The Cubs Finish Sweep of Reds, Face NY Mets in NLCS Rematch

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 78
The Cubs (51-26) came into Cincinnati and did exactly what they were supposed to do, sweep the Reds. After coming off of a disappointing series loss to the Miami Marlins to start the 11-game road trip, the Cubs have used the Reds to right the ship so to speak and now have a winning a record on the road trip at 4-3.

Kyle Hendricks led the charge in the final game of the series by throwing 6.2 innings and giving up only two earned runs on eight hits. Hendricks, with his performance, was able to move his record to 6-6 on the season. The offense was an all-team performance as Anthony Rizzo opened the scoring with a three-run inside-the-park home run. The Cubs also got home runs from Addison Russell and Albert Almora, Jr., which was the first of his career.

The Cubs now turn their focus to the National League Champion New York Mets as they begin a four-game series in Queens, NY. The Cubs will be looking to atone for being swept by the Mets in last year’s National League Championship Series. The Mets (40-37) are currently sitting in third place behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East.

Steven Matz (7-3, 3.29 ERA) will be taking the mound against the Cubs. Matz, a left-hander, is in his second year in the majors. He started out well this season as he won seven games in a row after opening the season with a loss. He has since lost his last two decisions. In his last outing, Matz earned a no-decision, but gave up six earned runs on nine hits in just 4.1 innings. He is a sinkerball pitcher, who also throws a curveball, changeup, slider, and fastball. Matz is a hard thrower as his fastball can get up to 97 mph.

John Lackey (7-4, 3.29 ERA) will be getting the start for the Cubs. He will be looking to get the Cubs their fourth straight win, but, more importantly, Lackey will be looking to overcome his disastrous pitching performance against the Miami Marlins in his last outing. In that game he gave up seven earned runs on seven hits and only pitched 4.1 innings. It was easily his worst start of the year. Still, despite the rough last outing, Lackey is currently 13th in WHIP at 1.04 and has an excellent batting average against at .218.

Outlook: The Cubs will be playing their 8th straight game on the road when they begin the series with the Mets. The team will have to fight sluggishness in order to be up and ready to face Matz. Lefties appear to have a significant advantage over Matz compared to righties as they are hitting .282 while righties are hitting only .246. What has been lost over the past few weeks is the fact that Anthony Rizzo has raised his batting average all the way up to .284 on the season, which is a long way from the low .200’s he was hitting at through most of the season. Moreover, Rizzo is now seventh in all of MLB in OPS at .983. Kris Bryant is not too far behind at 17th with a .931 OPS. The Cubs, as a team, are 5th in OPS with a .782 average. The Cubs are also 3rd in MLB in RBI with 395.

 

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Cubs Bounce Back after Blown Save to Beat Reds in 15, Hendricks goes for the Sweep Today

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 77
The Cubs (50-26) completed a marathon 15-inning 7-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds (29-49) last night thanks to a five-run 15th inning topped off by Javier Baez’s first career grand slam. Just one glimpse at the box score shows how brilliant of a manager Joe Maddon is with all the moves he made. The game ended with Travis Wood pitching for a second non-consecutive time as Maddon had him play leftfield after his first pitching stint. The game also ended with Pedro Strop playing leftfield.

Fortunately, the Cubs won, but unfortunately, Jon Lester’s brilliant game was wasted after Hector Rondon blew his third game of the year. Lester was on the verge of winning his 10th game of the year before Rondon gave up the tying run with two outs in the 9th.  Lester has moved himself into contention as the Cubs’ best pitcher after last night’s performance when he pitched 7.2 innings of three-hit ball. He dropped his ERA to 2.03, which now leads the team.

Today, the Cubs will face rookie Cody Ross (0-1, 6.75 ERA) this afternoon (or morning since we are in Chicago). Reed was recalled from AAA on June 18 when he started against the Houston Astros. In that game he went seven innings, allowing four earned runs on four hits, including two home runs. Impressively, he struck out nine batters that major league debut. Reed got the no-decision in that game. In his last game he struggled a bit, only making it through five innings after giving up five earned runs on nine hits in a 13-4 loss to the San Diego Padres.

