Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 45-39   Pirates 39-43

GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday 6:05, Thursday 3:05

TV: NBCSN Monday-Wednesday, WGN Thursday

STUDIED UNDER GRADY TRIPP: Bucs Dugout

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Adbert Alzolay vs. Trevor Williams

Kyle Hendricks vs. Joe Musgrove

Yu Darvish vs. Chris Archer

Jose Quintana vs. Jordan Lyles

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Jason Heyward – RF

Albert Almora – CF

Victor Caratini – C

Addison Russell – 2B

PROBABLE PIRATES LINEUP

Kevin Newman – SS

Bryan Reynolds – RF

Starling Marte – CF

Josh Bell – 1B

Colin Moran – 3B

Corey Dickerson – LF

Elias Diaz – C

Adam Frazier – 2B

 

Ok, this time the Cubs are going to get their road record straightened out and close out strong against an inferior opponent. We really mean it this time. For sure it’s going to happen here. Yep, definitely. Totally.

Sigh.

It sounds good, but much like the Reds the Pirates might not be exactly what they seem. They were 11-15 in June, worse than the .500 record than they had in April and May, but they actually had a positive run-difference in the month which they definitely did not in April and May. That’s baseball for you.

Overall, this is a pretty middling Pirates lineup. Josh Bell has been an unholy monster of course, and he killed the Cubs when he was struggling. But other than him, the only regulars to be above average at the plate are Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman, both newcomers on he scene. If you can believe it, Gregory Polanco is hurt again and so is Francisco Cervelli, so those grounders just past short that always seem to drive in two runs from him won’t be a feature this holiday week. Marte has made a lot of contact as usual but it doesn’t really result in much. Cory Dickerson returned from the IL in June and has actually hit, so he’s been a boost and has made left field his.

Guess what? The rotation isn’t that impressive either! That’s Pirates baseball, baby! They’ve missed Jameson Taillon, who looks unlikely to pitch again this year as they’re being awfully careful with the Tommy John survivor. Archer isn’t missing bats as much as giving up more fly balls these days, which in 2019 baseball means you’re getting crushed. Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove have been ok, with the former barely walking anyone. They’ve had to jumble it in the back with nine different guys making starts in June, with the occasional use of an opener.

Like most go-nowhere teams, they’ve had trouble bridging to their closer in Felipe Vasquez. Richard Rodriguez is on a heater with a scoreless June. But Francisco Liriano has been awful of late, Kyle Crick has no idea where the ball is going, and the rest of the crew is the normal gunk you find in a bullpen for a non-contending team.

For the Cubs, Kyle Hendricks will return tomorrow night from shoulder knack that the Cubs are most certainly not rushing him back from in the wake of Cole Hamels‘s injury. Nope, not at all. Ideally, this is the only outing Hendricks will have before the break, and it’ll be a good 10 days before his next one to clear up any lingering problems, if there are any. Alzolay will get another look tonight and if all goes well he could close out the Sox series. Jason Heyward’s latest flare-up at the plate has seen him move up to fifth in the order, which has always gone well in the past of course.

The Cubs caught a bad break with Hamels going down on Friday and leaving the pen to cover eight innings. But at some point, they either need to get going to we’ll just have to live with this being what they are. I’m not there yet, so enough bullshit. Let’s go.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 44-37   Reds 36-42

GAMETIMES: Friday 6:10, Saturday 3:10, Sunday 12:10

TV: WGN Friday, ABC Saturday, NBCSN Sunday

SONS OF LARKIN: Blog Red Machine

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Cole Hamels vs. Sonny Gray

Jose Quintana vs. Luis Castillo

Jon Lester vs. Anthony DeSclafani

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Willson Contreras – C

Jason Heyward – RF

David Bote – 2B

Albert Almora Jr. – CF

PROBABLE REDS LINEUP

Nick Senzel – CF

Joey Votto – 1B

Eugenio Suarez – 3B

Yasiel Puig – RF

Jose Iglesias – SS

Scooter Gennett – 2B

Phillip Irvin – LF

Curt Casali – C

 

The Cubs begin the second-half of the season in the bouncy-castle that is The Great American Ballpark. Get ready for Darth Eugenio for the weekend. There’s no avoiding it.

