We’ll be doing this again next weekend in Phoenix, playing the entire season series against the D-backs in a 10-day period, so the preview here from Jim McLennan, manager of our SB Nation Diamondbacks site AZ Snakepit, will also be valid then (except for specific numbers).
The D-backs began their current road trip with a sweep of the Braves, leaving them with a 10-9 record. That’s probably about the mark I’d have expected, but it’s the way it has been achieved which has been a surprise. We thought the offense would struggle after the loss of Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock over the winter, and the early losses to injury of Steven Souza Jr. (gone for the year) and Jake Lamb. But Arizona’s hitters currently sit third in the league for BA, and fifth for OPS. This has been powered by the outfield of David Peralta, Jarrod Dyson and Adam Jones. The last-named has a .320 average and five home runs, and so far has seemed like a great late steal off the free-agent market. Elsewhere, Christian Walker’s 150 OPS+ has been a decent replacement for Goldschmidt.
It has been the pitching which has struggled, a 5.13 team ERA that ranks 13th in the National League. Zack Greinke’s ERA is higher still, at 5.79, but that’s still some way better than Zack Godley, who sits at 6.26. Yoshihisa Hirano, a rock in the bullpen last season, is near six, and the long relief pair of Matt Koch and Matt Andriese have been more like door-Matts, with a combined ERA of 9.95. However, a lot of the runs allowed have been in blowouts: that overall ERA isn’t helped by catcher John Ryan Murphy’s two-inning, seven earned runs outing against the Dodgers.
On the plus side, closer Greg Holland has overcome spring velocity concerns and has allowed two hits over seven innings. Rookie Yoan Lopez has thrown 7⅓ innings and allowed just one run, and has potential future closer talk circling (though GM Mike Hazen seems to prefer cheap veterans for that role: see Fernando Rodney, Brad Boxberger and Holland), I still tend to think that both of these areas will regress towards the mean: the hitters aren’t as good as they have seemed so far, and the pitchers aren’t as bad. But the schedule for the first month is brutal for the D-backs; if they can get through this road trip and to the end of April with a record anything around .500, that’ll be a more than satisfactory mark on which to build.
Through 2014, the Cubs had played quite poorly against the D-backs. From Arizona’s entering the National League in 1998 through 2014, the Cubs were 55-70 against them, and a horrific 23-41 in Phoenix.
Since 2015, though, things have gone better for the Cubs against Arizona: 16-10, with identical 8-5 marks at Wrigley Field and Chase Field.
Friday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (0-3, 5,40 ERA, 2.175 WHIP, 5.69 FIP) vs. Merrill Kelly, RHP (1-1, 3.79 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, 3.84 FIP)
Saturday: Yu Darvish, RHP (1-2, 6.11 ERA, 1.755 WHIP, 6.93 FIP) vs. Zack Greinke, RHP (2-1, 5.79 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, 5.68 FIP)
Sunday: Jose Quintana, LHP (2-1, 3.43 ERA, 1.429 WHIP, 3.24 FIP) vs. Robbie Ray, LHP (0-1, 4.64 ERA, 1.359 WHIP, 3.99 FIP)
Times & TV channels
Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago, MLB Network (outside Cubs and Diamondbacks market territories)
Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago
Sunday: 1:20 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago
The numbers on a couple of those pitching matchups are pretty frightening, but Cubs pitching is generally trending in the right direction. They should take two of three here.
The Cubs have Monday off, then host the Dodgers at Wrigley Field in a three-game series beginning Tuesday evening.
How many games will the Cubs win against the Diamondbacks?
This poll is closed