The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a series since the beginning of the season, when they played the Pittsburgh Pirates. Recently, the Northsiders lost two of three games at home to the Atlanta Braves, bringing their record to 6-9 on the season. The series finale sprinkled salt in the wound of a disappointing week. It’s always much worse to lose on Sunday in the ESPN baseball tournament, especially with a 13-4 final score.
We wrap up the Atlanta series with a review of the positives and negatives before turning to the New York Mets.
Remember Saturday? The Cubs hit six home runs in their 13-4 win and have made us forget their play so far in 2021. Wilson Contreras and Kris Bryant both hit two home runs, while David Bote and Javier Baez each added one. Four Cubs batters had multi-hit games, bringing the team total to 14 hits, while striking out nine. As previously stated as the key to the series, the Cubs can succeed if they keep their K/Hit ratio at 1.25:1. While 14 hits with 9 strikeouts is not reproducible, there has to be something in that range.
Anthony Rizzo hit 6-11 (.545 BA) this weekend with two home runs and a triple. Both home runs came on Sunday night, the first time he hit a homer since the 8th. April left the courtroom in Pittsburgh. Rizzo’s been doing it since the 13th. April hit safely in all five games and sent the ball all over the field. The Cubs need their leader this early in the season, and Rizzo’s recent success is certainly a positive.
On Saturday, David Bot threw four hardballs (outflow velocity above 95 MPH). One left the courtyard, one led to a double and two led to a hard out. He followed that performance with another double on Sunday. Botte’s bat has been quiet at the bottom of the rankings before, so it was encouraging to see him have some success this weekend.
In Sunday’s game, Wilson Contreras extended his hitting streak to eight games. In that span, he notched 11-33 (.333 BA) and four home runs. Contreras sparked the Cubs’ offense Saturday with the first of his two home runs. The ball flew 400 feet to right field, straight into the wind.
Well, as far as fun goes…
The Cubs’ starting pitchers finished the weekend with a record of 13 IP, 18 H, 12 ER, 9 BB and 7 K.
The highlight of the weekend for the Cubs starters came on Saturday when Trevor Williams lasted over 5 innings and allowed just one run. He was the best of the three this weekend, but that’s not saying much. In a game where the Cubs scored 13 runs, they could have used an out over 5+ innings. That’s not to say Williams pitched poorly, but he made his pitch count by getting too deep in the count and walking three Braves batters.
Zach Davis and Kyle Hendricks have both suffered severe setbacks. Hendricks had the worst day for a starting pitcher. He lasted only four innings and allowed seven runs, including six in the first inning on four home runs. Davis went four innings and gave up four runs in his start. It’s highly unlikely to be a recurring theme for two reliable starting pitchers, but it was a bad time for two rough outings as the Cubs tried to get back on track. All in all, just 13 innings in three games from your starting pitcher is not a recipe for success.
In three starts this year, Davis has 11.1 IP, 16 H, 13 ER, 9 BB and 8 K. His walk rate is at an all-time high of 7.15 BB/9, compared to a career low of 2.62. He’ll have to control the strike zone again and rely on a solid Cubs defense to get most of his outs. Yes, three starts is a small example, but it’s a trend to keep an eye on.
The New York Mets traveled to the Friendship Confiners for a three-game series after winning two of three against the Rockies in Colorado this weekend. When they meet the Cubs, the pitching staff will look like this:
- Game 1: Jake Arrieta versus Taijuan Walker.
- Game 2: Zach Davis versus David Peterson.
- Match 3 of Trevor Williams vs. Jacob deGrom
Honestly, the Cubs need to make the first two games of this series their top priority. They can’t go into the finals needing a win against Jacob deGrom to win or save the series, because that probably won’t happen.
In the last two games against the Braves, the Cubs have allowed 17 runs, 24 hits, 17 strikeouts and six walks. Although they lost Sunday on offense, it was the first time this year that they were not guilty of any offense. As mentioned earlier, the Cubs’ recipe for success on offense is to keep their K/Hit ratio at 1.25:1, and they succeeded on Saturday and Sunday. If they can repeat similar numbers in the first two games against the Mets, don’t be surprised if they have a chance to win the series on Thursday.
In the pitching department, the Cubs just need to get away from their starters. Their current average of just over three innings per start puts tremendous pressure on the bullpen. You can’t count on relievers to make as many or more innings than starting pitchers if you want to keep their record above .500.
The Cubs’ batting team should continue the strong run they’ve had since Saturday and do their best to avoid facing deGrom on Wednesday.
This Cubs vs Mets series will consist of night games at Wrigley Field, with the first pitch of each game scheduled at 6:40pm CT. Don’t forget to listen to the Cubs On Tap podcast for afterthoughts and other Cubs analysis and commentary.
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