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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Marlins Series Preview

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The Cubs didn't have much luck with the Marlins in Miami earlier this year.

Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The Cubs lost three of four to a surprisingly-good Marlins team in Miami in June. The Marlins are, somewhat unexpectedly, in playoff contention this year, and so I asked Kevin Kraczkowski, an editor at our SB Nation Marlins site Fish Stripes, to update us on his team.

When we last met, the Cubs managed to scavenge one victory in four from the then-surging Marlins. Miami has had its ups and downs since then, going 16-13 while Chicago has posted a 15-15 record.

The Marlins have recently revamped their pitching staff, after a trade with the San Diego Padres netted them starting pitchers Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea. The two performed well in their initial starts over the weekend, allowing a combined five hits and zero walks through 10 and a third innings, although Rea wound up on the 15-day DL after forearm pain in the fourth inning of his debut.

Regardless, the Cubs won’t get any exposure to the new guys. You’ll instead draw the trio of surprising Adam Conley (7-5, 3.38), solid Jose Fernandez (12-5, 2.79) and shaky Tom Koehler (8-8, 4.18).

Conley will start the opener for the Fish. Just this season, he has taken no-hitters into the seventh inning twice, actually getting lifted on April 29 after pitching 7⅔ innings of no-hit ball against the Milwaukee Brewers in a 6-3 victory for his first win of the season. Although he has yet to throw a complete game, he has performed admirably, striking out 112 over 117⅓ innings. He has allowed four or fewer hits in nine of his 21 starts, averaging 6⅓ innings in those games. He’ll start opposite Kyle Hendricks -- and I think this game is the toss-up of the three-game series, and will feature each bullpen heavily. Cubs, 5-4.

You’ve already probably heard of Fernandez, who is nearly untouchable at Marlins’ Park (26-2, 1.62, 0.921 WHIP). He’s slightly more human away from home, going 8-12 with a 3.80 ERA and a 1.174 WHIP, although he strikes out over 11 per inning no matter where he’s pitching. The Cubs have only faced him once, just a month ago on June 26th, when he held the Cubs to four hits and struck out 13 in seven innings of a 6-1 Marlins’ win. The Marlins usually win when Fernandez pitches, no surprise there, but he’ll face off against Jason Hammel, no slouch himself. I’d forecast the Marlins to win this contest, as they’ve traditionally hit Hammel pretty well, at a .261/.309/.414/.723 clip, or just enough to support Fernandez. Marlins, 3-2.

Now Koehler is a different animal. Sometimes he’s pretty good, but his lack of control can be confidence sapping at other times. He walks 4.3 per nine innings pitched, and currently has an N.L. fourth-most 54 walks. He’s on a personal hot-streak, and hopes to continue his good fortune against the Cubs. His last two starts have seen him go 2-0, and allow five hits and two walks, striking out 13 over 14 innings. He’s played against the Cubs in five contests, going 1-0 with a 4.24 ERA, only walking six in 23.1 innings. John Lackey has only faced the Marlins three times over his now-15 season MLB career, going 1-1 with a 4.66 ERA and allowing them to hit him at .286/.341/.377/.718. All that points to a Marlins win in the series finale, against Lackey. Marlins, 6-4.

Offensively, Miami leads the NL with a .272 batting average, although somewhat surprisingly, rank near the bottom of the league with just 88 home runs (the Cubs have 130). They’ve got three guys in the NL top ten in hitting, (Martin Prado, .327, Christian Yelich, .320, and J.T. Realmuto, .311), along with future hall-of-famer Ichiro! Suzuki (.325) and Marcell Ozuna (.298, 19 homers). That’s not even considering the ridiculous power of Giancarlo Stanton. Although he only has 22 home runs and a .243 average right now, he’s hitting .314 over his last 36 games, with 10 round-trippers and 31 RBI.

Whatever happens, I’ll be watching every game. Due to the lack of a baseball team in south Florida until 1993, and the availability of WOR (Mets), TBS (Braves) and WGN (Cubs) through the ‘80s, the Cubs were my team. That’s because the Braves were terrible and the Mets were, um, New York. My first sports poster was Ryne Sandberg, and even though I was happy for the then-Florida Marlins to win their second World Series in 2003, I’m genuinely sorry it came at the expense of Chicago’s National League franchise. I was elated when Andre Dawson elected to conclude his career with the Marlins, and I’m an unabashed Rafael Palmiero and Mark Grace apologist. Shawon-o-meter forever - peace out!

Fun fact

Ichiro enters this series with 2,998 career hits. The other 24 players currently on the Marlins active roster have just a bit less than twice as many combined: 5,957.

Pitching matchups

Monday: Kyle Hendricks (9-7, 2.39 ERA, 1.054 WHIP, 3.35 FIP) vs. Adam Conley (7-5, 3.38 ERA, 1.304 WHIP, 3.79 FIP)

Tuesday: Jason Hammel (10-5, 3.23 ERA, 1.102 WHIP, 4.33 FIP) vs. Jose Fernandez (12-5, 2.79 ERA, 1.050 WHIP, 2.22 FIP)

Wednesday: John Lackey (8-7, 3.69 ERA, 1.090 WHIP, 3.80 FIP) vs. Tom Koehler (8-8, 4.18 ERA, 1.465 WHIP, 4.27 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Monday: 7:05 p.m. CT, WGN

Tuesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago Plus

Wednesday: 1:20 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Miami markets)

Prediction

You see above the prediction from Kevin Kraczkowski of Fish Stripes for this series. He thinks the Marlins will win two of three. With all due respect, I believe he is incorrect. The Cubs will have a tough time with Jose Fernandez, no doubt about it, but should win the other two and take two of three.

Up next

The Cubs have Thursday off, then head to the West Coast for a one-series, three-game road trip against the Oakland Athletics beginning Friday night.