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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Rockies Javier Baez Series Preview

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After a successful stop in Los Angeles, the Cubs finish off their six-game road trip in Colorado with their final three games of the year against the Rockies... with a certain new player on the roster.

Normally there would be a Rockies picture here, but there's some news that you may not have heard.
Normally there would be a Rockies picture here, but there's some news that you may not have heard.
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

One week ago, the Cubs were playing the Colorado Rockies for the first time this season. One week later, they are finishing their season series with the Rockies, and not much has changed since the first time these teams met.

Well, other than the entire Javier Baez thing. But I'm sure nobody noticed that.

After a 2-1 series win in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, the Cubs' record stands at 47-63 and they are 3½ games in front of the Rockies (44-67) in the National League cellar race as a result of a ragged 1-6 road trip for Colorado, a trip that included a three-game sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers. The Rockies, however, are a much better team at home with a 27-28 home record compared to a 17-39 road record. Combine that with the Cubs' 22-36 record on the road and things probably will look a bit different than they did last week at Wrigley Field. The Cubs lost two out of three last year at Coors Field and are a nightmarish 2-10 there since 2010.

LIKELY PITCHING MATCHUPS:

Tuesday: Travis Wood (7-9, 5.10 ERA, 1.535 WHIP) vs. Brett Anderson (1-3, 3.12 ERA, 1.388 WHIP)
Wednesday: Jake Arrieta (6-2, 2.11 ERA, 0.990 WHIP) vs. Jordan Lyles (5-1, 3.52 ERA, 1.304 WHIP)
Thursday: Kyle Hendricks (2-1, 2.05 ERA, 1.063 WHIP) vs. Franklin Morales (5-6, 5.14 ERA, 1.616 WHIP)

It's hard to believe, but the Cubs will be facing two Rockies starters in this series that they didn't face a week ago. Lyles is expected to return from the 60-day disabled list after throwing 4⅔ scoreless innings on July 30 for Triple-A Colorado Springs. He had been out since June 4 with a broken hand. The Cubs also did not face Morales in their first meeting as he had started the game before against Pittsburgh. The matchup between Wood and Anderson is an encore of their matchup from July 30; it was the only game the Cubs lost in the four-game series at Wrigley.

THE OFFENSE:

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

  • Corey Dickerson, OF, .923
  • Drew Stubbs, CF, .861
  • Justin Morneau, 1B, .838
  • Josh Rutledge, SS, .813
  • Charlie Blackmon, OF, .793
  • Nolan Arenado, 3B, .785

The two major changes in the Rockies lineup since last Thursday are the return of Rutledge, who missed most of the last series with an upper respiratory infection, and a potential scratch in Carlos Gonzalez who left last Friday's game against Detroit with a sprained ankle. He is not yet on the disabled list, but is questionable for Tuesday night's game and is listed as day-to-day for the series. As I had mentioned last week, the Rockies are a much more dangerous team at home offensively, with a .316 average and .877 OPS at home as compared to a .238 average and .661 OPS on the road.

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

  • Anthony Rizzo, .906 (.900)
  • Chris Coghlan, .844 (.863)
  • Luis Valbuena, .779 (1.056)
  • Justin Ruggiano, .762 (.549)
  • Starlin Castro, .751 (.691)

Valbuena continues to have the hot hand, knocking out his ninth and tenth homers of the year in the Los Angeles series to move back into third on the over-.750 list. Castro put together an impressive 7-for-12 series against the Dodgers to reclaim his membership card while Arismendy Alcantara drops out for now, sitting on the other side of the red rope at .730.

Oh, and did you hear that Javier Baez is joining the team for this series?

GAME PROJECTIONS:

Game 1: There were a lot of baserunners allowed the last time that Wood and Anderson met, with Anderson allowing 11 hits over seven innings and Wood giving up eight hits and two walks in six innings. Only two runs were scored off of Anderson, though, while Wood gave up four, making five straight outings in which Wood has allowed four or more runs and eight straight in which he has allowed three or more. Maybe some of the magic of the good outing from Edwin Jackson will find its way to Wood for tonight. Then again, maybe not.

Game 2: Prior to his broken hand, Lyles had been putting up very impressive numbers, allowing two runs or less in eight of his 12 starts. Along with his scoreless rehab stint on July 30, he also pitched 3⅔ scoreless innings on July 26 for High-A Modesto. Arrieta now has 11 games in a row in which he has allowed three runs or less, including two or less in nine of those starts. This will be his first appearance ever at Coors Field; hopefully the thin air won't affect him.

Game 3: After spending the entire month of June in the bullpen, Morales will be making his sixth start since returning to the rotation at the beginning of July. He hasn't given up a lot of runs -- allowing three or less in four of his previous five starts -- but he has given up a lot of baserunners, including at least four walks in each of his last three outings. Hendricks continues to be impressive each time he takes the mound, and hopefully that run will continue here.

RUSS' PREDICTION: This is a tough call. The pitching matchups favor Colorado on Tuesday and the Cubs on Wednesday, with a win in Thursday's outing being again heavily dependent on Hendricks' continued success. Then there's the power of the Rockies offense at Coors Field to factor in. But despite those factors, I'm going 2-1 on this series because of the goofy unscientific power of intangibles. Namely, in case you missed it, the debut of Javier Baez.

NEXT STOP: It's back to Wrigley for a rough seven-game homestand that begins with three games of interleague play against the resurgent Tampa Bay Rays. I won't even throw in a pun about how they're Price-less now. (Oh, wait.)