8:05 PM EST – Money Line: Cubs -115 , Over/Under: 7.5
A pair of teams occupying Second Place in their respective Divisions, clash at Wrigley Field, as the Chicago Cubs play host to the Colorado Rockies in the second entry of a Three-Game Series. One of the hotter teas in the Majors at the moment, the Rockies (31-27, 2nd in NL West) still have plenty of ground to cover in order to catch the National League West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers, who coming into tonight’s contest lead them by nine-and-a-half games in the Standings. Winners of eleven of thirteen outings heading into this Series with the Cubs, including each of their last eight, Colorado has been heating up at the Plate, where their offensive exploits have propelled their recent march. Over the last Thirteen Contests, Bud Black’s outfit has averaged 6.9 Runs per Game, scoring at least Five Runs in all but two of those games. On the season, the Rockies have done well offensively, ranking Second in the National League in Runs Scored (317), Doubles (129), and Batting Average (.64), along with Third in Hits (539). While they’ve only mustered Seventy-Seven Home Runs thus far (8th in National League), they’ve nonetheless maintained a stellar Slugging Percentage (.461), due to the volume of extra-base hits that they’ve compiled. After all, this Lineup leads the league in Triples, with Twenty-One. The left side of the Infield, consisting of Trevor Story (.293 BA, 68 H, 53 R, 12 2B, 15 HR, 42 RBI, 10 SB, 21 BB, 68 K) and Nolan Arenado (.345 BA, 80 H, 47 R, 16 2B, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 27 BB, 22 K), has generated plenty of power in the middle of the Lineup, with the latter leading the Majors in Hits (80) and establishing career-highs in both Batting Average (.345) and Slugging Percentage (.638) in 2019. However, as the Offense continues to heat up, the Pitching Staff has been a different story for the Rockies, though that’s pretty much been the story for this franchise since it’s inception back in 1993. This season appears to be no different, for Black’s stable of arms has been downright dreadful, ranking at the bottom of the National League in a number of categories, including ERA (4.97), Saves (10), Earned Runs (291), and Strikeouts (476), while ranking Twelfth in Home Runs allowed (84). Fortunately, they’ll be sending German Marquez (3.48 ERA, 85.1 IP, 80 H, 33 ER, 9 HR, 17 BB, 83 K, 1.137 WHIP) to the bump tonight, for he’s been by far and away the most potent arm in the Rotation, with the Venezuelan continuing to produce despite an largely unsettled Bullpen to relieve him. The 24-year old leads the Rotation in ERA (3.48), Innings Pitched (85.1), Strikeouts (83), WHIP (1.137), and Strikeout/Walk Ratio (4.88). With that said, he’s shouldered quite the workload thus far, leading the Majors in Innings Pitched and Batters Faced (350), and coincidentally, has relinquished the most Hits of any Pitcher in either league. When we last saw him, Marquez had authored his third consecutive quality Start, permitting Two Earned Runs on Six Hits over the duration of Seven Innings in a 13-6 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, striking out seven and walking three. Given the status of the rest of their Rotation, is it any wonder that the Rockies inked him to a lucrative $43 million deal for the next five years?
Meanwhile, the Cubs (32-26, 2nd in NL Central) don’t face anything close to the deficit that their opponent tonight does in their own Division, though it certainly appears that the race to the top of the National Central will be just as riveting as ever. Coming into tonight’s action, Chicago trails the Milwaukee Brewers by just one game, while leading the likes of the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates by two and four games respectively. Of course, it wasn’t long ago that Joe Maddon’s charges were sitting atop the Division, with a disappointing 3-8 stretch effectively pushing them back down the Standings. This has been a team that has very much lacked that final third ingredient, which has driven their fan base crazy throughout the early stages of the 2019 campaign. The struggles sure aren’t coming from the Plate, where the Cubs sport plenty of power, even if they’re penchant for the long ball has helped mask some of their weaknesses. Chicago ranks Third in the National League in Home Runs (96), while also getting on base aplenty with a whopping 249 Walks (1st in National League), which have led to stellar On-Base (.344) and Slugging (.456) Percentages, ranking Second and Third in those particular categories. However, they do place in the bottom half of the league in Strikeouts (534), though that has been a symptom of many teams in this season full of Home Run fireworks. The Rotation for that matter is strong, with the potential of getting stronger; Maddon’s quintet is heavy on Lefthanders, with the likes of Jon Lester (4-4, 3.32 ERA, 59.1 IP, 64 H, 22 ER, 7 HR, 14 BB, 56 K, 1.307 WHIP), Cole Hamels (4-2, 3.62 ERA, 69.2 IP, 61 H, 28 ER, 7 HR, 64 K, 1.278 WHIP), and Jose Quintana (4-4, 3.78 ERA, 66.2 IP, 68 H, 28 ER, 8 HR, 20 BB, 62 K, 1.320 WHIP) providing plenty of power and experience moving forward. However, while the Starters inspire plenty of confidence, the Rotation has been another story altogether. You could certainly make the argument that no contender is in more dire need of a Closer than Chicago, who simply doesn’t have one at the moment. The Starters have earned Twenty-One No-Decisions thanks to the Bullpen, who have continuously made things interesting in a negative manner thus far. Take tonight’s Starter, Yu Darvish (2-3, 5.02 ERA, 61.0 IP, 54 H, 34 ER, 11 HR, 41 BB, 73 K, 1.557 WHIP) for example; the Japanese International has logged a dozen Starts in this, his second season with the franchise, and hasn’t factored into a Decision in six consecutive Starts due to the exploits of his Relief. While the 32-Year Old has certainly been slow to showcase the form that has made him a four-time All-Star in the past, he’s shown signs of turning back the clock in his first season in the Windy City. When we last saw him, Darvish produced a quality outing, permitting One Earned Run on Three Hits over Six Innings, with Six Strikeouts in comparison to Three Walks in an eventual 1-2 loss at the Cardinals. Given the rest of the talent in the Rotation, Maddon can afford to be patient with the Righthander, who is currently posting a career-worst in ERA (5.02), while leading the Majors in Walks (41).