Cubs vs. Pirates: Hendricks vs. Musgrove (Game 86)

CHC (45-40): RHP Kyle Hendricks (7-5, 3.36 ERA)
PIT (40-43): RHP Joe Musgrove (6-7, 4.27 ERA)
First pitch 6:05pmCDT

Kyle Hendricks returns from his IL stint just in time to help the bullpen recover from yesterday's blowout loss. Hendrick's last start was probably his second worst of the season, and the news of his shoulder impingement followed hot on the heels of that loss to the Dodgers. Current Pirates are 35-147 against him with a collective .650 OPS. Polanco, 10-28 with two homeruns, is on the IL for this series. Joe Musgrove is 1-1 vs. the Prof.

Cubs vs. Pirates: Alzolay vs. Williams (Game 85)

CHC (45-39): RHP Adbert Alzolay (1-0, 2.08 ERA)
PIT (39-43): RHP Trevor Williams (2-2, 4.25 ERA)
First pitch 6:05pmCDT

The Cubs leave behind a contentious Cincinnati series and give us Alzolay's second MLB start as a distraction. The rookie right-hander was inefficient in his first start, allowing four walks to go with four strikeouts in only 4.1 innings of work. Still, the only run scored on a solo homerun by Acuna. Walks were never a big issue for Alzolay in the minors. The Pirates are a touch below average offensively, but they are 13th in the majors in wRC+ vs right-handers. Josh Bell, Bryan Reynolds, and Kevin Newman have been especially potent against righties. Cub killer Francisco Cervelli has been held to a .557 OPS against righties--but he's on the IL with a concussion.

Cubs @ Reds: Series Thread (Games 82-84)

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.

Cubs vs. Braves: Chatwood vs. Wilson (Game 81)

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.

Cubs vs. Braves: Darvish vs. Keuchel (Game 80)

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.

Cubs vs. Braves: Alzolay vs. Fried (Game 79)

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 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.

Cubs vs. Braves: Lester vs. Teheran (Game 78)

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.

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