly-tickle they’ve been in the first round since their WS appearance in ’16.

Still, for the Pale Hose it’s at least better to play a game with stakes in the last week than when the Tigers show up for the two of them to perform some elaborate funeral interpretive dance. Cleveland is still a team the Sox will have to get by next year, and throwing some bombs at them in their chase this one at least sets a precedent. This used to be a rivalry. It can be again.

Baseball

vs.

Records: White Sox 46-60 Phillies 57-51

GAMETIMES: Friday-Saturday 6:05 pm, Sunday 12:05 pm

TV: NBCSN Friday/Sunday, WGN Saturday

Gabe Kapler – Still Here, Still Beefy: The Good Phight 

The Phillies have to be excited to welcome in the White Sox after seeing what the inept Mets were just able to do to the Pale Hose in Chicago earlier this week. Hell, everyone with the Sox coming up on the schedule has to eager for their arrival. At 4-16 since the break, the White Sox are who we thought they were before a few first half flashes had some of the fan base dreaming on a Wild Card run. The Phightin’s are what those Sox fans had hoped for, as they come into the weekend firmly in the discussion for a playoff spot in the NL albeit tied with 1/3 of the league for that right. They’re 7-4 in their last 11 to help pull into said tie, but that includes six wins against SF, DET and PIT with a series loss to NL East leaders ATL sandwiched in the middle. There will be no David Robertson revenge game as his season was finally, mercifully ended yesterday with the announcement of elbow surgery on the horizon.

The Phillies will not only be pleased to see the White Sox stumble into town having just been blanked by their rivals in New York, but they’ll also miss Lucas Giolito and take favorable match ups on Friday and Saturday with Ivan Nova and the return of BIG BOSS Ross Detwiler before getting a resurgent Reynaldo Lopez on Sunday afternoon. The Phaithful will get their first glance at new acquisition Jason Vargas in the opener, who has been quietly much better of late. Considering his 2019 campaign began with 13 earned runs and 35 base runners allowed in six April appearances and a flirtation with being both DFA’d and murdered by half of New York, a stretch of 3 ER or less in all but one start since April 13 makes him a solid addition for the stretch run. He’s posted two quality starts in his last three, coming one out away from a clean sweep in that time. They’ll round out the weekend with pitching acquisition #2 in Drew Smyly taking his third turn since joining the rotation, looking for his own streak of three consecutive quality starts. Staff Ace Aaron Nola takes the ball in between, looking to continue recent success. He had his best month of the season posting a 2.52 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 39.1 July innings.

The Philly offense is currently all over the map. In the aforementioned 7-4 run, they’ve scored six runs or more in four games while putting up four or fewer in the other seven. That struggle for consistent runs is a theme throughout the year, as they’re the only other NL team in that tight Wild Card race with a negative run differential at -16, one better than the Brewers. They’ve relied on the long ball to carry them to victory, with J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins the heroes of late. $330M man Bryce Harper hasn’t exactly been the force Philadelphia had planned on when they signed him in the spring, but July did see his best splits thus far for AVG, OBP, OPS and wRC+. He also carries a very appealing 138 wRC+ at home and will likely increase that number against the soft underbelly of the Sox rotation.

Speaking of that rotation, what can really be said to this point that hasn’t already? Nova is just going through the motions, with the simple hope he can make it five or more innings to keep from having to exhaust the bullpen like they are in any non-Giolito/Lopez starts. Detwiler takes this turn after Dylan Covey failed to get a single out last Sunday, so while that bar is pretty easy to clear the second half of the season is all about continuing to lower the bar for this sad excuse of a starting five or six. Lopez represents the best hope of the weekend having turned his season around since the break. He’s allowed a total of six earned runs over his last four starts, a major improvement over the nearly four he averaged per start for his first 18 of the season. This probably has a lot to do with a season-best 19% K-BB ratio in July, so if he can keep pumping strikes he can carry the success into August.

