So, September begins now, even though it’s still August.
I might remind you that a year ago today, as the Cubs prepared to open a series against the Mets (that one at Wrigley), they led the N.L. Central by four games.
A lot can happen in the next five weeks. Time for the Cubs to step it up.
Lastly, don’t forget: The Cubs are currently working on a two-game road winning streak.
- YOU LOOK FAMILIAR: After this series, the Cubs will have 29 games remaining — 23 against N.L. Central teams, the most of any N.L. Central team within the division. Of those, 14 will be against the Brewers (three at home, four on the road) and Cardinals (four at home, three on the road).
- CUB POWER: Kyle Schwarber on Sunday hit his 30th home run of the season to match his 2017 career high. Kyle is only the third lefthanded hitter in franchise history with multiple 30-homer campaigns, joining Billy Williams (five times) and Anthony Rizzo (four times). And, Kyle is now one of only four major league left-handed hitters with multiple 30 homer campaigns in the last three seasons. The others: Cody Bellinger (three times), Christian Yelich (twice) and Max Muncy (twice).
- THE NEW GUY: Nicholas Castellanos has hit safely in 19 of his first 23 games as a Cub, batting .375/.406/.708 (36-for-96) with eight doubles, eight homers and 14 RBI. His 16 extra-base hits this month are tied for the most in the N.L
- THE K STORY: In the Cubs’ last 48 games since June 29, the team’s pitchers have struck out 418 batters and walked 119. That’s an average of 3.51 strikeouts per walk, the fourth-best mark in the majors in that span behind the Rays (4.34), Dodgers (4.05) and Astros (3.56). And, Cubs starting pitchers have posted a 4.85 strikeout to walk ratio since June 29, the top mark in the National League and second in the majors to the Rays (5.26). Cubs starters have struck out 267 batters in that span compared to just 55 walks.
Here are today’s particulars.
Yu Darvish, RHP vs. Marcus Stroman, RHP
The one thing Yu Darvish has had the most trouble with this year is the long ball. He’s allowed 30 home runs, most by any N.L. pitcher this year. Eight of those have left the yard this month in 23⅓ innings. Yikes.
Darvish is striking out a lot of hitters — 35 this month — and he has not walked anyone in his last 32 innings. So, that’s good! He just has to figure out a way to keep the ball in the yard.
Darvish allowed four hits and four runs in six innings against the Mets June 21 at Wrigley Field. Two of the hits were home runs (Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto).
Citi Field ranks 16th in home run factor this year, a bit better home-run park than Wrigley Field. So, again, Yu: keep the ball in the yard.
One more Darvish note: he enters this outing having struck out eight or more batters with no walks in each of his last five starts, the longest such streak by any major league pitcher since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893. (H/T: Elias)
When the Mets acquired Marcus Stroman July 28, they were five games under .500 and people were scratching their heads. This was a move made by a contender, not a struggling club like the Mets.
The Mets are 17-8 since the trade. It’s not Stroman’s doing, though; he has pitched markedly worse since becoming a Met, with a 4.58 ERA and 1.780 WHIP. He’s pitched past the fourth inning just twice in four Mets outings and left his last start with hamstring tightness.
He has faced the Cubs just once in his career, September 8, 2014 in Toronto. He threw a three-hit shutout. There’s just one Cub who played in that game who is still on the team, Javier Baez. Here’s my recap of that game, which I attended. I provide that for amusement value.
Stroman has faced a few current Cubs. Jonathan Lucroy is 4-for-5 against him and Nicholas Castellanos has homered off him.
Today’s game is on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s also on MLB Network (outside the Cubs and Mets 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.