Analysis

Cubs Look to Rebound in the Rockies Despite a Mountain of Troubles

Well. I can’t say anything to make you feel better after last night except that more baseball is to be played in just a few hours. One day we’ll look back on that marathon of a game and laugh … I hope. But for now, to wallow in our misery just a little bit more, let’s take a look at all of the bad outcomes from yesterday and their impacts on the next few days:

1 – The Cubs, after that agonizing defeat, had to get on a plane and fly straight to Colorado, meaning they’re going to be exhausted tomorrow.

2 – The entire bullpen is shot.

3 – Despite being in prime position to win two of the three games in that series, they got swept and are now only one game above .500 and out of first place in the National League Central.

4 – Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Jason Heyward are all injured to some extent, and there’s a gaping hole in the starting rotation because of Brett Anderson‘s back pains that landed him a stint on the 10-day disabled list.

5 – They made a valiant comeback only to lose in the eighteenth inning – everyone is demoralized heading into this series.

But hey, such is the game of baseball. You can either be winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years or … well, you can be here and now. The Cubs will look to rebound from this depressing weekend in the most hitter-friendly field in the major leagues as they take on the Colorado Rockies out west.

Previewing the Cubs

Source: Jon Durr/Getty Images North America

Yeah, the Cubbies had a very impressive comeback last night, but that doesn’t change that fact that they got the loss and that they’ve been struggling for quite a while. Now at 16-15, they’ve now dropped seven of their last 11 games, and, as I mentioned earlier, are no longer winning their division. They’re in third place behind the Reds and the Cardinals, are one game above .500 and two games out of last place.

The underlying thread found in this bad stretch is something I know you all have recognized – first inning runs. Entering Sunday night, the Cubs had allowed 40 runs in the first inning, the highest total any MLB team has had in 81 years, including adding on to that total in 11 of their past 15 games. Not ideal. Coors Field is incredibly offense-heavy, so a continuation of this stretch is very possible (especially when John Lackey is pitching) but, I mean, it’s gotta end some time … right?

Obviously, it’s impossible to blame every loss on one half inning, but it is very feasible to blame most of the losses on a collectively struggling pitching staff, as the offense really isn’t to blame; they rank sixth in the league in runs scored. It’s also important to note that 10 of the Cubs’ last 11 homers have been solo, a trend that will definitely reverse itself at some point, and will eventually manifest itself as an improved offense.

The first inning is rough, but that’s not all – every starter has shown an inability to last late into games, much unlike 2016. Jon Lester‘s seven-inning outing last night was the first time a Cubs starter has pitched into the seventh since April 16.

Seeing starters knocked out early wouldn’t really be a problem if the bullpen was solid. Unfortunately, the Cubs bullpen isn’t quite that. Wade Davis and Carl Edwards have been utterly fantastic, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, and Koji Uehara have been very solid, Mike Montgomery seems to have recovered, but Justin Grimm, Brian Duensing, and Felix Peña have all not contributed as successfully as everyone else. (though Peña has only had one appearance).

Previewing the Rockies

Source: Norm Hall/Getty Images North America

They ended 2016 at the underwhelming mark of 75-87, but are winning the National League West on May 8 with a record of 20-12. Sure, the Rockies seem to always get off to a hot start, but there have been no signs of regression as they’ve won four of six in May.

As their home, Coors Field, is a haven for offense, the Rockies tend to be offensively-focused. They really only have one star pitcher, Jon Gray, but he’s been sidelined by a toe injury and isn’t supposed to return until late May. The impaired starting rotation has not done well; they own the 23rd best starting ERA (4.54). Right behind them? Your Cubbies, with a starting ERA of 4.64.

For a team that relies on their offense, though, the Rockies’ lineup hasn’t been quite unreal. While they do have stars, such as recent perennial MVP-candidate Nolan Arenado (who’s slashing .292/.346/.592 with eight homers), the always-underrated Charlie Blackmon (hitting .313/.354/.619 with eight bombs of his own), and the over-performing vet Mark Reynolds (.321/.379/.661 with 11 home runs), the rest of the team has struggled. Defending hitting champ D.J. Lemahieu (and former Cub before Theo’s all-time worst trade) is batting .275, above average for most, below average for him.

Either way, Colorado has found ways to win and has a healthy lead out west. That being said, a regression soon is likely, and this series may just start that process.

How to Watch/Listen

Tuesday, May 9  1:10 p.m. / CSN-C / AM 670 The Score

Tuesday, May 9  7:40 p.m. / WGN / AM 670 The Score

Wednesday, May 10  2:10 p.m. / CSN-C / AM 670 The Score

Pitching Probables

Monday

RHP Jake Arrieta (4-1, 4.63 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) vs. RHP Antonio Senzatela (4-1, 2.84 ERA, 1.03 WHIP)

Tuesday

RHP John Lackey (2-3, 5.14 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) vs. LHP Kyle Freeland (3-1, 2.65 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)

Wednesday

RHP Kyle Hendricks (2-1, 3.51 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) vs. RHP German Márquez (0-2, 7.31 ERA, 1.69 WHIP)

My Prediction

On Tuesday, the offense is back and puts up seven runs, but John Lackey shows even more signs of deterioration and allows eight. Team morale worsens.

But I’m a true Cubs fan and I’m able to keep a optimistic yet realistic and true view of this team. So, naturally, Kyle Hendricks will throw a perfect game on Wednesday, the offense will score 247 runs, and the Cubs will use that energy to win every single game the rest of the year. Maybe.

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