The Cubs begin play Friday tied for first place in the N.L. Central... with the Cardinals, who completed a sweep of the Pirates Thursday afternoon, while the Cubs were off. St. Louis hosts the A.L. Central-leading Astros this weekend.
Starting tonight, the Cubs will play 39 of their final 60 games, or 65 percent, against N.L. Central clubs, which is more remaining games within the division than any other N.L. Central team. So far this year he Cubs are 20-17 within the division, a .541 winning percentage. However, the home/road splits on that are pretty extreme: 16-5 vs. N.L. Central teams at home and are 4-12 against N.L. Central rivals on the road. Of the 39 remaining games, 23 will be on the road, beginning tonight. Thus the Cubs will have to figure out how to win away from Wrigley Field — and quickly.
- JAVY! JAVY! JAVY! Javier Baez on Wednesday hit his 25th home run of the season, reaching the milestone for the second year in a row. Baez joins Ryne Sandberg as the lone Cubs middle infielders to reach 25 homers in multiple seasons in the last 50 years. Sandberg did it six times (1985, 1989-91, 1995-96). This month, Javy is hitting .317 (26-for-82) in 18 games with seven doubles, five homers, 12 RBI and a .902 OPS. He has homered in three of his last six games and scored 11 runs in the last seven contests.
- GIVE HIM THAT EXTENSION ALREADY! Joe Maddon enters today’s game with 442 regular season wins with the Cubs, equaling Joe McCarthy (1926-30) for the fifth-most wins by a manager in franchise history. Leo Durocher (535 wins, 1966-72) ranks fourth. Wednesday marked Maddon’s 750th regular season game with the Cubs, and his .589 winning percentage (442-308) ranks second in franchise history, behind only Frank Chance (768-389, .664, from 1905-12).
- STILL HOT! Jason Heyward, 25 games since June 22: .341/.381/.615 (31-for-91) with eight doubles, a triple, five home runs, 18 RBI and 13 runs scored.
- ALSO HOT! Kris Bryant, 34 games since June 13: .357/.441/.635 (45-for-126) with 11 doubles, eight home runs, 15 RBI and 29 runs scored.
Here are today’s particulars.
Well now, there’s a different lineup. All RH batters except for Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward, and Willson Contreras leading off for the first time since May 6, 2018.
The Brewers have their own callup tonight. Travis Shaw, who has hit extremely poorly at the MLB level this year, has spent most of July in Triple-A, but was recalled today by Milwaukee.
Kyle Hendricks, RHP vs. Gio Gonzalez, LHP
Kyle Hendricks’ last start, July 21 vs. the Padres at Wrigley, was excellent: Seven innings, four hits, two runs. He looks like he’s back to full strength. And, with the off day Thursday, he’s got the full four days’ rest before making this start.
His only start vs. the Brewers this year, April 4 at Miller Park, wasn’t very good. But then, no one on the Cubs staff was throwing well at that time. In his career, he’s made 20 starts vs. Milwaukee with a 3.22 ERA and 1.134 WHIP, so perhaps we can dismiss that as an outlier.
Current Brewers are hitting .247 (40-for-162) against Kyle with two home runs.
Gio Gonzalez signed late this year, made six starts and then was put on the injured list with what was described as “dead arm.” No, seriously, that’s what they said. He spent almost two months there and has made one start since he returned, vs. the Diamondbacks July 20, and it wasn’t all that good (three runs in four innings).
One of the six starts prior to the injury was against the Cubs, May 10 at Wrigley Field. That one was better — no runs in 5⅔ innings. Current Cubs are hitting just .155 (16-for-103) against Gio with two home runs (Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras).
Today’s game is on NBC Sports Chicago. This game is also being carried by streaming service ESPN+ — sign up for ESPN+ here. ESPN+ games are blacked out in the participating teams’ home markets. If you have “cut the cord,” NBC Sports Chicago games can be streamed in the Cubs’ market territory via Fubo. Sign up for Fubo here.
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.