"Man oh man" was one of the late Jack Brickhouse's pet phrases whenever things were going wrong with the Cubs.
It certainly applies to this year's edition of the Miami Marlins. I certainly don't have to repeat all the things that have been said about the bizarre replacement of manager Mike Redmond with general manager Dan Jennings; the Marlins' results speak for themselves. They're 4-9 since Jennings took over and have been outscored 56-43 in those 13 games. They weren't doing well before Redmond was axed, either. They're 5-15 over their last 20 games.
That means this should be a good time for the Cubs to strike if they want to continue in contention for a wild-card spot. Beating up on weaker teams is one way to do it.
The Marlins have scored 194 runs, one fewer than the Cubs, but have allowed 215. Virtually all of the offense has been provided by Giancarlo Stanton, who has 15 home runs and a .533 slugging percentage, but who is hitting just .228. Dee Gordon, who got off to a fantastic start, was hitting .433/.457/.532 on May 15. Since then? .258/.290/.258 in 69 plate appearances. The rest of the Marlins offense has been pretty much nonexistent.
Three of their rotation starters are on the disabled list and Steve Cishek, who was the closer to start the season, blew four of his first eight save opportunities and was replaced by A.J. Ramos.
Like I said, a great opportunity for the Cubs exists here.
Game One: Jason Hammel (2.98 ERA, 0.912 WHIP) vs. Jose Urena (9.39 ERA, 1.957 WHIP)
Game Two: Kyle Hendricks (3.76 ERA, 1.139 WHIP) vs. Brad Hand (4.50 ERA, 1.250 WHIP)
Game Three: Jon Lester (3.30 ERA, 1.309 WHIP) vs. Dan Haren (3.03 ERA, 1.043 WHIP)
Both Urena and Hand are emergency replacements in the rotation for injured Marlins starters. Urena is making just his second big-league start and Hand has been primarily a reliever this season. All three pitching matchups should favor the Cubs, especially with Hammel (five starts 2.57 ERA), Hendricks (five starts, 2.81 ERA) and Lester (six starts, 1.76 ERA) all having excellent performances during May.
Marlins of note
- Former Cubs minor leaguer Justin Bour has become the Marlins' starting first baseman (at least against righthanders) and in his last three games has gone 5-for-12 with three home runs
- Ichiro Suzuki, at age 41, has been playing reasonably well in a part-time role. In 126 plate appearances in 48 games, he's hitting .287/.341/.330 with 10 walks and three stolen bases. He is 123 hits short of 3,000 in the big leagues.
The Cubs will sweep this series. Bold, yes, I know. But the Marlins have already been swept five times this year, by the Braves (twice), Mets, Diamondbacks (in a four-game set) and Pirates. Three of those five sweeps were in Miami, where the Marlins are just 10-15. The Cubs are 11-11 on the road, and four of those games were in St. Louis, a tough place to play, and three in Arizona, where Cubs teams go to die.
The Cubs follow this set in Marlins Park with a four-game series this weekend in Washington against the Nationals.