On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Marlins Series Preview

Dog pile on McGehee! - Rob Foldy

The Cubs finish their journey through Pennsylvania on a high note and now head to Florida to complete their season series with the Miami Marlins.

After a couple of shaky starts, Travis Wood came back with a gem, giving up only three hits over eight innings as the Cubs shut out the Philadelphia Phillies 3-0 in the final game of the three-game series. With the win, the Cubs finally won their first road series of the year and their record now stands at 28-39. They once again escape the National League basement, with the Arizona Diamondbacks (30-42) returning to the cellar.

The Cubs now head down to Florida to complete their stretch of 20 out of 26 games on the road with their final series against the Miami Marlins after having faced them just over a week ago. Miami comes into the series with a 35-33 record, tied for second place in the NL East and one-half game back of the Atlanta Braves. The Cubs took three of four last year at Marlins Park and are 8-4 in Miami since 2010.

LIKELY PITCHING MATCHUPS:

Monday - Jason Hammel (6-4, 2.81 ERA, 0.984 WHIP) vs. Tom Koehler (5-5, 3.68 ERA, 1.277 WHIP)
Tuesday -
Jeff Samardzija (2-6, 2.77 ERA, 1.176 WHIP) vs. Jacob Turner (2-4, 6.38 ERA, 1.646 WHIP)
Wednesday - Jake Arrieta (2-1, 2.09 ERA, 1.256 WHIP) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (4-2, 3.71 ERA, 1.214 WHIP)

The only one of the three Marlin starters that the Cubs faced in the last series is Eovaldi, with the Cubs winning that game 5-3 on the back of a strong outing from Hammel. The game went 13 innings due to a ninth-inning meltdown from Hector Rondon with hits blooping all over the outfield, but Anthony Rizzo provided the heroics with a two-run shot in the 13th to end it. Also in that game, 33 strikeouts were recorded, which is a pretty crazy number even for a 13-inning game.

All three of the Cub starters in this series also pitched in the last series, with Samardzija and Arrieta both pitching extremely well. Only Samardzija recorded a win as the bullpen couldn't hold the game down for Arrieta, with Brian Schlitter and Pedro Strop both blowing leads en route to a 4-3 loss. Hopefully the pen will be a bit stronger this time around.

THE OFFENSE:

The Marlins offense features five starters whose OPS is currently at or above .750:

There have been a couple of changes to this list since the last times the teams met. Yelich and McGehee join the returning trio of Stanton, Jones, and Ozuna, and former entrant Derek Dietrich (2B, .773 OPS) falls off the list due to his return to Triple-A New Orleans. Playing in Dietrich's place have been Ed Lucas (.319 OBP, .629 OPS) and Rafael Furcal, who had last seen action in the major leagues in 2012. He had spent the entire season until now on the 60-day disabled list, battling both groin and hamstring strains. That doesn't sound like a good combination of strains to have if you ask me.

The list for the Cubs remains the same, with Rizzo continuing his climb and now holding a .915 OPS. Luis Valbuena remains in second at .842 and Starlin Castro surges back up to .787 after his 5-for-10 series against Philadelphia. Also worthy of note is the performance of Justin Ruggiano whose OPS has gone from .651 to .818 since returning from his hamstring injury.

GAME PROJECTIONS:

Game 1: Hammel's last start was his worst of the year, allowing 13 baserunners in just five innings in a 4-2 loss. He hadn't allowed a run in either of his previous two starts. Koehler had a very good start to the season but has been shaky in recent outings, allowing three or more runs in his last four starts and five or more in two of them. Hopefully Hammel's last start was just a blip and not the beginning of a return to the mean.

Game 2: Samardzija's stock has taken a hit as of late, with four runs or more allowed in three of his last four starts. Turner has only had two starts all year in which he has allowed less than four runs, and one of those starts was against San Diego. Pretty lopsided affair on paper, but as we know, the game's not played on paper. Unless it's Strat-O-Matic. Man, I miss playing that game.

Game 3: Arrieta has only allowed one run in his last 17⅔ innings of work and none in his last two starts. The same can't be said for Eovaldi, who got hit hard in his last start against Pittsburgh. His three previous starts were all good, though, so he could be due for a bounceback of his own here.

RUSS' PREDICTION: 1-2. The pitching matchups all seem to favor the Cubs in this one; however, the Marlins are very tough customers at home (23-13 home record) and they hit much better on their home turf (.275 AVG, .779 OPS) than they do on the road (.245 AVG, .672 OPS). If not for that, I'd probably vote for two wins here.

NEXT STOP: The Cubs come back home for a 10-game set, starting off with another three against the Pittsburgh Pirates. I wonder if anyone has figured out yet to not throw anything good to Andrew McCutchen.

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