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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Rockies Series Preview

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The 10-game homestand comes to a close as the Cubs play their first games of the season against the Colorado Rockies.

How many Rockies in this picture are NOT injured?
How many Rockies in this picture are NOT injured?
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Did you hear that sound? It was the basement door opening.

Despite a strong effort by Kyle Hendricks on Sunday, the Cubs couldn't find a way to push a run across the plate and lost 1-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals, bringing their record to 2-4 for the homestand and 42-61 for the season. The two consecutive losses to St. Louis pushed the Cubs back into the National League cellar by half a game, and they are ahead of only the Texas Rangers (41-64) and the Houston Astros (42-63) for the worst record in baseball.

If the Cubs want to walk away with a .500 homestand, they're going to have to find a way to win three games out of four against the previous cellar-dwellers of the National League, the Colorado Rockies (43-61). If there was one word to describe the Rockies, one of the best choices would probably be damaged. They currently have eight players on the disabled list, with three of those eight being on the 15-day version (Justin Morneau, Troy Tulowitzki, Boone Logan) and five on the 60-day version (Michael Cuddyer, Jordan Lyles, Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Chatwood, Christian Bergman). Of their eight injured players, six were on the opening-day roster and four are starting pitchers. Talk about being snakebitten.

LIKELY PITCHING MATCHUPS:

Monday: Yohan Flande (0-2, 7.20 ERA, 1.600 WHIP) vs. Tsuyoshi Wada (0-1, 5.00 ERA, 1.667 WHIP)
Tuesday: Jorge De La Rosa (11-6, 4.19 ERA, 1.284 WHIP) vs. Edwin Jackson (5-11, 5.76 ERA, 1.565 WHIP)
Wednesday: Brett Anderson (1-3, 3.24 ERA, 1.350 WHIP) vs. Travis Wood (7-9, 5.06 ERA, 1.529 WHIP)
Thursday: Tyler Matzek (2-4, 4.28 ERA, 1.372 WHIP) vs. Jake Arrieta (5-2, 2.18 ERA, 1.011 WHIP)

Fun Fact #1: The only starter in this group who has started all season for the Rockies is De La Rosa. Fun Fact #2: All five of the Rockies current starters are left-handed, with southpaw Franklin Morales (5.18 ERA, 1.613 WHIP) rounding out their current starting rotation. I guess this means we should be seeing a lot of Junior Lake the next four days.

As for the Rockies' bullpen... well, it's pretty horrendous.  They have one reliever with a WHIP under 1.10 in Tom Kahnle (2.77 ERA, 1.066 WHIP), and then comes the ageless-wonder-closer LaTroy Hawkins (3.09 ERA, 1.200 WHIP) and Adam Ottavino (3.97 ERA, 1.257 WHIP). After that, the bullpen pretty much falls off of a cliff. As a unit, their bullpen is last in the National League in ERA (4.85) and WHIP (1.454), and in both cases it's not really even close.

THE OFFENSE:

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

  • Corey Dickerson, LF, .973
  • Drew Stubbs, CF, .855
  • Josh Rutledge, 2B/SS, .844
  • Charlie Blackmon, RF, .815
  • Nolan Arenado, 3B, .790

The one thing that the Rockies do extremely well is hit, leading the National League by a wide margin in runs per game (4.73), batting average (.282), slugging percentage (.453) and OPS (.785). As you would expect, the difference in home/road splits is quite drastic with an .877 home OPS compared to a .680 road OPS. Obviously the landscape changes a lot for the Rockies with both Morneau (.846 OPS) and Tulowitzki (1.035 OPS) out, but Rutledge and Ben Paulsen (1.208 OPS) have been doing quite well so far filling in for them.

The list on the Cubs' side (with last two weeks in parentheses):

  • Anthony Rizzo, .917 (1.363)
  • Justin Ruggiano, .807 (.718)
  • Chris Coghlan, .807 (.641)
  • Arismendy Alcantara, .766 (.531)

The hot start for Alcantara has started to tail off a bit, with a 2-for-12 series against St. Louis pushing him to the back of the over-.750 line. With Sunday's 0-for-4 performance, Starlin Castro has fallen back out of the club, currently sitting on the outside looking in at .746. Luis Valbuena is right next to him at .746 after a couple of games with clutch homers in the past week. Emilio Bonifacio has also been doing well, hitting 8-for-24 since returning from the disabled list.

GAME PROJECTIONS:

Game 1: This will be Flande's fifth start of his major-league career, and so far the first four have not gone all that well for him. He has not made it out of the sixth inning in any of his starts and has given up three runs or more in all four of them. Wada's last start was also forgettable, allowing five hits and four walks in four innings of work. Hopefully this start will look more the one he had in his debut against Cincinnati.

Game 2: After a rough month of June, De La Rosa has had a solid July, allowing two runs or less in all four of his July starts and winning three of the four in the process. As for Jackson, the "six innings or less, four runs or more" mantra has applied in three of his last four starts, with the exception being his start against Arizona where he only gave up three runs. Not much else to say, really.

Game 3: Anderson will be making his fourth start since returning from a broken finger and has had two good starts in a row, allowing a total of one run in those two starts spanning just over 13 innings of work. He did leave his last start with a blister on his throwing hand but it doesn't appear that he will miss his start as a result of it. As for Wood, it's getting to the point where the record is just as broken for him as it is for Jackson, if not worse. He hasn't won a game since the Philadelphia gem on June 15, and that start is getting farther and farther in the rear-view mirror.

Game 4: This is also Matzek's rookie season, and so far it hasn't been that bad for him. He has allowed three runs or less in his four starts on the road and pitched a gem in his last outing at home against Pittsburgh, allowing only three hits in seven scoreless innings. Arrieta continues to be steady, running his streak of three runs or less in a start to 10 after his last outing against St. Louis.

RUSS' PREDICTION: 2-2. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised with 1-3, sad to say. My confidence in Wood and Jackson is pretty well shot, and I'm not sure which Wada is going to show up yet. But I'll go with the split and a 4-6 homestand.

NEXT STOP: The Cubs head out on the road for six games, starting on the West Coast with their first three games of the year against the Los Angeles Dodgers.