Sarcastic congratulations to MLB schedulers, as we now have the second and third West Coast teams to visit Wrigley Field in April. Do they not understand how cold it usually is in Chicago this month?
Fortunately, this series will be uninterrupted by rain, though it’s going to be quite chilly and windy this afternoon. It will be nicer Saturday and might be in the 70s by Sunday. That will help. Today’s forecast has a strong wind blowing in, though:
Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 44. Windy, with a north wind 25 to 30 mph, with gusts as high as 40 mph.
Could be a good day for pitchers this afternoon.
This article discusses the opposite-field approach the Cubs have taken this year, something you have likely noticed. The results have been positive:
Per Statcast, Chicago went the opposite way on 25.6 percent of balls in play and 28.6 percent of the time with two strikes in 2018. Through Wednesday, the Cubs had increased those rates to 29.2 percent on all balls in play and 31.2 percent with two strikes. The early results from a lineup that “broke” down the stretch last year have been extremely promising in this area.
Entering Thursday’s play, the Cubs’ slugging percentage to the opposite field was first in the Majors at .693 (compared to a .495 MLB average). With two strikes, the opposite-field slugging percentage was an MLB-high .796 (compared to .450 for MLB as a whole).
The Cubs rank second in the N.L. in runs (103) and runs per game (6.06).
Here are today’s particulars.
The Diamondbacks lineup was not available at posting time. Please check the BCB Twitter feed for the Diamondbacks lineup.
Kyle Hendricks, RHP vs. Merrill Kelly, RHP
Kyle Hendricks has struggled this year. His last start was better, at least he’s cut down on the walks (only two in his last nine innings), and it seems as if he’s made some progress. He has yet to throw more than 95 pitches in any of his starts this season.
His last start against the D-backs was a gem, September 17, 2018 at Chase Field. He threw eight shutout innings, the shutout ruined in the ninth by a leadoff homer from A.J. Pollock, who isn’t a D-back anymore. He left after a two-out single by Paul Goldschmidt, who also isn’t on the D-backs anymore. Current D-backs are hitting a small sample size .200 (11-for-55) against him with no home runs and 13 strikeouts.
So maybe this is the day Hendricks turns his season around. More on Kyle’s struggles in this Tribune article.
Merrill Kelly — you haven’t heard of this guy even though he’s 30 years old. But you can bet Joe Maddon knows about him — he was drafted by the Rays in 2010 and pitched four years in their system from 2010-14, the last two in Triple-A. Tampa Bay let him go after the 2014 season and he pitched four years in Korea before signing a two-year, $5 million deal with the D-backs with option years for 2021 and 2022.
He’s made three starts for the D-backs and two of them have been pretty good. Per Fangraphs his fastball averages about 92 and he uses it about half the time, splitting the rest between a curve, changeup and slider.
He’s obviously never faced the Cubs or anyone on their active roster. But I bet Joe knows a lot about him.
Today’s game is on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s also on MLB Network (outside the Cubs and D-backs market territories).
SB Nation game preview
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The 2019 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used in previous years. 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.