Down five games in ten days and plunging like a stock market correction, the I-Cub divisional lead that’s been in double digits much of the summer has been cut to five as the PCL regular season enters its final week. Granted, it still sits at five with only eight games remaining, but the last four are versus the onrushing Memphis Redbirds, winners of nine of their last ten (including a series sweep of Iowa), here in Des Moines, culminating with the season finale on Labor Day.
The Nationals roll into the Windy City scrapping for a Wild Card spot. The Cubs have a dog fight going with St. Louis, who matched the Cubs with a win Thursday and trail by only half a game going into the series. (Add to that drama the excitement of players' weekend! Yipee!) See below for the daily match-ups.
CHC (68-58): RHP Kyle Hendricks (8-9, 3.37 ERA)
SF (63-64): RHP Jeff Samardzija (9-9, 3.54 ERA)
First pitch 1:20pmCDT
My heart doesn't believe it, but the Cubs today will try for their fifth win in a row and a sweep of the Giants. Can you believe that game yesterday counted as a win the same as, say, a solidly played 5-2 victory? Baseball is nonsense. Kyle Hendricks takes the mound and his performance should be key to this game, given that five relievers labored in last night's "victory." He last got a no decision against the Pirates on seven innings, one earned run, and only one strikeout. Current Giants are 27-125 off of him with a .556 OPS against him. Belt is 6-16 with the squads only homerun off of the righty.
CHC (67-58): RHP Yu Darvish (4-6, 4.21 ERA)
SF (63-63): RHP Dereck Rodriguez (5-6, 4.79 ERA)
First pitch 7:05pmCDT
The Cubs kept pace with the Cardinals by winning their third in a row, pushing the Giants back down to .500 in the process. Darvish takes the mound today. He must be itching for a win after shutting out the Phillies for 7 innings, striking out 10, and getting a no decision in the process. On July 23 he allowed four earned runs to the Giants in six innings of work. Alex Dickerson took him deep and is 2-3 with a homerun and a double off of Darvish. As a group, current Giants are 16-77 off of the righty with a .552 OPS and 17 strikeouts to only two walks.
CHC (66-58): LHP Cole Hamels (6-4, 3.69 ERA)
SF (63-62): RHP Tyler Beede (3-7, 5.77 ERA)
First pitch 7:05pmCDT
The Cubs swapped Bote for Cishek before the game, bolstering a bullpen that recently got back Craig Kimbrel as well. That plus the two wins the team put together at the end of the road trip should help them put their Pennsylvania struggles behind them. Meanwhile, Cole Hamels prepares to take on the Giants at Wrigley.
The I-Cubs headed to Memphis late last week with a road record that was the envy of their parents and a magic number of nine. Had they swept the four-game set with the Redbirds, they’d be returning home tonight with a chance to clinch their quarter of the PCL and lock in their spot in the divisional playoffs. Instead of the broomers, alas, they were doomed and got broomed.
The Cubs may want to flee the state after that performance in Philadelphia, but they only make it as far as the western side of Pennsylvania. There, they find the last place Pirates waiting for them. The Pirates ended an 8-game skid by taking the first two in their last series, against the Angels. The Pittsburgh club is firmly in the role of spoiler following that 8-game losing streak and a 9-game losing streak that lead them into the trade deadline. The Cubs head into the series in a tie with the Cardinals and only 1 game ahead of the Brewers. See below for the matchups.