The team by lake is hot, the team by the desert is not. The Cubs have rattled off 8 of their last 9, but the Diamondbacks are slithering towards the cellar of the National League West.
This series will be fun for old-timer, nostalgic Cubs fans — just like last weekend, all three games will be played at 1:20. There’s just something so sweet about afternoon baseball. No lights necessary. Why did they ever install those things in the first place?
The Diamondbacks have fallen on hard times. They were one of those trendy picks before the season started. They had just revamped their look with all-new jerseys, inked ace Zack Greinke to a monstrous contract (6 years, $206.5M) and traded for Braves’ hurler Shelby Miller.
Grienke’s 4.71 ERA is nearly triple last year’s mark and he looks nothing like the Cy Young candidate he’s been the last three seasons. Miller hasn’t been himself either — he pitched terribly (1-6, 7.09 ERA, 1.86 WHIP) until being placed on the 15-day disabled list last week.
Once hopeful for a shot at the playoffs, the snakebitten D-Backs now find themselves 10 games back of the division-leading Giants. As bad as they’ve been, they did take two of three games on the road against the Cardinals just two weeks ago. The Cubs can’t take them too lightly.
Since Grienke pitched yesterday and Miller’s on the mend, the Cubs have an opportunity to really get their bats going this weekend. Not to mention, the D-backs rank 27th in the league in team ERA. Here’s a quick look at the starters they’ll see.
Bradley will battle against John Lackey to kick off the weekend series. The 24-year-old has yet to live up to his first round potential in his short career. He has a 6.11 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and opposing hitters are batting .261 against him in his three starts this season. While that’s a small sample size, the Diamondbacks were hoping for more from their young right-hander in his second season. He’s struggled mightily with his location — he walks 4.08 runners per nine innings. Bradley has a particularly good 12-6 curve ball, but in order for it to be effective, he needs to do a better job of spotting his four-seam fastball and getting ahead in counts.
Escobar takes the bump on Saturday afternoon against Jason Hammel. Escobar has just one big league start under his belt and, in a word, it was forgettable. He pitched 3.1 innings, allowing 10 hits and 8 runs against the Astros. The scouting report on Escobar is obviously limited — but look for him to rely heavily on his four-seamer to induce ground balls. He’ll mix in a change-up and curveball as well.
Corbin will battle against Jake Arrieta in the series finale on Sunday. Corbin is the most veteran pitcher the Cubs will see this weekend, this is his fourth season in the bigs. He missed the entire 2014 season and a potion of the 2015 season after having Tommy John surgery. He’s allowing 1.52 HR/9, which is the sixth worst mark in the national league. The friendly confines won’t be so kind to him if the wind is blowing out off the lake. Hitters must be wary of his devastating slider, it may not be venomous, but it could snake by a number of Cubs hitters. Corbin mixes his four pitches extremely well, throwing a four seamer (37.6% FREQ), sinker (28.42%), change-up (13.06%) and his slider (20.92%). Still, keeping the ball in the yard could be an issue.
The Diamondbacks offense may be the only thing working for them — they rank seventh in the league in runs scored.
Paul Goldschmidt is finally starting to become a household name amongst baseball fans. Since he plays in a small market and his team hasn’t experienced much success, he hasn’t gained the notoriety he deserves. After finishing second in NL MVP voting last year, he struggled to start this season. He’s starting to look like himself again and is slashing at .267/.421.476 on the season. His batting average is way down from years past; he hit over .300 the last three seasons. Nonetheless, he’s leading NL first basemen in WAR and teams can’t forget about his defense either — he’s a two-time gold glove award winner.
Cubs fans may remember the name Jean Segura from his days with the Brewers, but may not recognize the D-backs leadoff hitter. Segura looks like a new player in Arizona. He’s experiencing career-high numbers in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He serves as the team’s table-setter and spark plug at the top of the order. Segura had to fill big shoes after All-Star lead off man A.J. Pollock went down with a season-ending elbow injury just days before the 2016 season started.
Jake Lamb is starting to make a name for himself at the hot corner at Chase Field. The 25-year-old is slashing. 282/.364/.540 and is providing Goldschmidt more protection in the lineup.
I correctly predicted a series sweep over the Phillies last weekend and expect the Cubs to bring out the brooms again this weekend. The Cubs should have no problem scoring early and often against the D-backs weak pitching staff.
Arizona’s offense can be deadly at times, but with the way Lackey, Hammel and Arrieta have been dealing this season, I like the Cubs’ chances. Like I said, don’t take these Diamondbacks too lightly, their offense can bite you, but I doubt they’ll be able to keep up with the Cubs.
Kevin McCarthy, a junior at the University of Illinois, is serving an internship at Scout.com this summer and covering the Cubs for NorthSidersReport. You can follow him at @KevOMcCarthy on Twitter or contact him by e-mail at Kevin.McCarthy00@yahoo.com