The Chicago offense continues it’s downward spiral into the deepest reaches of hell, ranking dead last in the entire league in runs (55), Home Runs (15), Total Bases (226) and all of AVG/SLG/OPS (.602!) for the holy trinity of suck. Jose Abreu and James McCann are the biggest offenders here, as they come in at a combined five XBH (4 HR) and .210/.175 OBP, respectively. McCann has been especially horrific in July, posting a THIRTY-FOUR, 3-4, wRC+ for the month. That is….atrocious. The team sorely missed Eloy Jimenez and Tim Anderson for most of this paltry stretch, but even in return they’ve been more hurtful than helpful with two hits over seven combined games since coming of the IL. Add to that Yoan Moncada and his 33 total bases/.821 OPS landing on the IL earlier this week and….you get the picture. Everyone sucks, more so than usual, and the one guy that hasn’t sucked got hurt. White Sox baseball, CATCH THE FEVER.

The Phillies should expect to take this series and take it going away, and even if their bats can’t solve Nova, Detwiler or Lopez they might be fine with a combined five runs for the series if they can spread ’em out. That’s all it’d have taken the Mets in three games earlier this week. The White Sox COULD have taken this slide and turned it on it’s head by conducting a mass promotion of overly qualified talent at Charlotte, but they’re all still working on their salary suppression clocks instead.

What a time to be alive, Sox fans!

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 55-47   Brewers 54-50

GAMETIMES: Friday 7:10, Saturday 6:10, Sunday 1:10

TV: NBCSN Friday, ABC 7 Saturday and Sunday

YA HEY DERE: Brew Crew Ball

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Kyle Hendricks vs. Gio Gonzalez

Jon Lester vs. Chase Anderson

Jose Quintana vs. Zach Davies

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Javier Baez – SS

Kris Bryant – RF

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Willson Contreras – C

Robel Garcia – 2B

David Bote – 3B

Ian Happ – CF

PROBABLE BREWERS LINEUP

Lorenzo Cain – CF

Christian Yelich – RF

Yasmani Grandal – C

Mike Moustakas – 3B

Ryan Braun – LF’

Eric Thames – 1B

Keston Hiura – 2B

Orlando Arcia – SS

 

Let’s cast our mind back to 2008. At the end of July that year, a Cubs team that had stormed out of the gates had a bit of a slip, and the Brewers behind them had gotten within touching distance. A series at this time was billed as a division decider, or at least a big indicator. The Cubs proceeded to turn the Brewers brains into mush for four games, and the division was never under discussion again.

To 2015. The Cubs had gotten into the wildcard discussion, but entered a four-game series against the wildcard leading Giants three games back. They beat the Giants every which way twice for four games, moved into the wildcard spot behind the Pirates, never looked back.

2016. The Cubs had stomped all over the NL for the entire season so they never actually had to worry about this shit.

2017. A little later in the season, but a Cubs team that kind of muddled through the whole season trying to find ways to shove its head up its rectum faced six games in September against the Cardinals. They took five of them, including clinching the division in St. Louis and making them watch.

2018. The Cubs faced a decisive Labor Day weekend series in Milwaukee. They got what appeared to be a season-defining, game-turning homer from Anthony Rizzo off Josh Hader, and everything seemed poised to right itself.

Then Carl Edwards Jr. went to the zoo, and you know how the rest goes. See the difference?

It feels like the rest of this road trip is one of those moments for these Cubs. Six games against the other competitors in the Central. On the road, where they have to unfuck themselves tout suite if they have any designs of being something. A scuffling Brewers team that can’t get a start from anyone and has a couple players decaying rapidly in the outfield. The Cubs can’t end the Brewers season here, not with two months to go and the gap so small. But they can certainly make it more challenging, and they can throw some serious questions the Brewers would have to wrestle with. Although, they could end up doing the same to themselves.

Since June 1st, the Brewers are 22-24. In that time, they have a 5.22 ERA from their starters and a 4.69 ERA from their relievers, which is worse than the Cubs even if you don’t believe it. They haven’t even hit that well, though fifth in the worse-than-you-thought NL in the past seven weeks. But that’s what’s kept them somewhat afloat, though the generous nature of the division hasn’t hurt them either.