Kyle Hendricks (5-6. 2.76 ERA) will go for the Cubs today. Hendricks is coming off of a no-decision against the Miami Marlins. He threw five innings and only gave up one hit. However, he gave up a grand slam to Justin Bour, but was not charged since the inning was extended after an Addison Russell error. Hendricks is sitting tied for 10th in MLB for WHIP at 1.02. This season, Hendricks has dominated right-handers this year as they are only hitting .187; whereas, left-handers are hitting .221.

Outlook: It will be interesting to see what kind of lineup Joe Maddon will put out today after last night’s marathon game. A handful of the players went the full 15 innings and its certain Maddon will want to give some a rest as they head to New York for a four-game series with the Mets right after today’s game. It would not be a surprise if they come out a little bit sluggish, but hopefully Hendricks can keep the rest in check while the offense gets going.

 

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Kris Bryant Inserts Himself into NL MVP Talk with Historic Night

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 76
The story coming into last night game between the Cubs (9-3, 2.10 ERA) and the Cincinnati Reds (1-4, 4.78 ERA) was Jake Arrieta returning to the place where he pitched his last no-hitter. During the game the narrative slowly shifted from Arrieta to Kris Bryant and by the end of the game the national spotlight was shone brightly on Bryant for his record-breaking night while leading the Cubs to an 11-8 win.

Bryant went 5-5 with three home runs and two doubles, to go along with six RBI and two runs. He cemented his name in the record books for the following:

  • First player in MLB history to hit three home runs and two doubles
  • Youngest Cubs player to hit three home runs in a game
  • 16 total bases is most by Cubs player
  • Became 9th player in MLB history to record five extra base hits in a game

Bryant now has placed himself front and center in the National League MVP discussion in his second major league season.

Certainly, what Bryant accomplished was historic and it was no wonder that the Cubs faithful visiting Great American Ballpark demanded a rare road curtain call. However, it was no more of a wonder that Kris Bryant, being the humble player/person that he is, refused the curtain call as to not show up the home team.

 

The Cubs needed every bit of Bryant’s strong showing and the rest of the lineup since Arrieta was not his usual self again. Anthony Rizzo and Jake Arrieta himself hit home runs while Willson Contreras got two hits. Still Arrieta struggled throughout the night even though he got the win. He only made it to five innings, giving up five earned runs on four hit while walking five. Arrieta’s ERA went up to 2.10.

 

The Cubs are hoping that Arrieta will right himself soon as he cannot expect to get such offensive support every time out. Luckily, the Cubs will be starting Jon Lester (9-3, 2.10 ERA) tonight who is arguably the Cubs best pitcher since the beginning of June. Despite losing his last game, against the Miami Marlins, he pitched seven innings and only gave up two earned runs over five hits while striking out seven. Lester is looking to earn his third win on the season against the Reds. In his first two starts he combined to pitch 13 innings while only giving up four earned runs.

 

The Reds will counter with John Lamb (1-4, 4.78 ERA) who is struggling in his second year with the organization. The left-hander was recalled on May 3 and subsequently lost his first three decisions. Lamb has had a few sporadic good outings, but has given up three or more runs in five out of his ten starts this season, including giving up six earned runs in one game and seven in another. Lamb, in his last outing, gave up three earned runs in just 5.1 innings against the San Diego Padres.

 

Outlook: Lester has dominated the Reds this season, so one would think that will continue. However, with the way the Cubs starting rotation has performed as of late, it is anyone’s guess as to what will happen. In the Cubs favor is that the Reds are 20th in MLB against left-handed pitching with a .246 batting average. The Cubs, on the other hand, are a little bit better, sitting 15th in MLB against left-handers with a .257 batting average. Moreover, Lamb is pretty even with his splits between left-handed and right-handed hitters as lefties are batting .267 while righties are hitting .265. The Cubs should be able to add to their mastery over the Reds by hitting Lamb as they did against Dan Straily last night.

