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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Diamondbacks series preview

The D-Backs are off to a good start. Here are some of the reasons why.

Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs played the Diamondbacks six times in a 10-day period last July, all before the big selloff, and then were done with them for the year.

So not only has it been 292 days and 92 Cubs games played since the teams last met, it’s pretty much a whole new Cubs squad facing Arizona since they last met.

For more on the Diamondbacks, here’s Jack Sommers of our SB Nation D-Backs site AZ Snakepit.

It’s not often a fourth-place team is considered a pleasant surprise. But such is life when you are coming off a 52-110 season and play in the NL West where every team is currently over .500.

The 17-15 Diamondbacks are half a game ahead of the Rockies, climbing out of the cellar on the strength of an 11-4 stretch. Manager Torey Lovullo, who somewhat surprisingly received a contract extension at the end of last year, completely revamped his coaching staff. The most celebrated hire has been Brent Strom, the pitching savant formerly of the Astros organization. His impact has been immediate, at least in the starting rotation. He even has former Cub Zach Davies (3.34 ERA/3.58 xERA) throwing strikes and being aggressive. Zac Gallen is one of the early names contending for the Cy Young Award with a 0.95 ERA backed by a 2.12 xERA. Madison Bumgarner and Merrill Kelly have been outstanding and Humberto Castellanos has been a solid fifth starter, keeping the team in games.

It has not translated to the bullpen, however, where the team ranks at or near the bottom in every key metric. Most notably, newly signed closer Mark Melancon has four losses. Diminished velocity, command and movement has resulted in several disastrous outings. He had another meltdown in the series finale against the Marlins on Wednesday.

The offense was terrible to start the year, with almost everyone slumping, but they’ve turned that around the last couple of weeks. Daulton Varsho has been the team’s best player, and is unique in that he’s played Gold Glove caliber center field defense, but now is the primary catcher with Carson Kelly on the IL with an oblique injury. Ketel Marte got off to a horrific start, then had a nine-game hit streak before going 0-for-7 in the last two games against Miami. His .204 BA and 88 OPS+ is not what the team had in mind when they signed him to an extension this past off season. Center field prospect Alek Thomas has been called up and given the team a shot in the arm this past week.

D-backs last 6 games batting:

Fun fact

The Cubs had a terrible time trying to win in Arizona from the Diamondbacks’ inception in 1998 through 2014. They were 23-41 in Chase Field/Bank One Ballpark over that span. That’s completely turned around since 2015. The Cubs are 12-7 in Chase Field over the last six seasons (didn’t play there in 2020) and took two of three there last year.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Drew Smyly, LHP (1-3, 3.04 ERA, 1.225 WHIP, 5.06 FIP) vs. Zach Davies, RHP (1-1, 3.34 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, 4.27 FIP

Saturday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (2-3, 4.38 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, 4.74 FIP) vs. Zac Gallen, RHP (2-0, 0.95 ERA, 0.706 WHIP, 2.13 FIP)

Sunday: Wade Miley, LHP (0-0, 9.00 ERA, 3.333 WHIP, 7.45 FIP) vs. Humberto Castellanos, RHP (2-1, 4.32 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, 3.44 FIP)

NOTE: The Saturday and Sunday Cubs starters have not been officially posted as of the time of this series preview. They were listed this way in Diamondbacks game notes earlier this week. If there are changes, they will be reflected in the daily game previews.

Times & TV channels

Friday: 8:40 p.m. CT, Apple TV+ (game available free with Apple ID, here’s how to watch)

Saturday: 7:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Sunday: 3:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Prediction

The D-Backs, as noted above, have been off to a good start and it’s shocking to see Zach Davies doing so well. It hasn’t shown yet in Chase Field attendance — only 9,058 paid for their Wednesday game against the Marlins. There will be a large contingent of Cubs fans at Chase Field, I’d think.

That might not make any difference, but I suspect the Cubs have enough to take two of three here, especially considering they’ve done reasonably well in road games this year and just took two of three in San Diego.

Up next

The Cubs return to Wrigley Field for a three-game series against the Pirates that begins Monday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Diamondbacks?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    3
    (20 votes)
  • 33%
    2
    (49 votes)
  • 46%
    1
    (68 votes)
  • 6%
    0
    (9 votes)
146 votes total Vote Now

Here are the DraftKings odds for the Cubs against the D-Backs. Arizona is favored tonight.