I'm going to channel my inner Randy Quaid: I knew they'd sweep the Reds! I knew it all along!!
Not buying it, are you? I don't blame you. I've called 1-2 so many times this year -- incorrectly, I might add -- that I've lost count.
With 10 games left in the season, the Cubs now stand at 68-84 and they have moved back into seventh place in the reverse standings. The range of draft picks for 2015 remains wide open as they are three games ahead of the fourth-place Minnesota Twins (65-87) and 2½ games behind the 11th-place Cincinnati Reds (71-82). The "reverse" magic number, if you will, for one of the bottom three draft picks now stands at five, with the Arizona Diamondbacks (62-90) holding the third-place spot.
There's still a very good chance that the final 10 games of the season will hold playoff implications for all of the Cubs' opponents, starting out with the next four games against the Los Angeles Dodgers (86-66). Right now the Dodgers are in two separate chases: They are 1½ games behind the Washington Nationals (87-64) for the best record in the National League and they are only two games ahead of the San Francisco Giants (84-68) in the NL West. With the Giants playing seven of their last 10 games against the San Diego Padres and their other three against the Dodgers, it's safe to say that the Dodgers have a whole lot to play for in this series.
LIKELY PITCHING MATCHUPS:
Thursday: Zack Greinke (15-8, 2.64 ERA, 1.150 WHIP) vs. Tsuyoshi Wada (4-3, 3.34 ERA, 1.197 WHIP)
Friday: Clayton Kershaw (19-3, 1.70 ERA, 0.826 WHIP) vs. Edwin Jackson (6-14, 6.09 ERA, 1.619 WHIP)
Saturday: Roberto Hernandez (2-3, 4.76 ERA, 1.412 WHIP) vs. Felix Doubront (2-1, 1.50 ERA, 1.111 WHIP)
Sunday: Dan Haren (13-11, 4.14 ERA, 1.218 WHIP) vs. Jacob Turner (1-3, 6.93 ERA, 1.500 WHIP)
After I clicked to the Friday pitching probables on MLB.com and saw that matchup I needed about five minutes to stop laughing. Maybe ten. I mean, seriously, that's just not right. As for the others... this will be the first time this season that the Cubs will be facing Greinke. They last saw him on August 26, 2013 and needless to say it didn't go all that well. The Cubs have faced Hernandez twice this season when he was still with the Philadelphia Phillies and split the two games with a 2-1 win and a 7-2 loss. Haren is the only pitcher in this series that the Cubs will be facing for the second time as a Dodger; the Cubs roughed him up for seven runs in an 8-2 win on August 1, one of the two Cubs wins against the Dodgers this year.
The Dodgers currently have five starters whose OPS is at or above .750:
- Yasiel Puig, CF, .857
- Matt Kemp, RF, .834
- Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, .809
- Hanley Ramirez, SS, .805
- Juan Uribe, 3B, .773
Their backups are just as good if not a bit better, with Scott Van Slyke at .893 in 225 plate appearances and Justin Turner at .867 in 305 PAs. The Dodgers' hitting has been pretty deadly over the past week, with the team hitting .323 with an .878 OPS in their last six games. Ramirez has missed the past two games with an elbow strain, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is hoping that Ramirez will be back in this series.
Oh, and Darwin Barney has a .903 OPS with the Dodgers. Just in case you were wondering.
The list on the Cubs' side (with last two weeks in parentheses):
- Jorge Soler, 1.155 (.831)
- Anthony Rizzo, .895 (1.333)
- Luis Valbuena, .772 (.729)
- Chris Coghlan, .760 (.542)
No major changes since the Reds series on this list. The offensive dormancy continues for the Cubs, who are hitting .209 with a .663 OPS in their last six games. Thankfully most of the hits they had in the Reds series (17) turned into runs (11).
Game 1: Greinke has been as solid as you'd expect him to be, allowing two runs or less in four of his last seven starts and recording game scores of 53 or better in five of them. Even in the games where he's given up three runs or more his scores were still in the 40s. Wada had a decent outing in his first matchup this year with the Dodgers, giving up six hits and two runs in just under six innings in a 5-2 Cub loss.
Game 2: There's only one thing that's going to be interesting about this game, and it's the final betting odds on it. The highest I've ever seen is plus-280 but I don't know how the Cubs could be anything less than plus-300 in this matchup. If Jackson beats Kershaw he should get a statue. Even if it's made out of popsicle sticks.
Game 3: Things haven't gone all that swimmingly for Hernandez since coming to the Dodgers. He hasn't made it out of the fifth inning in any of his last three starts and hasn't posted a game score above 50 since August 14, with his last three all at 40 or lower. Doubront has only faced the Dodgers once, and it was his first game ever in the big leagues on June 18, 2010.
Game 4: Aside from his last outing at Colorado, Haren has been really good in his last five starts with two earned runs allowed in total over his other four starts and game scores of 65 or better in three of them. This will be Turner's fourth start against the Dodgers, and you probably don't want to see how the previous three went.
RUSS' PREDICTION: Brutal pitching matchups and a Dodger offense on fire. I don't see how the Cubs get two wins here, so 1-3 it is.
NEXT STOP: The Cubs play their final games at Wrigley Field for the 2014 season, closing out the home schedule against the St. Louis Cardinals.