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Cubs Look towards Reds Series to Recover From Slide, Arrieta Returns to Scene of Last No-Hitter

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D. 

Game 75
The Cubs (48-26) are in desperate need of a series win after dropping six out of their last seven games, including a home series sweep by the St. Louis Cardinals and losing three out of four to the Miami Marlins. Much of the talk revolving around the team is bullpen troubles and lack of timely hitting. However, after yesterday’s 6-1 loss to the Marlins and more specifically to Jose Fernandez and his 13 strikeouts the focus has shifted to Jake Arrieta returning to the scene of his most recent no-hitter—Cincinnati.

There could possibly be no better place right now for the Cubs to overcome their woes than to be in Cincinnati playing the Reds (29-47). The Cubs are 6-1 against the Reds on the season and are still a full 20 games ahead of them in the National League Central. Despite the Cubs faltering of late the Reds have also had troubles as of late (and for the entire season) as they have lost six out of their last eight games. Still, the Cubs have made some changes in response to the implosion of their bullpen. The team optioned left handed reliever Gerardo Concepcion back to AAA Iowa and recalled 40-year-old right hand pitcher Joel Peralta, who used to pitch for Manager Joe Maddon when they were in Tampa Bay.

Tonight, Arrieta (11-2, 1.74 ERA) will look to continue the magic he produced at the Great American Ball Park on April 21. During that night everything was clicking as Arrieta struck out six for his second career no-hitter and the Cubs smothered the Reds for a 16-0 win. The Cubs hit a total five home runs out of their season-high 18 hits, including two by Kris Bryant. The offense is in need of a punch despite Willson Contreras’ ascendance into the lineup and his quick acclimation to major league pitching. The Cubs are having trouble putting together those big innings that they made a regular habit of doing throughout the majority of the season.

Former Cub Dan Straily (4-4, 383 ERA) will be pitching for the Reds tonight. Straily has made one appearance against the Cubs this season. He came on in relief for Alfredo Simon after his meltdown in the April 13 game. Simon surrendered five earned runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Straily came in on relief and pitched admirably given the situation. He ended up giving the Reds just over two innings and only giving up two earned runs and two hits while striking out three.

Straily, for the season, has started 13 games after pitching in relief for three games. In general, he has been average pretty much all around. He has pitched some really good games and some really not so good games. Straily is currently coming off of a two-game losing streak in which he has pitched a total of 10.1 innings and has given up ten earned runs. The right hander has given up nine home runs in just 84.2 innings pitched.

Outlook: The Reds hitters have not had much success against Arrieta. The only player with minimal success against him is Brandon Phillips who is 4-14 with two doubles and two RBI. Maddon will be using a more balanced lineup tonight of four right handers and four left handers while having switch hitter Ben Zobrist leadoff. This balanced approach is the best way to go since neither side has a significant advantage over Straily as lefties hit him with a .180 average and righties at .226. Still, he has a high walk rate of 3.9 walks per nine innings, so the Cubs need to stick with the basics and force Straily to pitch in the zone. The Cubs lead all of MLB in team walks with 320. They need to be patient at the plate instead of pressing and trying to make something happen by chasing pitches outside of the strike zone.

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Cubs Lose 5 out of 6 Games, Forced to Beat Fernandez to Split Series with Marlins

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 74
The good news from Saturday is that the Cubs (48-25) offense looked better and scored six runs. The bad news is that the starting pitching and defense let them down as the Miami Marlins (40-35) came back from a 4-1 deficit to win 9-6. This was the Cubs fifth loss in six games. The unraveling of John Lackey was most troubling when he was handed a 4-1 lead after a solo home run by Miguel Montero and a three-run home run by Addison Russell. However, Lackey gave up a two-run shot to Justin Bour in the fourth and then came undone in the fifth after an error by Russell on an Ichiro grounder. With Ichiro standing on second, Lackey proceeded to give up a double to Martin Prado, a walk to Christian Yelich, and a single to Giancarlo Stanton before the Marlins took a 5-4 lead and was replaced by Gerardo Concepcion. Concepcion then surrendered two quick hits, which brought the total of earned runs charged to Lackey to seven.

