It's déjà vu! All over again! Just like I called it! (Well, not really.)
Once again, the Cincinnati Reds bullpen coughed up a bunch of runs - six this time - and gave another win to Edwin Jackson as the Cubs split the rain-shortened series with a 9-4 win on Wednesday night. Maybe Jackson should just face Tony Cingrani for the rest of the year. It's worked twice so far. The Cubs finished the road trip at 2-3, bringing their overall record to 9-17, and today begin a five-game homestand beginning with a three-game set against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals enter this series with a 15-14 record after taking one of three at home from the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs are 1-2 against the Cardinals this year and were 4-5 against them in 2013 at Wrigley Field.
LIKELY PITCHING MATCHUPS:
Friday - Adam Wainwright (5-1, 1.20 ERA, 0.778 WHIP) vs. Travis Wood (1-3, 3.52 ERA, 1.337 WHIP)
Saturday - Michael Wacha (2-2, 2.48 ERA, 1.128 WHIP) vs. Jake Arrieta (NR)
Sunday - Lance Lynn (4-1, 3.60 ERA, 1.257 WHIP) vs. Jason Hammel (4-1, 2.08 ERA, 0.692 WHIP)
This will be the second time that the Cubs will face Wainwright and Wacha this year; they lost both games the first time around. In Wainwright's six starts this year, he has allowed zero runs in four of them. Needless to say, that doesn't bode too well. He's only allowed six runs all year, four of which he gave up to the Cubs. Wacha has allowed three runs or less in each of his six starts this year. The same can be said for Lynn, except for one start where he gave up five runs to Cincinnati. The trio has also combined for 126 strikeouts in just over 116 innings. Combine that with the Cubs'.223 average against right-handed pitching, and it would seem to be a recipe for disaster. Unless you like strikeouts, in which case it looks awesome!
With the off day and the rainout in the Reds' series, Wood will be moving up one slot in the rotation and Arrieta will be sliding in behind him. As an added bonus for Wood, he gets to face Wainwright. How lucky for him, huh?
The Cardinals' offense features four players whose OPS is currently at or above .750:
Offensive production has definitely been an issue for the Cardinals this year. Coming into Wednesday's game against Milwaukee, the Cardinals were 11th in the NL in runs scored and 13th in homers. A couple of their starters have been struggling at the plate (Allen Craig, .644; Peter Bourjos, .510) and their bench... well, it's been bad (Daniel Descalso, .364; Mark Ellis, .362; and yes, those are OPS numbers). If not for Molina, the Cards would probably be in a heap of trouble. Infielders Kolten Wong and Shane Robinson were recently sent down to the minors (OPSs of .544 and .317 will do that to you) to make way for Greg Garcia and Randal Grichuk, who were both putting up good numbers at AAA Memphis.
Don't look now, but the Cubs actually have four guys above .750! Anthony Rizzo's homer-plus-four-walk night brings his OPS to .864 (with an impressive .407 OBP); Starlin Castro climbs to .811; Welington Castillo also moves up to .803; and Emilio Bonifacio holds steady at .791. There must be an unwritten rule that the only players allowed to be hitting well are the ones whose last names end in "o". I'll have to check into that.
Somehow, I don't see Wainwright giving up four runs to the Cubs again. The game could be a low-scoring affair, though, as the Cardinals are only hitting .184 against left-handed pitching. Don't bet the over, basically. I'm sure Arrieta would have liked to make his first start against someone other than Wacha, but I guess that when given the choice of facing Wacha or Wainwright he got the better end of the deal. Once again, the Cubs' best chance for a win seems to be in the final game of the series. I'm still not sure how Hammel is pitching as well as he is, but I'll certainly give him credit for what he's done so far.
RUSS' PREDICTION: I have to stick with 1-2. And once again, I'll go with the final game. I'm most interested in the Arrieta / Wacha matchup, though, basically to see what Arrieta will do. No matter what, it can't be worse than Carlos Villanueva's performance against the Cardinals. Or at least let's hope not.
NEXT STOP: After the Cardinals head out of town, it's time for the Crosstown Classic as the Cubs will have a home-and-home with the White Sox. Did anyone see where the BP Cup went? I think someone was using it as a doorstop the last time I saw it...