Yelich you know about. Hiura has done his part to fill in as well, but Moustakas has cooled off considerably since his mega-start. Ryan Braun will occasionally flash the form of old, and he assuredly will again this weekend because that’s what we’ve been sentenced to for our perceived sins, but a lot more of the time he looks like he got his foot stuck in a garbage can. Eric Thames has taken up the mantle after Jesus Aguilar went back to whatever upside-down he emerged from last year, but hasn’t quite matched the production of Aguilar of ’18. Lorenzo Cain died, and yet still hits leadoff for this team. You could argue Craig Counsell has been beholden to name value too much, as Braun and especially Cain probably don’t deserve to hit as high in the lineup as they have based on what they’ve done this year.

He’s got bigger problems in the rotation, though. Brandon Woodruff just went TWANG! and is out until September. Chase Anderson and Kyle Davies have kept the ship afloat of late, but Jhoulys Chacin went back to being Jhoulys Chacin and Gio Gonzalez has been meat for everyone but the Cubs for years now. The Cubs will get a chance to put that right tonight, though consider their struggles against lefties–i.e. having to play some or all of Almora, Bote, and until now Russell–don’t hold your breath. If any lefty can get the Cubs bats going, it’s Gonzalez, who is striking out all of two hitters per nine the past month.

The problems extend to the pen as well. It was never going to match last year’s dominance, because that’s not what pens do. Hader has been good, at times more so, but at other times gettable as he’s actually given up homers this season. Freddy Peralta has some scary strikeout numbers of late but also some scary walk numbers, too. You go ahead and trust Jeremy Jeffress long term if you choose, you can get your pleasure through pain, y’know. Junior Guerra? Get outta here.

For the Cubs, they made a small move today in telling Tim Collins to do one while picking up Derek Holland from the Giants. Holland’s numbers are horrific, but mostly as a starter. Here he’ll be asked to get lefties out, which he’s done pretty effectively. This is exactly the kind of move you make for a bullpen. Costs you nothing, might get something.

In addition, Ian Happ is up, though no word if he’ll go straight into the lineup or not. You’d have to believe he will though, and he’s been better this year right-handed so that’ll just about do it for Almora’s playing time for a while. He could also be playing left for Schwarber to sit against a lefty. We’ll see.

No more bullshit. The Cubs have it in their hands for the next seven days. Do the thing, get yourself out ahead, and play with a lead. Time to play like you were designed or to shut the fuck up about it.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 54-45   Giants 50-50

GAMETIMES: Monday and Tuesday 8:45, Wednesday 2:45

TV: WGN Monday, ABC 7 Tuesday, NBCSN Wednesday

THEY CAN’T AFFORD IT EITHER: McCovey Chronicles

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Alec Mills vs. Shaun Anderson

Yu Darvish vs. Madison Bumgarner

Jon Lester vs. Tyler Beede

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Javier Baez – SS

Kris Bryant – RF

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Robel Garcia – 2B

Jason Heyward – CF

David Bote – 3B

Martin Maldonado – C

PROBABLE GIANTS LINEUP

Brandon Belt – 1B

Buster Posey – C

Pablo Sandoval – 3B

Alex Dickerson – LF

Brandon Crawford – SS

Mike Yastrzemski – RF

Kevin Pillar – CF

Donovan Solano – 2B

 

The Cubs have been woeful on the road all season, coming into this one at 18-27. There won’t be time for that on this nine-game trip however, as the final six are against their closest competitors in the NL Central, and any spit-up there is going to make this season just about as urpy as it can get. Before they get to that portion though, they’ll have to deal with one of the hottest teams in baseball, and also one that’s on the precipice of a franchise turning sell-off, in the San Francisco Giants.

So yes, hottest team in the NL. That’s the Giants with their 14-3 record in July. But if you’re looking over this roster and thinking the only way this team could rip off 15 in 18 is by some serious voodoo and wiccan shit, you’re right! The Giants are 22-10 in one-run games. Sure, maybe having Will Smith helps that to close out games, but as we know one-run records are almost entirely luck, and the Giants have been getting all of it of late. Four of those last five wins were in extra innings, and they just came off a four-game series with the Mets that lasted 47 innings. So you might get the impression this pen is a bit cooked heading into this one.