The Cubs might be in some real trouble if the starting pitching continues to falter as that is the cornerstone of the success of the club. Moreover, they have only played their third game of an eleven game road trip, so the starting pitching needs to right itself quickly otherwise it could get far worse by the time they get back to Wrigley Field. As ESPN’s Jesse Rogers pointed out the Cubs were 44-3 on the season when they scored four or more runs. But, Saturday’s game made it 44-4. Moreover, Rogers mentioned that “Cubs starts had gone 23 consecutive games without giving up more than three runs, but in three of their past five starts, they’ve gone over three, all resulting in losses.”

Jason Hammel (7-4, 2.55 ERA) will be tasked with getting the rotation back on track on Sunday. However, he is coming off of his worst start of the season. Hammel, against the St. Louis Cardinals, only made it through 5.2 innings before he was pulled after giving up four earned runs on six hits including two home runs. Hammel’s ERA has steadily risen since the beginning of June, which was at 2.14 on June 4. This biggest change of Hammel as of late is that he is striking out fewer batters, but giving up more home runs. In the first two months, over ten starts, Hammel only gave up a total of three home runs. But, over his last four starts in June, he has given up five home runs.

The Cubs have a tall task on Sunday if they want to split this series as the Marlins will be starting young Ace Jose Fernandez (9-3, 2.36 ERA). If the right hander is not in the upper echelon of pitchers in the realm of Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta then he is knocking on the door. At the age of 23, Fernandez already has a career record of 31-12 with only a 2.39 ERA. He is currently sitting eighth in MLB in ERA, tied for fifth in WHIP with a 0.99 average, and third in strikeouts with 125. What makes Fernandez so effective is that he throws four pitches—four-seam fastball, curveball, changeup, and two-seam fastball—all with excellent command. Even more so, is the fact that he can throw his fastball up to 99 mph, which makes the secondary pitches even harder to hit.

Outlook: Beating Fernandez is going to be a tough task. There are very few holes in his game. Batters from both sides of the plate struggle against him. Left handers are hitting .219 against Fernandez while right handers are hitting just .170.  Moreover, his home ERA is just 1.78. Strangely, Fernandez has started 61 career games in his four years and has never faced the Cubs. In fact, only four current Cubs have faced Fernandez and all with a limited number of at-bats. Jason Heyward is the only Cub with moderate success against the right hander as he is 2-for-7 with one double, but has struck out three times. If the Cubs are going to have any chance of splitting the series against the Marlins, Hammel will need to pitch extremely well since the most earned runs Fernandez has given up in a game all year is four (twice).

 

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Contreras Leads Cubs to Win to Stop Four-Game Skid, Lackey Seeks to Get Back on Track

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 73
It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. The Cubs (48-24) won 5-4 in what can certainly be characterized as an interesting game against the Miami Marlins (39-35). The Cubs quickly jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a solo home run by Kris Bryant and a two-run shot by Willson Contreras. Javier Baez also singled home Chris Coghlan for the fourth run of the inning.

What seemed like a safe cushion was quickly evaporated one half-inning later when Kyle Hendricks gave up a two-out grand slam to Justin Bour to tie the game at four. The game appeared on the verge of a huge scoring affair, but both Hendricks and Marlins starter Tom Koehler settled in and neither team could score. The score remained 4-4 until the top of the seventh when Contreras singled home Bryant for the game winning RBI to break the Cubs four-game losing streak.

In just 17 major league at-bats, Contreras has seven hits including three home runs and 8 RBI. It appears that with Anthony Rizzo sidelined with tightness in his back that Contreras has shown he is comfortable in the four-hole knocking in runs. Joe Maddon is looking to keep Contreras’ bat in the lineup as much as possible, so with Rizzo returning to the batting order on Saturday Maddon is either going to play Contreras in left field or even at second base to replace Ben Zobrist who needs to heal a foot bruise. As starter Kyle Hendricks said after the game, “He looks like an established big league hitter. You saw it tonight. And we need it right now.”

