7:05 PM EST – Line: Cubs -146, Over/Under: 9.5
A pair of teams neck-deep in the race for the Playoffs meet tonight as the Chicago Cubs play host to the Philadelphia Phillies in the series finale from Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From the looks of things, the Cubs (64-54, 1st in NL Central) appear to have weathered the storm within their Division, building a two-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Winners of seven of their last ten games, Chicago has picked an excellent time to round into form, though they will eventually have to solve their persistent woes on the road. It’s really rather simple, folks: Joe Maddon’s charges are a miserable 23-35 away from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field thus far, having allowed sixty more Runs in two fewer games. Coincidentally, the first six games of that aforementioned stretch came at home, with the club going 2-2 in the previous series away at Cincinnati. Either way, the Offense has definitely done carried their share of the load, batting .313 and slugging .548 over the last ten games, scoring Fifty-Eight Runs on 110 Hits, with Nineteen Doubles and Twenty Home Runs. All-Star Third Baseman, Javier Baez (.289 BA, 116 G, 136 H, 82 R, 32 2B, 28 HR, 80 RBI, 22 BB, 137 K), has been on fire through that span, batting a scorching .359 and slugging .744, with Fourteen Hits, Four Doubles, Three Home Runs, and Eleven Runs Batted In. Taking the mound tonight for the Cubs will be Yu Darvish (4-6, 4.43 ERA, 24 GS, 132.0 IP, 106 H, 65 ER, 26 HR, 51 BB, 158 K, 1.189 WHIP), who may have finally regained his former All-Star form from a few years ago. Now in his second full season with the club, his first littered with a rash of injuries, the Japanese International has endured a very uneven campaign, racking up the Strikeouts (158) despite serving up the most Home Runs in the National League (26). Like many of his comrades in the Rotation, his record is a bit misleading due to Chicago’s struggles in the Bullpen, but if he manages to remain on his current trajectory, then he should be a rather significant asset come the Playoffs. From July 12th to August 4th, Darvish has gone 2-1 with a stellar 2.17 ERA, with opponents batting a scant .198 against him, racking up a whopping Thirty-Eight Strikeouts in comparison to just a pair of Walks. With that said, his latest outing, a 2-5 loss at the Cincinnati Reds proved to be a microcosm of his season thus far; Darvish fanned Nine Batters but was also tagged for Three Home Runs in Six Innings of work.
Meanwhile, after making up ground in the Standings, the Phillies (60-58, 4th in AL East) are beginning to fade, going 13-15 since the All-Star Break, and just 4-7 since the Trade Deadline. At the moment, Philadelphia is two games out of the final Wild Card in the National League, though figures to have plenty of opportunities to pull closer given that most of their direct competition also count themselves as neighbors within the Division. Losers of five of their last six outings, Gabe Kapler’s charges have faceplanted from the plate, batting a miserable .186 over that period in which they’ve struck out forty-one times. However, their $330 Million Man, Bryce Harper (.250 BA, 117 G, 108 H, 69 R, 30 2B, 22 HR, 80 RBI, 82 BB, 137 K), has carried them, batting .278 with Three Home Runs and Seven Run Batted In in that span. It’s an encouraging sign for a player whom the club made such a sizable investment in, though has really taken his time in acclimating himself to his new surroundings; a year after leading the National League with 130 Walks, the 2015 National League MVP has led the league in Strikeouts (137) thus far in 2019. The Pitching Staff has also played a part in their recent struggles, but then again, that’s pretty much been the case all season; the Phils have posted the second-worst Team ERA in the National League this year (4.64), while ranking Thirteenth in Hits (1,077) and Runs (590) Allowed as well Strikeouts (1,010), and dead-last in Home Runs permitted (196). Over the past six games, they’ve stumbled to a 5.49 ERA and a 1.561 WHIP, serving up Eight Home Runs, while mustering a Strikeout/Walk Ratio of just 1.67. Taking the mound tonight for the Phillies will be Drew Smyly (2-6, 6.96 ERA, 13 GS, 1 SV 75.0 IP, 83 H, 58 ER, 23 HR, 41 BB, 76 K, 1.653 WHIP), whom was acquired via Trade with the Texas Rangers shortly before the July 31st Deadline. The veteran Lefthander had been mired in limbo for the better part of two years following Tommy John Surgery back in 2017. After missing the rest of that season, the 30-Year Old then signed by the Cubs, whom later traded him to the Texas Rangers, who later released him altogether. After signing a Minor League Deal with the Milwaukee Brewers back in July, he elected to become a Free Agent after three starts, eventually signing a two-year deal with Philadelphia in the middle of the month. Desperate for quality help in either the Starting Rotation or Bullpen, Smyly has performed well in the early stages of this tenure with his latest club, posting a 3.80 ERA and 1.099 WHIP in Four Starts, putting together a solid 3.43 Strikeout/Walk Ratio to boot. When we last saw him, the veteran was roughed up a bit in a 9-6 victory in which he failed to earn a Decision, allowing Six Runs on Seven Hits, including Three Home Runs over 5.2 Innings, with Four Strikeouts and Three Walks.