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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Rockies Series Preview

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Here's a team we haven't seen in a while.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs last faced the Rockies on a chilly weekend in April at Wrigley Field. The Cubs couldn't get their offense untracked against Chad Bettis and Tyler Chatwood, and lost two of three. Good news: The Cubs won't have to face either of those pitchers this weekend. Bettis isn't scheduled and Chatwood is on the DL.

Bryan Kilpatrick, editor of our SB Nation Rockies site Purple Row, updates us on his team.

The best way to describe this version of the Colorado Rockies is "so close, yet so far away."

There's no doubt that the team is finally starting to put it together at the major league level after five consecutive losing seasons; earlier this month, they climbed over .500 in August for the first time since 2010. But a lack of depth and quality bullpen arms has hurt the team over the last couple of weeks. What was once a 2½-game deficit in the National League Wild Card standings has ballooned to 6½ as a result of a 2-10 stretch between Aug. 4 and Aug. 15. The loss of rookie phenom Trevor Story for the season, along with a few other more minor but certainly ill-timed ailments, wreaked havoc on an already young and inexperienced team with long odds of reaching the postseason.

The good news for the Rockies is that they got back on track this week with a home series win over the NL East-leading Washington Nationals. And, even if they didn't, the future is still incredibly bright at 20th and Blake. Story, Nolan Arenado, David Dahl, Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson lead a young nucleus of players who should form the next contending Rockies team -- probably as soon as next season. DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon have both had a career year at the plate. Carlos Gonzalez is still giving pitchers fits. And the rotation is holding up better than any other Rockies starting staff has in a number of years.

But right now, the team just isn't there yet. During the key 12-game stretch that saw the Rockies fade in the Wild Card race, the bullpen blew five leads and in some games, literally could not get anyone out. Colorado's bench depth has especially fallen on hard times with the losses of Story and Mark Reynolds; the likes of Cristhian Adames, Ben Paulsen, Ryan Raburn and Gerardo Parra -- all of whom boast OPS+ figures of 79 or fewer -- aren't exactly striking fear into opposing pitchers. But help is on the way. The likes of Raimel Tapia, Tom Murphy and Jordan Patterson could see time in September and, if all goes as planned, will be key components of the team's future. On the mound, it won't be long before Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, Kyle Freeland and Sam Moll are ready to provide a boost.

And, as the Cubs found out in April, it's not like the current big league club is a slouch by any means. It just needs another year to get where it truly wants to be. Now, where have we heard that before?

Fun fact

Kris Bryant has never played in Coors Field. The Cubs' only series there in 2015 (where they took two of three) happened during the first eight games of the year, when Bryant was still at Triple-A Iowa. Considering Kris is one of the hottest hitters in baseball -- .432/.490/.841 (19-for-44) over his last 11 games with four doubles, a triple and four home runs -- this could be real interesting.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (11-7, 2.19 ERA, 1.007 WHIP, 3.39 FIP) vs. Tyler Anderson, LHP (4-4, 3.42 ERA, 1.211 WHIP, 3.57 FIP)

Saturday: Mike Montgomery, LHP (4-5, 2.43 ERA, 1.180 WHIP, 3.33 FIP) vs. TBD

Sunday: Jason Hammel, RHP (13-5, 2.75 ERA, 1.065 WHIP, 4.09 FIP) vs. Jorge De La Rosa, LHP (7-7, 5.29 ERA, 1.598 WHIP, 5.19 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Friday: 7:40 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago

Saturday: 7:10 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago

Sunday: 3:10 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago

Prediction

The Rockies are the only N.L. team that's scored more runs than the Cubs (640 to 612), and the teams rank fourth (Rockies, 153) and fifth (Cubs, 149) in home runs, so figure this should be a high-scoring series.

On the other hand, the Cubs have allowed 220 fewer runs than the Rockies. No, that is not a misprint: Two hundred and twenty fewer.

After briefly getting over .500 (54-53) and to the fringes of the wild-card race, the Rox lost 10 of 12 before taking the last two games of their most recent series against the Nationals.

It won't be easy, but the Cubs will take two of three this weekend.

Up next

The Cubs travel to San Diego for a three-game series against the Padres that begins Monday night.