On the sheets, this team isn’t much. The legends that brought it three parades five years are on the downside of their career, and that’s being kind. None of Posey, Crawford, or Belt have provided anything much more than average at the plate for the entirety of the season, but Crawford and Evan Longoria have provided a death rattle over the past month to help fuel this binge of empty wins. Longoria is on the shelf now with plantar fascitis, which is definitely a condition you want in an aging player. Of course, Pablo Sandoval wandered in from the buffet and has hit everything of late, because that’s how it’s going for them. One thing you definitely want to do is count on Sandoval to keep hitting.

The Giants have gotten a boost from retreads like Alex Dickerson and Stephen Vogt, but you know what those things are over a long enough timeline. Donovan Solano and Austin Slater are other whosits that have popped over the last little stretch, but counting on any of this to last much longer is definitely making fantasies out of clouds.

The rotation for most of the year has straight up blown chunks, with only Bumgarner carrying a FIP under 4.00. Jeff Samardzija still grinds and grinds and grunts and grunts his way to a 4.50 ERA if he’s lucky, but of late Tyler Beede has found some kind of formula. Shaun Anderson has not. The Cubs might be witnesses to Bumgarner’s final start as a Giant, as the deadline is only a week after his Tuesday start and he could end up anywhere before then.

The pen has been the real miracle-workers, with Will Smith perhaps being the most prized arm, reliever or starter, on the market right now. But Sam Dyson, Reyes Moronta, Trevor Gott, even Mark Melancon, and Tony Watson (another name on the block) have all been excellent trotting down from where they forgot to put the bullpens at Oracle Park (they seriously did). When the Giants decide to move along Smith and Watson and maybe others is when you feel this will all crumble for them, but you can’t hang onto relievers that can net as much as Smith can right now for some desperate chase for one more game. I mean you can, it would just be moronic to do so.

For the Cubs, a minor roster tweak as Carl Edwards Jr. was sent back to Iowa with Rowan Wick likely his replacement. What Edwards was doing up at all if one bad outing has his ass punted back to the corn is an open question, but one I’m not going to wade too deeply into as my blood pressure sucks anyway. If you feel this latest demotion finally ends any hope that Edwards can be part of the puzzle going forward, you’re not alone. Which means the search for more arms in relief has to be cranked up, because Cishek and Strop are creaky, Brandon Morrow might not even exist, and everything else is tossed into a wish-pool.

The season doesn’t hinge on this trip, but it’s close. If the Cubs can march through it like Sherman, they could give themselves a cushion in the division that feels and looks awfully nice. If they reinsert their thumb in their ass as they’ve done on the road most of the season, they could be staring up at two teams and be in for an awfully desperate and scrappy last two months. None of these teams are great, and though the Cubs might not be either they’re better than these three. They played like it on the homestand, now to take that show on the road.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: White Sox 42-51   Rays 56-43

GAMETIMES: 6:10 Friday, 5:10 Saturday, 12:10 Sunday

TV: NBCSN Friday and Sunday, WGN Saturday

LEFT TURN SIGNAL ON: DRays Bay

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Reynaldo Lopez vs. Brendan McKay

Lucas Giolito  vs. TBA

Dylan Cease vs. TBA

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – RF

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – 1b

James McCann – DH

Welington Castillo – C

Jose Rondon – SS

Jon Jay – LF

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

Adam Engel – CF

PROBABLE RAYS LINEUP

Austin Meadows – RF

Tommy Pham – LF

Ji-Man Choi – DH

Nate Lowe – 1B

Yandy Diaz – 3B

Kevin Kiermaier – CF

Travis d’Arnaud – C

Joey Wendle – SS

Michael Brosseau – 2B

 

The White Sox will take their traveling carnival with defective rides down to the airplane hangar of Tropicana this weekend, for three games with the wildcard chasing Rays. The Rays will think this is the perfect tonic after losing three of four to the Yankees in the Bronx, which pretty much ended their hopes of any division crown. Especially with Eloy laid up. Even still, eight games back with 63 to go would be quite the trick.

The Rays haven’t gotten here through offense, or at least not sheer offense. It’s been timely, but mostly middling in every category you’d look at in the AL. Pham, Lowe, Meadows, and Diaz have been more than serviceable, though all have gone cold of late. They can’t slug with the Yankees, which is part of the reason they went from ahead early to watching the pinstripes disappear over the horizon of late.