The Cubs will have John Lackey (7-3, 2.78 ERA) going in Saturday afternoon’s game. Lackey is looking to get back on the winning side as he lost his last game. In that game, against the St. Louis Cardinals, he gave up three earned runs over seven hits, including two home runs. Even though Lackey struck out six batters he also walked three. Prior to that, Lackey was on a bit of a roll as he hadn’t loss since May 11. The Marlin with the best career success against Lackey has been Ichiro Suzuki, naturally, who out of 119 at-bats has 36 hits for a .303 average.

The Marlins will be starting Paul Clemens (0-0, 5.40 ERA) on Saturday. The tall right hander was recalled on June 20 from AAA New Orleans to make his 2016 major league debut. In that outing he pitched five innings giving up three earned runs on seven hits in a no-decision against the Colorado Rockies. Prior to joining the Marlins, Clemens pitched for the Houston Astros in 2013 and 2014. For his career he is 4-8 with a 5.51 ERA

Outlook: Right handers have hit Clemens significantly hard throughout his career as they have a .301 average to go along with 14 home runs. Left handers over the course of his career have hit a little less at a .258 clip but have also hit 10 home runs off of him. In his first game of the year, Clemens only threw three different pitches—two-seam fastball, curveball, and changeup. His fastball can reach the mid-90’s. Still, it’s not the type of pitching repertoire that should keep the Cubs offense at bay. The Cubs need to remain patient with Clemens as he has a high walk rate in his limited time in the majors. The hitters need to make Clemens pitch in the strike zone first, instead of chasing pitches. If the Cubs can make Clemens work and get his pitch count up then they should have a significantly better chance of winning their second game in a row.

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A Cub for Life: The Life, Death, and Remembrance of Ken Hubbs

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By Frederick Krauss Ph.D.

The Cubs players and fans share a unique bound that has stood the test of time. They share a certain closeness that is not felt in other fan bases. The Cubs embrace the fans and the fans embrace the players in a way that forms a deeper and lasting bond. I think that the bond is fortified even deeper when both go through the ups and many downs that they have together.

The Cubs organization and fans have suffered its share of heartache and disappointment on the field. From missed playoff opportunities to costly errors, the organization has had more downs than ups over the years. Still, there is a big difference between disappointment created on the field of play and tragedy off of the field. Unfortunately, the Cubs have felt that anguish too, none greater, arguably, than the sudden death of their sure-handed second baseman Ken Hubbs in 1964 at the young age of 22.

Ken Hubbs was on the cusp of being a star among stars on a tremendous Cubs roster. He epitomized the spirit of what it meant to be a Cub. He, along with Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Billie Williams, and Ron Santo were the bright future that lied ahead for the organization in the 1960’s. Hubbs and Banks were destined to be one of the better double-play combinations in the Major League Baseball history. More significantly, Hubbs, despite is young age, quickly established himself as a leader in the Cubs clubhouse through his steady play and the exemplary way he presented himself. The loss of Hubbs stung the Cubs and the fan base for years to come as the players lost a brother and the fans lost a player who they endeared because he always took the time to be accessible.

Hubbs was the storybook American athlete. He was born in Riverside, California on December 23, 1941 and raised in Colton. After overcoming an early childhood hernia, which prevented him from being active, Hubbs quickly excelled in all sports. Right away he quickly gained national fame by leading his 1954 little league team to the championship game of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

In high school, at Colton High, Hubbs lettered in four sports—football, basketball, baseball, and track. He also became an All-American in basketball and football. Hubbs was such a good athlete that Notre Dame recruited him to play quarterback and UCLA legendary coach John Wooden recruited him to play point guard. Still, Hubbs chose baseball because he felt that it was the clearest route to becoming a professional athlete. So when the Cubs drafted him in 1959 and offered him a $50,000 signing bonus he signed and officially became a professional baseball player.

Hubbs had a significant impact on the Cubs organization in the short time he was with them. He went up the ranks as a shortstop and outfielder, but since Banks was entrenched at shortstop the organization switched him to play second base. He made his debut with the club on September 10, 1961 and went on to play in ten games that season.

