Still two games up in the NL Central, the Cubs head west to start a nine game road trip that will see them take on the Giants in San Francisco for three games, the Brewers at Miller Park for three (yes, this seems like terrible scheduling), and the Cardinals in St. Louis for three more. All told, the Cubs will play 19 of their next 25 games away from Wrigley
At 18-27 on the road so far this season, the Cubs need to springboard off a great 7-2 homestand to start the second half and keep things rolling in the Bay Area. The Giants, at one point presumed dead in terms of the playoff picture, have won 15 of their last 18 and now sit at 50-50 and just 2.5 games back in the NL Wild Card standings. Strangely enough, the Giants have been terrible at home (although they were 7-3 at home during that most recent 18 game stretch), going just 23-27 so far.
Among other things, this series may determine their trade deadline strategy. If the Cubs are able to sweep, does that make it easier to pry away a guy like Will Smith? If the opposite happens, does it mean the Giants hang on to all their assets (including Madison Bumgarner) and make a run for the postseason?
The Giants came into the season with a lot of big names on their roster, but have very few big numbers on offense to show for it. No one has more than 13 home runs or 52 RBI, and no qualified regular is hitting above .253 for the year. The offense has produced only 439 runs, good for 12th in the NL, and their .700 team OPS is only better than the lowly Marlins.
Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria (IL), and Brandon Belt may have filled out a nice lineup five years ago, but they’ve been shells of their former selves for most of the season. Crawford and Belt have been solid in July, both hitting over .300, but they’re not the guys they were even a few years ago.
New to the Giants this year, veteran infielder Donovan Solano has hit well recently and has garnered more playing time, hitting .476 over the past week. Outfielder Alex Dickerson, acquired from the Padres off waivers this season, has also been hot of late. Mike Yastrzemski (.343, 3 HR the past week), grandson of Red Sox great Carl, rounds out the trio of unheralded Giants who have been hitting the cover off the ball recently.
The real key to the Giants’ recent run has been the pitching. Tyler Beede has thrown three consecutive quality starts, including eight shutout innings against the Mets in his last start. Bumgarner, who everyone is familiar with at this point, hasn’t given up more than one run in a start since June 25, when he gave up two. Bumgarner just threw a complete-game, one-run performance in his last start, also against the Mets.
Shaun Anderson, who the Cubs will see in the opener Monday night, has been the shakiest of the starters the Cubs will face. He hasn’t made it out of the 5th inning in any start since June 23 and has given up at least four earned in each of his last three starts.
The Cubs will counter with a top four in the order that has been red hot in July, as Kyle Schwarber, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo are hitting a combined .329 for the month. Jason Heyward, who has rediscovered himself offensively in 2019, is hitting .311 in July. Now, if the Cubs could just do something about that bottom of the order…
Game and Broadcast Info
- Monday, July 22 at 8:45 CT on WGN
- Tuesday, July 23 at 8:45 CT on ABC-7
- Wednesday, July 24 at 2:45 CT on NBC Sports Chicago
What to Watch For
- The Cubs and Giants have been rumored as possible trade partners, most notably regarding southpaw reliever Smith. Will anyone be changing clubhouses during this series?
- Better yet, there could be a possible deal with the Tigers to land Nick Castellanos sometime during this series.
- Schwarber, Báez, Bryant, and Rizzo all did a ton of damage on the homestand after the break, so look for those four to stay hot in San Francisco.
- How will catcher be handled once Willson Contreras comes off the IL, which will presumably happen Wednesday? Will the Cubs carry three catchers and use Contreras more in the outfield, or will Victor Caratini be optioned/traded?
- Yu Darvish hasn’t allowed a run in two starts after the All-Star break. Will the trend continue or will we be treated to inconsistent Yu?
- Alec Mills settled in nicely after a rough opening inning against the Reds in his first start of 2019. It bought him a second start and how he handles it could help determine his role moving forward.
- This one is more what to listen for, as in the number of times Len or JD mention the bands Starship or Journey, most notably songs We Built This City and Lights. After all, San Francisco was built on rock and roll… and beside a bay.