It’s on the mound where the Rays stand out, leading the AL in ERA and FIP as a team among their starters. Which is kind of weird, as they only boast about three starters but have mastered the idea of the opener. Tyler Glasnow has been on the shelf and might not return this year. Ian Snell and Charlie Morton have been great, though the Sox might not see either this weekend. But aside from that, Ryan Stanek usually gets the opening duty. He’s made 27 starts but only thrown 43 innings. Yonny Chirinos sometimes follows him or starts himself. Brendan McKay will be a normal starter tonight, but beyond that the Rays haven’t said what they’re going to do. Chirinos and Morton started yesterday in New York so they’re definitely out. Snell looks odds on to take Sunday’s start.

As you’ve probably guessed, the Rays have a host of options out of the pen that you’ve never heard of but all work, because that’s just how they do down there. Emilio Pagan and Diego Castillo are splitting the closing duties of late, but Kittredge and Poche can get big outs too.

For the Sox, Adam Engel has returned to dutifully man center field and go up to the plate with his pool noodle bat. They’ll throw what are probably their two best guns in Giolito and Cease, with Lopez trying to find it again tonight. It’s been a road trip from hell for them, and playing in the quite expanse of The Trop will probably seem more like purgatory. There’s a long homestand waiting after this one, but the Rays will need some get-back too so if the Sox are already thinking about the plane home, they may find this one goes to 10.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Padres 46-50   Cubs 52-44

GAMETIMES: Friday-Sunday 1:20

TV: NBCSN Friday, ABC 7 Saturday, WGN Sunday

FISH TACO ENTHUSIASTS: Gaslamp Ball

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Eric Lauer vs. Jon Lester

Joey Lucchesi vs. Jose Quintana

Cal Quantrill vs. Kyle Hendricks

PROBABLE PADRES LINEUP

Fernando Tatis Jr. – SS

Eric Hosmer – 1B

Manny Machado – 3B

Hunter Renfroe – LF

Franmil Reyes – RF

Franciso Meija – C

Ian Kinsler – 2B

Manuel Margot – CF

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Albert Almora Jr. – CF

Javier Baez – SS

Kris Bryant – LF

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Addison Russell – 2B

Jason Heyward – RF

David Bote – 3B

Martin Maldonado – C

 

The main story of this series probably won’t have to do much with either team, but the conditions they’ll spend the first two games in. Jon Lester might end up looking like the senator from the first X-Men movie by the 4th inning today. It is going to be hot, and gross, and sticky, and all other bad words to describe a 98-degree day with a fair amount of humidity. Basically, St. Louis.

But hey, that’s baseball, that’s summer in Chicago sometimes, and the Cubs have work to do. And while the Padres are poised to be the next big thing, next means it’s not here yet and they’ve only won four of their last 13 games. They’re coming off losing a series to the Marlins and got swept by the Braves out of the break before that, and the Cubs catch them at the end of a long road trip. So yeah, very few excuses here.

Overall, it’s not a very good offense, ranking bottom-five in runs, wOBA, and wRC+ as a team, But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some danger spots, mostly at the top. Fernando Tatis Jr., the player that makes all Sox fans hang their head in shame, missed a third of the season through injury but has been everything they could have hoped for when present. He strikes out a ton, but walks slightly more than average and hits for a ton of power for a shortstop. Considering he’s 20, getting upset about the Ks would be the height of pettiness. Manny Machado you know about, and Hunter Renfroe has hit some annoying homers against the Cubs already. Franmil Reyes is the rest of the pop with 20 homers. Manuel Margot has been hot of late, slugging over .800 the past two weeks.

The Cubs catch a break in missing Chris Paddack, probably the best rookie starter in the NL right now. Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi have been functional without being eye-popping, but Quantrill has had his struggles, though he did shut out the Braves last out over six innings. Lauer comes in on a roll as well, giving up three runs over his last three starts, though one was just four innings.

The Padres always seem to find a closer, and that’s true once again with Kirby Yates. He’s been about the only bright spot in the pen though, with a host of characters playing the role of gasoline this season. The Pads pen has the lowest walk-rate of any pen in the National League, though, so they don’t just give it to you. But other than Yates, only Craig Stammen has had sustained success and he’s had his problems lately.