The Reds have been bipolar of late. They swept the Astros on the road (an admittedly short-staffed ‘Stros but still), and then took the first two from the Brewers in Milwaukee. But then they lost the last two, and then were clocked by the Angels at home for two games, scoring one run in each. All in all it’s been a pretty disappointing June for the Redlegs, as they’ve gone 9-12 after a 15-13 May. Their metrics still suggest they should be far above where they are, but it’s getting a bit late to keep claiming that. Still, a good showing against the Northside Nine this weekend would give June something of a hint of gloss.

In the month, the offense for the Reds has dried up. Those of you waiting on the Derek Dietrich bubble to burst can rejoice, as he managed a 66 wRC+ in June with a glittering .277 wOBA. Only Votto and Puig have pulled their weight the last three weeks, with part-time dash from Jesse Winker. The Reds are in fact last in runs in June, but that’s never stopped them from clubbing the Cubs over the head at that spaceport of a park.

The rotation is moving the wrong direction as well. Anthony DeSclafani has been great in the month, with a 2.40 FIP. Tanner Roark has been on the upside of his usual performance, but Sonny Gray can’t find the plate again and Luis Castillo has been so wayward he’s being picked up by air traffic control. The only thing keeping Castillo’s ERA from blowing up is he still strikes out a ton of batters and some Righteous BABIP Kung Fu Treachery of .208. Gray has not been so lucky, which is why his ERA is over 5.00. The Cubs will see them both, and patience is the order of the day when they do.

Like it’s been with the Reds all season, you should probably do the work against the starters because they do have a very good pen. David Hernandez, Michael Lorenzen and his jersey that’s holding on for dear life, Amir Garrett, and Jared Hughes have all been lights-out over the past couple weeks, so the Cubs recent habit of falling behind by multiple runs is not the way to go about this weekend at all. Given the state of the Reds offense right now, that isn’t a huge ask from the Cubs rotation. But again, dumb things tend to happen at this park, and we don’t mean the food.

It’s now the second half, and while the Cubs usually wait until after the break to really get going, there’s no reason to not to start now. Both the Reds and Pirates are moving backwards, and by the time they get to the Southside to close it out the Sox might not even be able to field a team. They sort of muddled through the first half. And maybe that’s what they are. Still, July’s schedule is S-A-W-F-T, and if they’re ever going to kick to another gear and open up some ground, it’s right now.

Enough of this shit. Time to make the chimi-fucking-changas.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Braves 46-32   Cubs 42-35

GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday 7:05, Thursday 1:20

TV: NBCSN Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, WGN Wednesday

BABY DRIVER EXTRAS: Talking Chop

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Julio Teheran vs. Jon Lester

Max Fried vs. Adbert Alzolay

Dallas Keuchel vs. Yu Darvish

TBD vs. Tyler Chatwood

PROBABLE BRAVES LINEUP

Ronald Acuna Jr. – CF

Dansby Swanson – SS

Freddie Freeman – 1B

Josh Donaldson – 3B

Nick Markakis – RF

Austin Riley – LF

Ozzie Albies – 2B

Tyler Flowers – C

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Willson Contreras – C

Jason Heyward – CF

David Bote – 2B

Carlos Gonzalez – RF

 

So, you’ve kind of biffed a long homestand, and now you need to ace the last series to have a successful one. Nothing better than having to face the National League’s hottest team to do it, right? The Braves are 16-5 in June, have surged to the top of the NL East and have kind of hid from the Phillies with a 6.5-game gap. So that’s who the Cubs have to grab at least three of four from to claim what they should have from 10 games at the Friendly Confines.

So how did the Braves pull an Easy Goer on the outside in the division this month? Well, pretty much everything. The offense has gone plaid, led by Freddie Freeman, who’s got a 1.157 OPS in the month. Ozzie Albies has recovered from a slow start, and Tyler Flowers has been mashing as well. In fact, the only two regulars who don’t have a .900+ OPS in June are Dansby Swanson and Nick Markakis. So yeah, that’s six guys tearing the ass off the baseball the past three weeks.

The rotation hasn’t been far behind, though it has some injury issues. Kevin Gausman has landed on the shelf, and Mike Soroka was pulled from his last start. Given that he’s only 21, any tweak to his arm is going to be treated like ebola. Mike Foltynewicz was so bad this year he was sent down. So the Braves have Teheran, Fried, and Keuchel ready to go today and a bunch of questions. The Cubs might see Touki Toussaint slide into the rotation for a bit, depending on how the injuries turn out.

The pen has been a touch rocky. Anthony Swarzak and Luke Jackson have been dominant, with the latter taking the closer’s role. Toussaint has been able to dance through the fire of his nearly five walks per nine, but that won’t last. Beyond that it’s been an adventure. Jacob Webb doesn’t strike many out nor get ground balls, but has a 1.77 ERA. One wonders just how long he can keep that up.