It was his first full season as a rookie in 1962 that established Hubbs as a real major leaguer. That season he won the National League Rookie of the Year award by batting .260 with five home runs and 49 RBI. However, it was not his bat that won Hubbs the award, but his glove. Hubbs went a then MLB record for a second baseman 78 games and 418 chances without making an error. He also became the first rookie to ever win a Gold Glove. He also holds the single-season record for most at-bats by a Cubs rookie at 661.

The story goes that halfway through the 1962 season, Phil Wrigley saw how well Hubbs was playing and how bright his future was with the Cubs that he tore up his contract and doubled his salary. And although his offensive stats slightly went down the following year his glove cemented him as a permanent fixture at second and to be Ernie Banks’ running-mate for several years to come. Unfortunately, the 1963 season was the last year that the Cubs and their fans got to enjoy the excellence of Hubbs’ play and character.

Hubbs had a fear of flying, but the competitor in him decided to fight it by earning his pilot’s license throughout 1963. He finally earned his license in January 1964. On February 13, 1964 Hubbs and his childhood friend Dennis Doyle were flying a Cessna 172 from a visit in Provo, Utah back to Colton. There was a storm approaching that morning, but Hubbs felt like he could make it out of the Provo area before the inclement weather hit.

On February 14, Hubbs’ father Euliss reported to authorities that his son’s plane had not landed at the airport near Colton. Search and rescue crews were sent out over the three states that covered his flight path. Rescuers discovered the wreckage of Hubbs’ plane near Bird Island in Utah Lake on the outskirts of Provo, Utah.

It turns out that Hubbs discovered he was not going to be able to out-fly the storm and decided to turn back as the visibility became hazy. At the time of the flight he only had 71 hours of flying experience. As a result, Hubbs was not qualified to fly by instruments, which pilots have to when visibility is disrupted. His inexperience caused him to lose the horizon and sent the plane in what experts call a “graveyard spiral.” Hubbs was 22 years old at the time of his death.

Hubbs’ death hit his Cubs teammates hard. Hall of Famer Santo said, “After he died, I had to see a priest. I couldn’t understand it. I mean. He loved life. He was a great human being. This was a kid who didn’t even smoke or drink.” Pitcher Lindy McDaniel lamented that “He had a real positive effect on the ballclub. The Cubs could always use that.” Several players served as pallbearers including Santo and Banks at the funeral where over 1,300 mourners attended. As then-Mayor Richard Daley wrote, “There isn’t a man in Chicago who wouldn’t have been proud to have him as a son.”

The death of Ken Hubbs left a lot of “what ifs” regarding the organization. What if he was still with the team in the 1960’s? Would they have made the playoffs or even won a World Series? Would he have prevented the collapse in 1969? Would he have helped the club in other capacities after his playing career was over? Again, there are a lot of “what ifs”, but the saddest of them all was that Hubbs was a brilliant young man with a bright future who symbolized everything that was great about the Cubs and their connection with the fans.

It was said that after day games at Wrigley Hubbs would go back to his Chicago apartment and play stick ball with the neighborhood kids. Hubbs’ legacy is felt to this day as there is foundation in his name, the Ken Hubbs Foundation, which provides scholarships to the best male and female student-athletes in the San Bernardino, California Area. Hubbs will forever be linked with the Cubs and what could have been. But also, he clearly defined the quality of person that the Cubs organization looks to have representing the club on the field.

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Cubs Suffer First 4-Game Losing Streak As Bats Go Cold, Look to Get Hot vs. Koehler

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 72
The Cubs (47-24) have hit their first four-game losing streak of the year after a 4-2 loss to the Miami Marlins (39-34). In this span, their starting pitching has held steady, but the offense has gone cold. Unfortunately, this was bound to happen for a few reasons. First, the Cubs have been in the middle of the pack all year in team batting average despite leading the league in run differential. They are currently settled in at 15th with a .254 average, which is not bad, but not great. A majority of the season they only had three regular players in the lineup who were batting .270 or above—Ben Zobrist, Dexter Fowler, and Kris Bryant. Day-to-day these three were sharing the brunt of the offensive load. As of now, Fowler, arguably the best lead-off hitter in MLB, is on the disabled list. Zobrist was hitting over .400 for the month of May, which was something that could not be sustainable throughout the duration of a season and is now batting .224 in his last 15 games. Bryant’s average has now dipped below .270. So, altogether, the three most consistent offensive contributors have been unable to produce.