For the Cubs, they’ll get Carl Edward Jr. back this weekend, at the expense of Randy Rosario so you know I’m delighted. Both the Brewers and Cardinals won last night, so the cushion is minuscule. It’s going to suck out there, but they won’t care about that when the final standings are tabulated in September. After this it’s now a pretty rough looking road trip with the Giants the hottest team in baseball at the moment before trips to both Hops-villes, USA. Everyone else, stay hydrated.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Reds 42-48   Cubs 50-43

GAMETIMES: Monday and Tuesday 7:05, Wednesday 1:20

TV: NBCSN Monday and Wednesday, WGN Tuesday

CHRIS SABO APPRECIATION SOCIETY: Blog Red Machine

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Luis Castillo vs. Kyle Hendricks

Anthony DeSclafani vs. Alec Mills

Sonny Gray vs. Yu Darvish

PROBABLE REDS LINEUP

Nick Senzel – CF

Joey Votto – 1B

Eugenio Suarez – 3B

Yasiel Puig – RF

Jesse Winker – LF

Jose Iglesias – SS

Jose Peraza – 2B

Curt Casali – C

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Javier Baez – SS

Kris Bryant -3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Willson Contreras – C

Jason Heyward – RF

Robel Garcia – 2B

Albert Almora – CF

 

After taking care of one of the teams that made the last road trip hell with a three-game sweep of the Pirates, the Cubs will try and right previous wrongs against this year’s definite bogey team, the Reds. The Cubs have lost all three series to these assholes, who are something of an analytic darling with their subpar record but glittering run-differential. They seem intent on proving why that’s the case against the Cubs this year, which has been infuriating.

The Reds come in after getting knocked all around Coors Field for three days, giving up 19 runs in the last two games (though they won one of those as they scored 17 one night). That won’t help the Cubs much, as they’ll get the Reds three best starters in Gray, DeSclafani, and Castillo tonight. Gray and DeSclafani have been on particular rolls the past month, calming down the walks which had been a problem earlier. It’s been the reverse for Castillo, who has walked nearly six hitters per nine innings over the past 30 days. That said, his last two starts against the Cubs and Brewers have seen him throw 14.2 innings while giving up a run, so he’s probably found it again. Goodie. Just what we need.

The Cubs simply couldn’t get Joey Votto out last time, and then it was a rotating cast of miscreants that came up with big hits, notably Phillip Ervin. He went 5-for-10 with a homer in the last set, and seemingly all of them came at the biggest moments. It’s been that way in every game against the Reds this year seemingly, with the Cubs nominating a new doofus in red the hero of the day when they can least afford to.

The Cubs scored more than enough runs to sweep the Reds last time, but were unlucky to lose Cole Hamels before the second inning ever started, which forced whatever is parading around in Mike Montgomery‘s skin these days to come in and offer up sacrifices to the gods. Their bullpen weaved some magic in the finale of that one, and we can only hope that won’t happen this time around. Carl Edwards is likely to return at some point during the series, which would be a boost of some kind, assuming his head his screwed on tight.

If there’s been a soft spot on the Reds of late it’s in the pen, with only Michael Lorenzen and his Farnsworth-tight pants being consistent the past month. The Cubs got to Raisel Iglesias the last time they saw him, but he’s put up four scoreless outings since. David Hernandez and Amir Garrett have walked the park lately, so if the Cubs need to catch-up or add-on in the late innings for the next three days, they’ll have to display the same patience they discovered against the Pirates this weekend.

The Cubs have opened up just slightly with the sweep, having a 2.5-game lead now on Milwaukee and three on the Scum. With the Brewers having to deal with the Braves this week, this feels like an opportunity to open that up even more, especially as it’s the Pirates and Giants after this and neither are exactly inspiring (though the Giants have played better of late). We’ve been asking for months now but it’s time to turn it on, all the way up.