For the Cubs, they’ll give Alzolay his first start in the majors on Tuesday, and give Chatwood a full week before starting again on Thursday. The Cubs don’t have a day off until July 5th, so they’ll likely stick with six starters until then and keep Hendricks on ice until after the All-Star Break. Hopefully this is the start of Bote getting a run at second base with no bullshit breaks for Descalso or Russell. If we can get that, I’ll live with the Carlos Gonzalez experience.

It’s a rough week, because backing up the Braves is probably the other hottest team in the league, non-Dodgers division, in the Reds on the road. They’ve been annoying as fuck for the Cubs as is, so this week shapes up as a nasty test. Let’s get through it.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: White Sox 36-38   Red Sox 42-37

GAMETIMES: Monday and Tuesday 6:10, Wednesday 12:05

TV: WGN Monday, NBCSN Tuesday and Wednesday

YOUR SITUATION WOULD BE CONCURRENTLY IMPROVED: Over The Monster

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Lucas Giolito vs. Eduardo Rodriguez

TBA vs. David Price

Reynaldo Lopez vs. Chris Sale

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – CF

Tim Anderson – SS

Jose Abreu – 1B

James McCann – C

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Jon Jay – RF

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Yonder Alonso – DH

Jose Rondon – 2B

PROBABLE RED SOX LINEUP

Mookie Betts – RF

Andrew Benintendi – LF

J.D. Martinez – DH

Rafael Devers – 3B

Xander Bogaerts – SS

Brock Holt – 2B

Michael Chavis – 1B

Jackie Bradley Jr. – CF

Christian Vazquez – C

 

The White Sox continue their road sojourn, which makes total sense by going from Wrigley to Dallas to Boston, where they’ll serve as the pre-London offering to the Red Sox, who can’t quite seem to get going yet this year. And they may be running out of time.

The Sox are eight games behind the Yankees, and considering all the injuries the Yanks have had that are starting to clear up, it’s hard to envision them playing at a pace at any point that would make them an easier catch. Which means the Red Sox are going to have to get atmospheric, which they were last year but can’t seem to find this year. And while it’s easy to say they’ll just get the coin-flip game, they’re not really clear of Cleveland, Texas, or Oakland to say that’s a sure thing either.

So what’s up here? It’s nothing major so much as everything not being quite as tuned as it was last year. Well, there’s one major problem but we’ll get to that. The offense is good, and in terms of on-base and weighted on-base still one of the AL’s best. It hasn’t resulted in as many runs as you might think, as they’re only fifth in that. We went over how Mookie isn’t getting everything to fall this year, but that’s not the only culprit. J.D. Martinez has struggled to hit the heights of last year as well, Mitch Moreland has been hurt turning first base into something of an abyss, and Benintendi has slipped a touch as well. It’s a good lineup still, it’s just not all the weapons piled on each other in Punisher-like fashion as it was. Of late, Brock Holt, Bradley, and Bogaerts have turned it on to at least get the Carmines over .500.

As for the rotation, the fifth spot has been a wandering bag of suck since Eovaldi went on the shelf, but you can live with that. Sale has gotten past his early-season whathaveyas to be his normal self and is striking out nearly 14 hitters per nine innings. Price has been back to the form the Sox signed four years ago with an emphasis on grounders. I’m fairly sure Rick Porcello is nothing special but he seems to grind out wins for them, and Eduardo Rodriguez takes up space. Sadly for the Pale Hose, they’ll get both Price and Sale on this one.

The pen was a real problem early in the season for the BoSox, but has straightened out to the point they’re top five in ERA and FIP from the relievers in the AL. Barnes, Workman, and Walden have been strikeout weapons, though the first two have some serious walk issues. Same goes for Heath Hembree. There’s been more traffic than anyone is comfortable with for sure.

For the Chicago version of the Sox, they’ll welcome Jon Jay into the lineup for the first time since he got hurt trying to recruit Manny Machado and instead sold him on San Diego. You might think that’ll end the cavalcade of dunces in right, but Jay himself is sort of a dunce so don’t count on it. His reinstatement caused the Odrisamer Desgpaigne era to end, and we know you’re heartbroken. That leaves two gaps in the Sox rotation, and no starter for Tuesday, so we’ll find out with the rest of you we guess.

