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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Diamondbacks Series Preview

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The Cubs and D'backs will conclude their season series this weekend.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Cubs played their second series of 2016 at Arizona and won three of four. Now, the teams will meet for (likely) the final time in 2016. Jim McLennan, manager of our SB Nation Diamondbacks site AZ Snakepit, has an update for us on his team:

Back when these two teams met at Chase, the D-backs were still harboring dreams of contention, despite an ugly start to the season by both new pitching acquisitions, Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller. Now, almost two months later, those dreams are fading fast, with the team teetering on the edge of a double-digit deficit for any playoff spot. Where did it all go wrong? The answer is simple: starting pitching. Through the first third of the year, Arizona's rotation had an ERA of 5.26, the worst in franchise history -- and of the three you'll face this weekend, only Corbin (4.96) has a lower season ERA.

The Arizona bullpen has been a group of two halves. The A-bullpen, of Tyler Clippard, Daniel Hudson and Brad Ziegler, have been very good when protecting leads -- when leading after six innings, the D-backs have just one loss this season. However, there haven't been enough leads to protect. The back end of the bullpen has also been sorely taxed by the inability of starters to go deep into games, leading to a rapid turnover of mop-up arms being churned to and from the minors. The results have not been pretty.

The offense hasn't actually been too bad: after a slow start, Paul Goldschmidt is looking more like his old, All-Star self, and young players like Jake Lamb have been making their mark. Off-season acquisitions Jean Segura and Chris Herrmann have been pleasantly effective; the latter may well be the best back-up catcher in the league! But expectations among Diamondbacks fans are now a great deal lower than for the encounter in Arizona. Anything other than getting swept would likely be seen by most in the desert as a pleasant surprise. If Bradley loses on Friday, I would not hold out much hope fur us against Arrieta, or with Escobar!

Fun fact

This one isn't so fun, but interesting. All-time, the Cubs have not been very good against Arizona, winning 62 and losing 73 (not counting the 2007 NLDS). The Cubs won the season series last year, for the first time since 2011.

Pitching matchups

Friday: John Lackey (5-2, 3.16 ERA, 0.966 WHIP, 3.37 FIP) vs. Archie Bradley (2-0, 6.11 ERA, 1.472 WHIP, 4.75 FIP)

Saturday: Jason Hammel (6-1, 2.09 ERA, 1.161 WHIP, 3.32 FIP) vs. Edwin Escobar (0-1, 18.90 ERA, 3.300 WHIP, 4.62 FIP)

Sunday: Jake Arrieta (9-0, 1.56 ERA, 0.893 WHIP, 2.72 FIP) vs. Patrick Corbin (2-5, 4.96 ERA, 1.423 WHIP, 4.88 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, MLB Network

Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, WGN, MLB Network

Sunday: 1:20 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago

Prediction

The Cubs won't face any of the starting pitchers who went for Arizona in the four-game series in April, oddly enough, and the pitching matchups seem to be favorable to the Cubs in all three of these games. I'm picking the Cubs to take two of three, because that's what the Cubs have essentially been doing this year. However, they nearly swept a four-game set in Phoenix in April -- losing one game in walkoff fashion -- so could they sweep this one? Perhaps.

Up next

The Cubs head to Philadelphia for a three-game series against the Phillies beginning Monday night.