The Cubs return to interleague play with tonight’s contest, the first of three in Kansas City against the Royals. They’re 8-4 against A.L. teams so far this year, with a five-game active winning streak against them (three over the Twins and two over the Tigers a month ago at Wrigley).
More interleague play notes:
- Cubs designated hitters (well, designated hitter, singular, since only Kyle Schwarber has DH’d for the Cubs in 2018 so far, and he’ll DH again tonight) have posted a 1.333 OPS this season, tops among any National League club. Small sample size alert: The Cubs have only featured the DH in two games so far this year, in Cleveland from April 24-25. However, the Cubs do have an .866 team OPS from the DH spot the last four years starting in 2015, also tops in the N.L. in that span.
Other Monday notes:
- Ben Zobrist is a career .330 hitter (58-for-176) at Kauffman Stadium, tied for the fifth-highest batting average here among active players with at least 200 plate appearances. His .416 on-base percentage at the K ranks second best.
- Javier Baez yesterday hit his 24th homer of the season, setting a new career high. Baez has also already set career highs in doubles (30), triples (7), RBI (86) and stolen bases (19) and is nearing career-highs with 70 runs scored (75 in 2017) and 122 hits (128 in 2017). He projects to have 44 doubles, 35 homers, 28 stolen bases and 126 RBI this season. For whatever that latter flawed stat is worth, the last Cub to have as many as 126 RBI was Sammy Sosa, who had 160 in 2001.
- Jesse Chavez (two earned runs in 11⅔ innings) and Brandon Kintzler (no earned runs in 2⅔ innings) have combined to post a 1.26 ERA (two earned runs in 14⅓ innings) in their first 11 appearances with the Cubs.
- Anthony Rizzo needs five more hits for 1,000 in his career. Since being moved to the leadoff spot July 13: .380/.468/.671 (30-for-79) with six doubles, a triple, five home runs and 10 walks.
Here are today’s particulars.
Cole Hamels, LHP vs. Jakob Junis, RHP
Cole Hamels had a solid start in his first outing as a Cub last week in Pittsburgh.
And he has a track record against this year’s Royals, having spent most of this year in the American League. In two starts vs. K.C. he’s posted a 3.38 ERA and 1.350 WHIP. One of the starts was very good (June 19 at the K, one unearned run in seven innings), the other not so much (May 27 at Arlington, 6⅓ innings, five runs, two home runs).
Right there you see the issue with Hamels’ season — terrible in Texas, where the ballpark has been a launching pad all year, good on the road.
I’d suspect this one will wind up as one of those “good away from Texas” starts. Current Royals are hitting .205 (27-for-132) against Hamels with 35 strikeouts and two home runs.
Jakob Junis is an Illinois native, having gone to high school in Rock Falls. He’s done well already in the big leagues just by getting there — he was the Royals’ 29th-round pick in 2011. Most guys drafted that low never make it.
He’s made 20 starts this year and the results were decent until mid-June and then yikes. Last eight starts: 7.94 ERA, 1.766 WHIP, 14 home runs in 41⅓ innings.
That last part is in boldface for a reason. The Cubs really ought to hit Junis, and hit him hard. Don’t forget that with the DH, the Cubs get an extra bat in the lineup.
He has obviously never faced the Cubs or anyone on the current roster. Sometimes that turns out disastrously for the Cubs. I don’t think that will be the case tonight.
Today’s game is on NBC Sports Chicago Plus.
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The 2018 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used during 2017. Here’s how it works.
You’ll find the game preview posted separately on the front page, two hours before game time (90 minutes for some early day games following night games).
At the same time, a StoryStream containing the preview will also post on the front page. The First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads will be published in that stream, as well as the recap. The recap will also live on the front page as a separate post, and at the time I write the recap I will rename the stream “Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads” so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.
You will also be able to find the preview, First Pitch Thread, all the overflow threads and recap in the box marked “Chicago Cubs Game Threads” at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in the game’s StoryStream as noted above.
The First Pitch thread will post at five minutes before game time, then an overflow thread at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after the scheduled game time.
Discuss amongst yourselves.