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Nationals 30-35   White Sox 31-33

GAMETIMES: Monday and Tuesday at 7:10

TV: WGN Monday, NBCSN Tuesday

NOT THE EXPOS: Federal Baseball

PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS

Anibal Sanchez vs. Odrisamer Despaigne

Patrick Corbin vs. TBA

PROBABLE NATIONALS LINEUP

Trea Turner – SS

Adam Eaton – RF

Anthony Rendon – 3B

Juan Soto – LF

Howie Kendrick – 1B

Matt Adams – DH

Brian Dozier – 2B

Gerardo Parra – CF

Yan Gomes – C

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – CF

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – DH

James McCann – C

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Yonder Alonso – 1B

Tim Anderson – SS

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

Charlie Tilson – RF

 

The Sox and Nats finish out what is essentially a split four-game series the next two nights, leaving the Sox with the rare Wednesday off before the Yankees and all their fans smelling of sauerkraut show up for four through the weekend. In the interim, the Nationals spent the weekend in San Diego, splitting four with the Padres. That included hitting four consecutive homers off Craig Stammen yesterday to get a win, and it’s not like Stammen is on my fantasy team or anything and I’m not bitter at all.

It continued a soft push toward the middle for the Nats, who have won 11 of their last 15 since getting swept by the Mets. They’re still not really close to .500, much less ready to push the Braves or Philies, but they’re at least not loitering down with the Marlins as they were.

The offense has tuned up for them, as all of Kendrick, Rendon, Dozier, Suzuki, and Soto are on fire the past couple weeks. The Sox will know all about Suzuki, who has seemingly been the hitting version of Bruce Chen to them for his entire career, no matter where he’s plying his trade. That’s the last thing the Sox need right now.

The Sox will get another face-full of Anibal Sanchez, who pretty much rubbed their ass in the moonshine last out in DC. They’ll also get a first look at Patrick Corbin, who has been chum in his last two starts, giving up nine runs over 7.2 innings to the Reds and Padres. But on his day he can make you look pretty dumb.

As always with the Nats, their bridge to Sean Doolittle is rickety and unstable, and is pretty much the Tacoma Narrows bridge. Of late, Tanner Rainey, Matt Grace, and Wander Suero has held down the fort ok, and if that continues the Nationals have it in them to make a run in the NL East. Especially as the Phillies haven’t really gotten away.

For the Sox, they’ll continue to refuse to call Dylan Cease up even though Dylan Covey is now on the IL and they’re on their like 12th starter. So the wonderfully named Odrisamer Despaigne will get the call to bring his underwhelming repertoire to Comiskey, and to call him a journeyman would be something of a disservice. The Sox are his fifth organization in five years, perfecting the “have arm, will travel” career arc. He’s a seat-filler, but that’s apparently what the Sox think they need right now. They don’t have anyone listed for Tuesday night, so we could all be in for the Manny Banuelos experience again.

In other moves, Jace Fry is also on the IL and Nicky Delmonico was released to follow The Backstreet Boys on tour, as is his destiny.

A weird two-gamer before the always anticipated visit of the Yanks. Off we go.

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 37-27   Rockies 33-31

GAMETIMES: Monday and Tuesday 7:40, Wednesday 2:10

TV: NBCSN Monday and Wednesday, WGN Tuesday

PROBABLY HAVE NEVER HEARD OF JOE WALSH: Purple Row

PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS

Yu Darvish vs. German Marquez

Jose Quintana vs. Peter Lambert

Cole Hamels vs. Antonio Senzatela 

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Victor Caratini – C

Addison Russell – 2B

Carlos Gonzalez – RF

Jason Heyward – CF

PROBABLE ROCKIES LINEUP

Charlie Blackmon – RF

Trevor Story – SS

David Dahl – CF

Nolan Arenado – 3B

Daniel Murphy – 1B

Raimel Tapia – LF

Ryan McMahon – 2B

Tony Wolters – C

 

After a successful homestand that seemed to wash away the struggles of the previous week, the Cubs head out on a not particularly pleasant road trip. The first stop is the baseball funhouse that is Coors Field, where the hope is to get out alive as much as winning the series. Something stupid always happens during the course of these, and it feels like there’s almost always at least one 13-11 loss where the lead changes with every half inning starting in the 6th. The Cubs will do their best to avoid that, as the Brewers aren’t going anywhere.

The Rocky Tops spent the interim between these series with a weekend in Queens (what a fate), losing two of three to the mystery box Mets. But hey, sometimes you just get Thor’d and Matz’d, even if the latter’s elbow is made of wishes and dreams at this point. That’s the annoying thing about the Mets. The Cubs will worry about that next week, though.

