Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.
The Cubs (61-40) earned arguably their most impressive win of the season when they beat the White Sox 2-1 on Thursday night. John Lackey looked significantly better than he has in months after going winless in eight starts. He gave up a run in the first inning, but then settled down and pitched five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs in the game.
Chris Sale was coming back after his suspension and having not pitched in ten days. However, he did not look like he had any rust despite taking the loss. He kept the Cubs offense in check, but they did just enough to turn it over to the newly formed Cubs bullpen. Dexter Fowler scored twice, once on a Bryant double in the first and the other on a Zobrist single in the third. Russell was able to knock in Zobrist in the eighth on a groundout for an insurance run.
With a 2-1 lead heading into the seventh, Manager Joe Maddon was able to send out his three-man bullpen rotation of Pedro Strop in the seventh, Hector Rondon in the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. The rotation almost went as plan as Strop got through the seventh without any trouble. Although Rondon recorded two outs in the eighth he allowed the tying run on third with two outs. This is where the luxury of having Chapman comes in as Maddon went to him early and he proceeded to strike out Melky Cabrera on a 102 mph pitch. Chapman finished the game with a 1-2-3 ninth to give the Cubs the victory. The look of the new bullpen was a beautiful thing to watch as it appears teams are really going to struggling scoring runs if they are down in the seventh inning.
Jon Lester (10-4, 3.09 ERA) will be facing Hisashi Iwakuma (11-6, 3.96 ERA) in Friday’s series opener. Lester struggled in his last start, against the Milwaukee Brewers, when he gave up four earned runs in just four innings. He did strike out seven batters, but was pulled by Joe Maddon when it was apparent he didn’t have is good stuff that game. Iwakuma has been the Mariners best starter as he has won six games in a row and has not lost since June 22. In his last game he was able to stifle the high-powered Toronto Blue Jays lineup by keeping them to two earned runs over six innings.
Wade Miley (6-8, 5.23 ERA) will get the start for the Mariners on Saturday. Miley started out the season pitching well as he came out to a 6-2 record. However, he has since lost his last six games in a row. Miley last win was against the Cleveland Indians on June 7. Along with the high earned run average, Miley has a high batting average against at .286. Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.76 ERA) will be on the mound for the Cubs, who have lost his last four starts. It is hard to believe that Arrieta has not won a decision in over a month. He is still in contention to repeat as National League Cy Young winner, but he will need to get a win here to stay to remain in the hunt.
Sunday’s game will be on ESPN and will feature Felix Hernandez (5-4, 3.45 ERA) versus Kyle Hendricks (9-7, 2.39 ERA). Hernandez was arguably the most dominant pitcher in the American League since 2009, but he has fallen off a bit recently due to injuries. Hernandez has especially struggled in his last three games where he has pitched a total of 18.2 innings and has given up 15 earned runs. Surprisingly, over that span, he has only struck out 11 batters. Hendricks, on the other hand, has been the Cubs most consistent pitcher despite losing his last outing. In that game, against the Chicago White Sox, he threw 5.2 innings and gave up three earned runs on six hits. Hendricks had previously not given up a run in four outings.
Outlook: The Mariners are battling for a playoff spot in the American League West. They remain in playoff contention due to their powerful offense lead by second baseman Robinson Cano, right fielder Nelson Cruz, and third baseman Kyle Seager who have home runs of 22, 25, 20 respectively. The Mariners (51-49) are currently 12th in MLB in team batting average with a .260. The Cubs are now down to 15th with a .254. The Mariners pitcher will present a challenge to the Cubs, but Hernandez is not pitching the way he normally does. Iwakuma will be the biggest challenge to the Cubs. However, it is expected for the Cubs to come out with a series victory.