Second, the lineup has taken a significant hit due to injuries. Fowler, Jorge Soler, and Tommy LaStella are all currently on the disabled list. Moreover, Anthony Rizzo has been dealing with back stiffness that has caused him to be in-and-out of the lineup as of late. Those four players have a big impact on the offense, so obviously it will suffer a bit when they are missing. Third, as a result of the injuries the Cubs have been introducing AAA sensations Willson Contreras and Albert Almora, Jr. to the big leagues by playing them regularly and although they have been holding their own they have not been able to make the same impact on games like Fowler or Rizzo.

The time will come shortly when everything starts clicking. Fowler, Soler, LaStella, and Rizzo will get healthy, Zobrist and Bryant will start hitting again, and the rookies will become acclimated to major league pitching. In the end, the Cubs will be better off going through these growing pains and will have a more formidable lineup towards the end of the year. Moreover, it is not far-fetched to believe that the Cubs will bring in a big bat come trade deadline. Still, what’s important, the best record in baseball or a World Series? I am sure every fan will take a World Series. If unsure, just ask fans of the 2001 Seattle Mariners, or the 2007 New England Patriots, or even fans of this season’s Golden State Warriors, Best league record does not guarantee a championship.

Tonight, the Cubs will look to Kyle Hendricks (5-6. 2.94 ERA) to break the four-game slide. Hendricks was able to break his own two-game losing streak in his last outing when he pitched six innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates and only gave up one earned run on seven hits. He also struck out a career-high 12 batters without a walk. Hendricks is still among the top in WHIP in all of MLB with a 1.02 average. Hendricks is having significant trouble with left handers this season as they are hitting .301 against him.

The Marlins will have right hander Tom Koehler (6-6, 3.92 ERA) on the mound to go for two-in-a-row against the Cubs. Koehler is on bit of a hot streak as of late as he has won three straight games. Even more so, he has pitched extremely well in all three games—only giving up four earned runs over 18 total innings. Koehler throws five pitches—four-seam fastball, slider, knuckle curve, changeup, and two-seam fastball. Although, he mostly throws the four-seamer, slider, and knuckle curve. Koehler can get his fastball up to 95 mph.

Outlook: Cubs hitters do not have significant experience against Koehler. Rizzo and Bryant only have six and three at-bats respectively against him. Jason Heyward is the only Cubs player with over ten at-bats against Koehler and he has moderate success going 6-for-19 for a .316 with one RBI. Koehler is overwhelmingly tough on right handers as they are hitting .201. Left handers fare better with a .287. Moreover, Koehler does not give up the long-ball that much as he has only surrendered four home runs this season. If the Cubs are going to start scoring runs it appears that the left handed hitters will have to focus on just making contact and getting the ball through the infield.

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Cubs Reeling After Being Swept by Cards, Lester’s Turn to Right the Ship against Miami

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 71
The Cubs were in the driver’s seat at the beginning of the series with the St. Louis Cardinals. They were 12 ½ games ahead of them in the National League Central and anything short of a sweep would be a success for the Cubs. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened and now the Cardinals are only 9 ½ games back and have gained some momentum that they desperately needed to compete with the Cubs.

The Cubs didn’t get typical performances from John Lackey, Jason Hammel, and especially Jake Arrieta. However, those pitchers did just enough to keep the team in the game, but the offense was not able to do much of anything. The Cubs combined for seven runs in three games, which can be a concern as they have been prone throughout the season to go through offensive dry spells. It’s even more troubling given that Dexter Fowler is now on the disabled list and Anthony Rizzo’s back has started to stiffen up again. It will take a team effort to get out of this slide and back in the win column.

