The Cubs mustered a big comeback and debuted their new closer, Kimbrel, to end the first half of the season. Today, they open the second half with a weekend series against the last-place Cincinnati Reds. Although they bring up the rear of the NL Central, the Reds are hardly a bad club in 2019. They are only 6.5 games behind the Cubs and feature a pretty good pitching staff (fourth in the majors by ERA- at 82). There offense has not kept pace with their run prevention. The two teams last faced off in Chicago near the end of May, when the Reds took the series 2-1. Read past the break for day-by-day matchups and a little first-half questionnaire.
Archive - Jun 2019
CHC (43-37): RHP Tyler Chatwood (3-1, 3.69 ERA)
ATL (48-33): RHP Bryse Wilson (0-0, 8.31 ERA)
First pitch 1:20pmCDT
Although Tyler Chatwood's time with the Cubs has been disappointing so far, I find his story to be a point of some interest for 2019. He was relegated to the bullpen and likely candidate to be dumped in some fashion since before the season began. In the bullpen, he's put up a respectable ERA but somehow has still otherwise been valued at below replacement levels (-0.3 fWAR). In four outings of four innings or more (two starts), he's gone 18 innings and allowed four runs (three earned). His walk rate has improved over last year and is still terrible, at over five per nine innings. His high groundball rate has helped him work around walks some of that time. He's all but scrapped his off-speed stuff, throwing a fastball or a cutter 86.0% of the time. Will he find the zone frequently enough to mix in his slider or his curve? That could make the difference between a serviceable swing man and wasted roster space. Most recently, He pitched four innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on one walk and four hits, serving as the opening act for Adbert Alzolay's first career win. Current Atlanta hitters are 20-58 with a .926 OPS off of him. Freeman is dangerous as usual, and he's 8-16 off of Chatwood.
CHC (43-36): RHP Yu Darvish (2-3, 4.75 ERA)
ATL (47-33): LHP Dallas Keuchel (0-1, 5.40 ERA)
First pitch 7:05pmCDT
Darvish heads to the hill in order to untie the series. Yu's last start was a no-decision marred by a pair of Mets homeruns, accounting for three of the four runs he allowed. Darvish has yet to put together a consistent good stretch, but going back about a month to May 25th he seems to have gotten a handle on the walk problem that hurt him in the first two months of the season. His ERA during that time has been 4.34 anyway largely because he's allowed almost two homeruns per nine innings. A little good luck going his way would probably do wonders for fans' confidence in him. Darvish did not pitch in the Atlanta series during the first week. Former AL MVP Josh Donaldson is 4-20 off of him with nine strikeouts. Albies and Enciarte are each 3-7, and Enciarte has the lone dinger.
CHC (43-35): RHP Adbert Alzolay (1-0, 2.25 ERA)
ATL (46-33): LHP Max Fried (8-3, 4.03 ERA)
First pitch 7:05pmCDT
Willson Contreras blew up over a confectionery debate and then the Cubs offense blew up to defeat Atlanta in the series opener. Adbert Alzolay takes the mound for his first MLB start with a win and a standing ovation already under his belt. He gave us a good look at his plus fastball and plus curveball as he pitched four innings in relief of Chatwood. He struck out five Mets and allowed a solo homerun as the only hit. The Atlanta offense has been better vs. righties than lefties.
CHC (42-35): LHP Jon Lester (6-5, 4.13 ERA)
ATL (46-32): RHP Julio Teheran (5-5, 3.40 ERA)
First pitch 7:05pmCDT
The Cubs sandwiched their losses between two juicy slices of victory* and topped it all with some Javy special sauce to achieve the split vs. the Mets on Sunday. Jon Lester takes his turn tonight in the opener against the Braves. He'll be trying to further distance himself from a run of drudgery (for fans and himself alike). The team last faced Atlanta during the hell week that opened 2019. Lester faced off against Teheran and got a no-decision, pitching six innings and allowing two earned runs. Swanson and Albies tagged him for solo homeruns in that game. Most recently Lester worked his way to a win against the White Sox, going 5.2 and yielding three earned runs. His strikeouts and walks have been fine lately; it's the longball he'll have to avoid to return to form. Freddie Freeman is 6-22 against Lester with two homeruns and ten strikeouts. Nick Markakis has 92 at bats against him and an OPS of .586.
Sad news at Sloan Park Saturday night as informatiion was received that long-time Cubs Dominican Republic Area Scout Carlos Reyes was struck and killed by a car in Santo Domingo on Friday.
Reyes was one of four Cubs Dominican Area Scouts (the Cubs also have a Dominican Scouting Coordinator). He was hired by the Cubs about twelve years ago after newly-hired Scouting Director Tim Wilken significantly expanded the Cubs international scouting foot-print (the Cubs previously had one Area Scout covering all of the Dominican Republic).
Reyes signed dozens of Dominican players over the years, including OF Eloy Jimenez, INF Arismendy Alcantara, RHP Jose Rosario, RHP Pedro Araujo, OF Jonathan Sierra, RHP Yunior Perez, INF Luis Diaz, RHP Benjamin Rodriguez, and RHP Luis Ramos.
Per statistics compiled by the World Health Organization in 2016, the Dominican Republic has the highest rate of traffic-related fatalities per 100,000 population of any country in the Americas (Belize is a distant second). Cubs minor leaguers RHP Jose Zapata and OF Kevin Encarnacion (both signed by Reyes) were almost killed (and had their playing careers effectively destroyed) after being involved in a roll-over car crash in the Dominican in January 2014, and another Cubs minor leaguer (not signed by Reyes) -- 16-year old SS Vicente King -- was killed in a motorcycle crash in the Dominican in April 2017, less than two months before he was scheduled to make his pro debut in the DSL.
Willson Contreras resuscitated the Cubs offense last night. They'll try to keep the juices flowing in a 4-game series against the Mets. Said Metropolitans enter town at a disappointing 35-39 mark and 2-5 over their last two series. Their offense is just a tick above average by wRC+ (barely behind the Cubs at the moment) and the pitching staff is 4th worst in the majors by ERA-. First baseman Pete Alonso has been the season's pleasant surprise, mashing 24 homeruns before the midpoint in his debut season. Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard remain good but look far more mortal than past iterations. They lost Yoenis Cespedes to an ankle injury that will prevent him from appearing at all this year. Meanwhile, the Cubs have called up Adbert Alzolay to help out of the bullpen while Hendricks and the training staff navigate his shoulder impingement. See below for daily matchups.