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Pirates 44-45   Cubs 47-43

GAMETIMES: Friday-Sunday 1:20

TV: NBCSN Friday, WGN Saturday, ABC 7 Sunday

CANDELARIA’S CADRE: Bucs Dugout

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Chris Archer vs. Yu Darvish

Jordan Lyles vs. Jon Lester

Trevor Williams vs. Jose Quintana

PROBABLE PIRATES LINEUP

Adam Frazier – 2B

Bryan Reynolds – LF

Starling Marte – CF

Josh Bell – 1B

Melky Cabrera – RF

Colin Moran – 3B

Kevin Newman – SS

Jacob Stallings – C

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Javier Baez – SS

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Victor Caratini – C

Jason Heyward – RF

Robel Garcia – 2B

Albert Almora Jr. – CF

 

The Cubs begin the post-break schedule, hoping the rest and now shorter half of the slate will rouse them from their season-long slumber/malaise/absence of give-a-fuck. Perhaps the sight of the team their manager is trying to drum up a rivalry with out of nothing will act as the greenie they need.

And that will be the main story for the weekend, whether the Pirates and Cubs get into more mishegas about pitches inside and whether or not they are throwing at each other. Maddon was clearly trying to get some jump from his team with his theatrics over the July 4th holiday, but his team certainly needed it. There’s no question that Clin Turtle is something of a red-ass, and the Pirates do seem to find themselves in the middle of these more often than other teams. They’ve already been in it with the Cubs and Reds this year, and other teams had something to say.

You’d like to think the Cubs have bigger fish to fry. They’ve dicked around all season and yet find themselves in first, but they can’t expect the Brewers and even Cardinals to keep their head inserted in their rectum for the rest of the year either. It would seem over the top to try and get your manager fired by missing out on the playoffs by open lengths, and if the Cubs were going to make that move anyway they would have done it this week. So Maddon and his team are stuck together, if indeed that’s what it is, so they might as well get on with it.

To the more important stuff. There was a moment there when Yu Darvish looked like he might be turning a corner, probably around when he struck out 10 Dodgers. But he hasn’t put in a quality start in the three since then, though he hasn’t gotten shelled in that badly in any of them either. The Cubs need him to start putting up quality starts again. From there it’ll be Lester and Quintana, and you know the story with them.

But really, it’ll be about whether or not the Cubs get hits when they need them, and can they find any reliever who can keep them in the game when they’re behind. A couple more hits and they at least split with the Pirates last week and take both of the games from the Sox. When they can line up Kintzler-Strop-Kimbrel you feel pretty good. But when trailing by a run and they have to roll out whatever’s left of Cishek and doofus-du-jour, they have problems. And they’ll have to solve them.

Thanks to a more than functional staff and Josh Bell, the Pirates are still in this (along with the Cubs and Brewers’ incompetence). With Reynolds and Newman joining the lineup, they’ve become uber-annoying for pitchers to navigate. But it’s enough of that, the Cubs just have to start beating whoever is front of them now, no excuses. Even if that starts with they highly tedious Pirates and Reds on this homestand.

Leave the bean-ball nonsense behind. The real work is at hand. Onwards…

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 46-42   White Sox 41-43

GAMETIMES: 6:15 Saturday, 1:10 Sunday

TV: Fox Saturday, WGN and NBCSN Sunday

HEY WAIT, ALL THE BASEBALL WRITING YOU NEED IS RIGHT HERE!

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Jon Lester  vs. Lucas Giolito

Kyle Hendricks vs. Ivan Nova

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Jason Heyward – RF

Willson Contreras – C

Robel Garcia – DH

Albert Almora – CF

Addison Russell – 2B

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – SS

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – 1B

James McCann – C

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Jon Jay – RF

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

Ryan Cordell – CF

Zack Collins – DH

 

After what can only be described as an obscene scheduling choice to have both teams off on a Friday, the Cubs and Sox will head into the All-Star Break by finishing up their interleague duel, this time on the Southside. Needless to say both teams couldn’t be feeling much different before they get away from each other for four days.

The Cubs are something of a mess, even with their Independence Day thumping of the Pirates. Everyone seems just about miserable, they may have decided to chuck it on their manager who might be trying to his last throes to keep his job. Everyone is being threatened by the front office. And yet despite all that they’re in first place, and are really only a Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo binge from opening up some space in the Central.