Jon Lester (9-3, 2.06 ERA) will be pitching for the Cubs (47-23) tonight against the Miami Marlins (38-34). Lester has arguably been the Cubs best pitcher over the last month as he has won his last five games in a row and has not lost since May 21. In the five games he has only given up five earned runs and struck out 35 while walking only five batters. What is more impressive is that Lester has vaulted himself into the upper echelon of top pitchers for the season. He is currently sitting fifth in MLB for ERA and tied for seventh in MLB for WHIP at 0.99.

The Marlins will counter with Wei-Yin Chen (4-2, 5.22 ERA). The left hander has been a decent pitcher this year for the Marlins. His record is good, but his ERA and WHIP at 1.34 leaves a lot to be desired. Moreover, the batting average against Chen of .277 shows that hitters are having no problem hitting his pitches. Over his last seven games Chen as earned six no decisions and one win. However, in his last two no-decisions Chen was bailed out, as he gave up five earned runs and six earned runs in those two games. Chen is currently tied for 11th in home runs surrendered with 15.

Outlook: The Cubs know that it’s important to get a win right away against the Marlins, who is a team that struggled to split a series with the last place Atlanta Braves. The Marlins have no business taking a series from the Cubs, so they must come out and show why they are the best team in the National League. Even if the offense is still struggling the Cubs should be able to manufacture enough runs given everyone’s abilities. Lester should be able to give the Cubs a good start and the members of the newly restocked bullpen should be able to hold the game down. Hopefully the Cubs will come ready to end the three-game skid and regain their winning form.

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Cubs lose 2nd 1-Run Game in A Row to Cards, Arrieta Tries to End Skid

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 70
The Cubs (47-22) lost their second one-run game in a row against the St. Louis Cardinals (37-33). They had another chance to tie or win the game in the ninth, but fell short again. A 3-run third inning off of pitcher Jason Hammel ended up being the difference-maker in the game. Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday homered in the inning. There were many positives to be taken out of the loss still as the Cubs fought their way back and threatened to take the lead. Still, the Cubs would like to at least salvage this series by getting at least one win.

Jake Arrieta (11-1, 1.74 ERA) has the task this afternoon to stop the two-game losing streak. Arrieta was masterful in his last outing, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, when he struck out 11 in six innings and gave up only two hits. Arrieta is neck-and-neck with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw as the best pitcher in baseball. They are both tied for the National League lead with 11 wins each. Arrieta is second to Kershaw in ERA, 1.74 and 1.57 respectively. Additionally, Arrieta is third to Kershaw in WHIP with .095 to .067 respectively. Arrieta got a win in his only meeting against the Cardinals this year, but arguably pitched his worst game of the year. He only made it through five innings giving up four earned runs on seven hits and only struck out four. The Cubs were bailed out by the offense in that game as they won 9-8.

Michael Wacha (2-7, 4.56 ERA) will be pitching for the Cardinals in an effort to complete the sweep.  Wacha has been uncharacteristically ineffective all season. After starting the season with two wins he has lost his last seven decisions in a row. At times he has pitched solidly, like his last outing when he only gave up one earned run over 7.2 innings in a 1-0 loss to the Texas Rangers. However, Wacha has mostly struggled. He has only made it through seven innings four times this season out of 14 starts. His walks per nine innings are significantly up and his strikeouts per nine innings are down. The Cardinals need better performances from Wacha if they are going to compete with the Cubs for the National League Central.

Outlook: Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have both had great success against Wacha. Bryant is five-for-13 with a .385 average including a home run, triple, and four RBI. Rizzo is 11-for-25 for a .440 average with two home runs and also four RBI. Right handers are hitting Wacha significantly well at a .277 average, but left handers are also hitting him at a decent clip with a .252 average. The splits against Arrieta are not so friendly to hitters as left handers are hitting .199 and right handers are hitting .153. Overall, one would expect for Arrieta to come out strong during the day game and assert himself while the Cubs hitters get comfortable with Wacha and put some runs up on the board.

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