The Cubs will get another look at Peter Lambert, whom they didn’t have an answer for at Wrigley and helped the Rockies avoid a sweep. The difference this time around is they’ll also see Antonio Senzatela, who’s had a small home run problem, which is actually a big problem. They got past German Marquez last week, and will have to do so again tonight which is generally not what you’d choose.

The Rockies are in something of a tough spot. The Dodgers are already over the hills and far away, and barring something completely inexplicable they won’t be caught. The deficit is 11 games. Which leaves them wondering just how hard to push for a coin-flip spot, which would be their third in a row. It got them…well, a quick exit last year, and they assuredly had higher hopes this time around. But are you giving up assets for half a playoff spot? You wouldn’t think so, and there’s plenty of competition with whichever of the Cubs or Brewers don’t get there, the Braves, if the Nats can ever get their head out of their ass, and the Diamondbacks are ahead of them as we speak.

As strange as it might sound, the Rockies could probably use another bat or two. The numbers make it look better than it is thanks to altitude, but they have holes in center, left, and the right side of the infield because Daniel Murphy is very crisp at the moment. Getting David Dahl more playing time would help, and they’re going to try and stick him in center and hold their nose and hope nothing explodes. He did play there in the minors, and maybe the improvement in his bat is enough to keep Ian Desmond on the bench, as one of the more boneheaded signings in recent memory.

The Rockies should be putting up boxcar numbers every night. Right now they only put up good ones. If Gray can avoid blister problems they probably have enough in the rotation and pen to make a run at the coin flip spot, but that is just about the height of their expectations right now.

For the Cubs, they’ll just try and not have a shredded pitching staff to roll into Los Angeles with, which is the last place you’d want to do that. Joe Maddon will give Carlos Gonzalez at least one start you’d think in his old stomping ground, which…fine. Just not going to waste the breath. There will also be a game where he deploys the hands team in the outfield for the whole thing because he might have to. Yu Darvish looks for an actual decision this time, maybe even a win.

These are always silly. Try and enjoy the ride.

 

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Rockies 31-27   Cubs 32-26

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

TV: NBCSN Tuesday and Thursday, WGN Wednesday

THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU’RE DEAD: Purple Row

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Jeff Hoffman vs. Kyle Hendricks

Geman Marquez vs. Yu Darvish

Jon Gray vs. Jose Quintana

PROBABLE ROCKIES LINEUP

Raimel Tapia – LF

Trevor Story – SS

David Dahl – RF

Nolan Arenado – 3B

Daniel Murphy – 1B

Ryan McMahon – 2B

Ian Desmond – CF

Tony Wolters – C

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Carlos Gonzalez – RF

Victor Caratini – C

Jason Heyward – CF

Addison Russell – 2B

 

And so the return. The last time the Purple were in Wrigley, the Cubs were watching a second team in as many nights celebrate on their field, having managed two runs over some 22 innings. It was quite the piece of performance art. The Rockies come in this time around the hottest team in baseball, having won nine of their last 10 and eight in a row. While you first think of them having got off to a horrendous start and languishing somewhere in the desert of the pointless, they’re only one game worse off than the Cubs. They’re just in the wrong division. But if we’re doing wild card chases already, and I guess we are, they’re right in the thick of it.

The schedule certainly did the Rockies a favor over this last stretch. One they were at home, and two they were playing some of the more punchable teams around. Lineup the Orioles, Diamondbacks, and Blue Jays in front of anyone able to remain upright for a good hour and you’re probably going to get that team some wins. But hey, can only play who is in front of you and all that.

As you might imagine, the offense got pretty healthy over that stretch, piling up 22 runs in three games against the Jays, 26 over four against Arizona, and 22 against the Os over three. Nolan Arenado and Trevor Storey are particularly hot, with the former batting near .500 over the past two weeks and the latter the latest player of the week in the NL. Coming in behind them is David Dahl, subbing for the injured Chuck Nasty, at .420 the past 14 days. Basically everyone with a bat is feeling pretty good about themselves, though overall catcher, first, and second have been dark spots for them. And Dahl should be playing every day somewhere, but the need to cram Ian Desmond into the lineup due to his paycheck and Blackmon’s inability to cover center anymore is another complication.

