I have to admit; I didn't watch a lot of the All-Star game. I started watching somewhere around the sixth inning, meaning that I basically missed everything. Except for watching Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro strike out. So I had that going for me.
Ah, well... back to real baseball. And the Cubs get to start it out against the team with the worst record in the National League in the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona comes into the series with a record of 40-56, one game worse than the Cubs at 40-54. Upon looking at the standings today, I was very surprised to learn that the Diamondbacks do not have the worst record in all of baseball, and I was even more surprised to learn that the team that does is the Texas Rangers (38-57). Yikes. This will be the final time the Cubs face Arizona this season after splitting a four-game series at Wrigley Field in late April. The Cubs split a four-game series at Chase Field last year and are 8-6 there since 2010.
LIKELY PITCHING MATCHUPS:
Friday: Edwin Jackson (5-10, 5.64 ERA, 1.576 WHIP) vs. Trevor Cahill (1-6, 5.66 ERA, 1.742 WHIP)
Saturday: Travis Wood (7-8, 4.96 ERA, 1.491 WHIP) vs. Wade Miley (5-6, 4.18 ERA, 1.236 WHIP)
Sunday: Jake Arrieta (5-1, 1.95 ERA, 1.009 WHIP) vs. Josh Collmenter (7-5, 3.80 ERA, 1.275 WHIP)
The Diamondbacks offense features three starters whose OPS is currently at or above .750:
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, .949
- David Peralta, LF, .801
- Miguel Montero, C, .760
Arizona currently has two of their bigger bats on the disabled list in A.J. Pollock (.920 OPS) and Chris Owings (.771 OPS). Their primary replacements have not been able to put up the same offensive numbers that they have, with Didi Gregorius posting a .727 OPS in place of Owings and Ender Inciarte posting a very sluggish .537 OPS in Pollock's spot. Goldschmidt has been Arizona's hottest bat over the past two weeks, hitting 10-for-32 with six walks and a 1.015 OPS, and Martin Prado has also been doing well with an .869 OPS over the same time span.
The list on the Cubs' side (with last two weeks in parentheses):
- Anthony Rizzo, .879 (.778)
- Chris Coghlan, .832 (1.415)
- Justin Ruggiano, .815 (.931)
- Starlin Castro, .766 (.475)
- Luis Valbuena, .750 (.419)
The hot hand for the Cubs currently belongs to Coghlan, who has been on an absolute tear since the beginning of July. For comparison purposes, his average on July 1 was .206 and his OPS was .607. He has added 69 points to his average and 225 to his OPS since then, and he has hit safely in every game in July except for an 0-for-4 performance on July 9 at Cincinnati. Valbuena is barely hanging on to his membership and he has been ice cold the entire month of July, going 6-for-40 in his last 13 games.
While he won't be returning for this series, Emilio Bonifacio is getting closer to coming back to the big club, currently continuing his rehab stint at Double-A Tennessee. Arismendy Alcantara will be staying with the big club through at least the Arizona series and will likely get a chance to prove that he should stay much longer than that. There will be moves to be made, though, as the Cubs currently don't have starting pitchers for either of the first two games of the next series. What those moves are might not be known until this series is over and the Cubs are on their way out of town.
Game 1: Yuck. That's about all there is to it. This will be Cahill's first big-league start since April 13, and there's a reason for that: All of his starts were bad. Well, except the one on April 2 against San Francisco. He's spent the last month pitching at Triple-A Reno, posting a 2-2 record with a 3.49 ERA in six starts. As for Jackson... who knows. Maybe the time off from the All-Star break will trigger something positive. Now pardon me as I walk outside and look to the sky for airborne pigs.
Game 2: The battle of the southpaws doesn't look too good from the Cubs' point of view as Miley has had three very solid starts in a row, all on the road. Wood just hasn't been the same pitcher this year and only has one game with a game score over 50 in his last nine starts. He has allowed three runs or more in each of his last five appearances.
Game 3: And here's the pitchers' duel. In four of Collmenter's last five starts he has allowed one run in each of them. His Fourth of July start at Atlanta didn't go as well, giving up 11 hits and five runs in six innings. As for Arrieta, the three runs that he gave up in his last outing against Atlanta was the first time since May 27 that he allowed more than two runs in a start.
RUSS' PREDICTION: 2-1. It just has to be. Anything less would be disappointing.
NEXT STOP: The Cubs come back home for 10 games, starting off with a three-game set against the San Diego Padres.