The Sox on the other hand, though still under .500, have something of a bounce in their step after series wins over the Twins and Tigers, and the call-up of Dylan Cease, and the team starting to resemble what it very well might look like when the games matter more than this in a year or two. You can feel it starting to bubble at The Rate/Cell/Comiskey. Taking two from the Cubs and confirm or heighten their death spiral will certainly feel like the dawn of something on 35th.

They’ll send out their best in Giolito, whom strangely the Cubs paddled at Wrigley last month, and then Ivan Nova, who throttled the Cubs strangely before that. Nova has had decent career numbers against the Cubs going back to his Pirates days. At least for the Cubs, they’ll send out their best which is Hendricks, and can hope Lester can muscle through another start. And of course even if that happens, any appearance by Craig Kimbrel is going to raise the pulses on all sides after his entrance and then last Wednesday’s hiccup. Maybe Aaron Bummer can impress the Cubs’ brass enough this weekend too to avoid paying Alex Colome prices.

Going into Sunday, Hendricks has had particular problems with Abreu and Yolmer, bothin hitting over .400 against him. And Abreu just happens to be having his best season.

So all set then. Figures to be one of the livelier occasions between these two in a while, added to by Eloy’s heroics last time we did all this. There actually feels something at stake on this one, more than bullshit bragging rights between two teams in different leagues. The Cubs have a season to save, the Sox have steps to take. All laid out before us.

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Tigers 27-52   White Sox 39-42

GAMETIMES: Tuesday 7:10, Wednesday 1:10/7:10, Thursday 1:10

TV: WGN Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, NBCSN Wednesday night and Thursday

HAVEN’T RELOCATED TO NASHVILLE YET: Bless You Boys

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Matthew Boyd vs. Reynaldo Lopez

Daniel Norris vs. Dylan Cease

TBD vs. Ross Detwiler

TBD vs. Ivan Nova

PROBABLE TIGERS LINEUP

JaCoby Jones – CF

Nicholas Castellanos – RF

Miguel Cabrera – DH

Christin Stewart – LF

Jeimer Candelario – 3B

Brandon Dixon – 1B

Nick Goodrum – SS

Gordon Beckham – 2B

Bobby Wilson – C

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – SS

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – 1B

James McCann – C

Jon Jay – RF

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Jose Rondon – DH

Yolmer Sanches – 2B

Ryan Cordell – CF

 

After dealing with teams at or near the top of their divisions or in the playoff chase for the past three weeks (yes, even the Cubs), the Sox get a three-day, four-game break against the Tigers, who along with the Royals are basically cleaning the septic tanks of the AL Central. For the Tigers now it’s about who is going to go between now and the trade deadline, which could be just about anyone. Too bad they picked a year when the Royals and Orioles are doing it better than they are.

Let’s start with the White Sox, who will unveil Dylan Cease on Wednesday afternoon. You couldn’t find a softer landing for a debut than the first game of a double-header against the Tigers, which is probably why the Sox picked it. Cease is up for good, or so the Sox say, even though his numbers in Charlotte aren’t that impressive. But at this point, the Sox are just running out of guys, so why not? The reports were that Cease was still powering his way out of trouble instead of pitching, which won’t fly against most other teams in the majors, but he can learn that just as easily at this level as he can at AAA. Cease’s Ks were down and walks up this year from his previous seasons, so the fear is that will rip and explode at the top level. We know the stuff is there, it’s about learning the approach now.

Not only are the Tigers purposely stinky, they’re beat up too. Michael Fullmer is a long-term casualty, and Josh Harrison and Daniel Norris are either out or iffy as well. Offensively, this is really about Castellanos and no one else. He’s the only one having an above-average season, as Cabrera heads for the retirement home.

On the rotation side, one of the bright spots in Spencer Turnbull has also landed on the injured list with shoulder fatigue. Other than him, there’s Matthew Boyd and then a pile of goo. Boyd has one of the best K/BB ratios in baseball, striking out over 11 hitters per nine and walking less than two.

The pen? It’s Shane Greene and his 22 saves and then an even bigger pile of goo.

Four against the Tigers and then closing out the first “half” against the Cubs who can’t get unfucked for money. Could that elusive burst past .500 be waiting finally?