The Cubs will sadly see the two best starters the Rockies have in Gray and Marquez. They won’t get to see Freeland this time around, who’s been a grade-school chemistry experiment all season. Gray has had some home run problems, but then so does every Rockies pitcher (except for Marquez it seems). Starting it all off will be some dude named Jeff Hoffman, who has an ERA over 7.00 but can’t get a slice of luck or anyone to catch anything for him anywhere.

Much like last year, the Rockies’ pen has been the real key for them, even though they strike out less than anyone. They rank fourth and fifth in the NL in ERA and FIP (somehow right behind the Cubs if you can believe it). Wade Davis isn’t around at the moment, but Bryan Shaw, Scott Oberg, and Chad Bettis are holding down the fort just fine.

For the Cubs, they’ll welcome back Pedro Strop, who might be carried in like a Roman emperor given the state of everything right now. They got a healthy turn through the rotation and are back to Hendricks who kicked it off in Houston last Wednesday, and that’s really the key for the Cubs. When they get good starts, they’re good, and everything else settles in behind it. This is not the easiest stretch by any means, as a home date with the Cards is sandwiched with all the Rockies games of the season, and that’s followed by four in Chavez Ravine to play those aliens. Better kick it up a gear now or it could be a problem.

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: White Sox 29-30   Nationals 26-33

GAMETIMES: Tuesday 6:05, Wednesday 12:05

TV: WGN Tuesday, NBCSN Wednesday

WHAT A BUNCH OF CLOWNS: Federal Baseball

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Reynaldo Lopez vs. Stephen Strasburg

Dylan Covey vs. Anibal Sanchez

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – CF

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – 1B

James McCann – C

Tim Anderson – SS

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Charlie Tilson – RF

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

PROBABLE NATS LINEUP

Trea Turner – SS

Adam Eaton – RF

Anthony Rendon – 3B

Juan Soto – LF

Howie Kendrick – 2B

Matt Adams – 1B

Victor Robles – CF

Yan Gomes – C

 

Within touching distance now of .500, the Sox head to the nation’s capital for a series that will be over in a matter of 20 hours or so. Such is the “beauty” of interleague play, which will also leave the Sox with two off-days in the same week, which is much preferable to having another one in August I’m sure. The Sox could leave and be heading to KC with an above-water mark, and you would think the Nationals would be the perfect candidate for that kind of propulsion. However, the lights may just be starting to flicker on for the Nats, though there’s still a long way to go.

Since getting domed in Queens by the Mets for four straight, and being right around where the Marlins are which is how you definitely know you should have taken a right at Albuquerque, the Nationals have taken seven of nine as the schedule has unquestionably lightened up on them. In that span they’ve gotten to play the Marlins, Braves, and Reds, though the latter two aren’t pushovers.

The bats have seem to awakened a bit for Washington, as other than Turner and Robles everyone has turned on the past two weeks. Juan Soto especially has been a beacon of destruction of late.

The rotation is always going to be good, and the Sox will only have to see one-third of the magic troika at the top in the form of Stephen Strasburg. Max Scherzer is basically running the team now and struck out 15 Reds on Sunday, so the Sox will avoid that hell. Anibal Sanchez has lost all of the control that made him special, or at least good, in the past but remains behind the first three due to a lack of other options. Show some patience there.

The bullpen has been where the real issues are, as the Nationals have been unable to find any bridge to closer Sean Doolittle all season, and basically last as well. They can’t even find a float there. No one other than Doolittle is carrying an ERA under 4.50, and you know it’s bad when one of your relievers keeps ending up on Deadspin for his performance as Trevor Rosenthal managed. Of late, Matt Grace and Tanner Rainey have managed to at least to keep fires from becoming infernos, though a heavy use of Rainey last week sent more quizzical looks at manager Dave Martinez. There’s still a lot of gasoline here.

The Nationals shouldn’t be here, and are another bad week or two from either firing Martinez, blowing it all up and selling at the deadline, or both. This team’s cycle seems like it’s on the back side if not at the end, though they’re paying those three pitchers so much you feel like they always have to go for it. Still feels like something broke here though that can’t be fixed for a while.

For the Sox, they’re going to do everyone a favor and use the extra off-day to skip Manny Banuelos in the rotation and keep the air somewhat breathable. Lopez will be happy to see May over, and will face the team that sent him to the Sox for the first time. Covey will attempt to build on a win for the first time since dinosaurs, or so it seemed, with that coming on Friday vs. Cleveland.

Not that the Sox have that big of aims for this year, but seven games against the sputtering Nats and unfortunate Royals this close to .500 is pretty enticing.