The Chicago Cubs will begin a nine-game road trip after wrapping up a six-game home stand, finishing with a 2-3 record between the Washington Nationals and Kansas City Royals.
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Tonight, skipper Joe Maddon will return to the state of Florida for the first time as a member of the Cubs since leaving the Tampa Bay Rays while visiting Giancarlo Stanton and the struggling 20-31 Miami Marlins. This time around, Joe will bring along a fresh group of young pups who have proven that they do, in fact, belong in this league.
Taking the mound for the Cubs (26-22) in-game one of this three-game set will be right-hander Jason Hammel. Hammel (3-2, 2.98 ERA) was originally supposed to start this past Saturday, receiving an extra day of rest until the game was postponed.
In five total outings in May, Hammel surrendered 10 earned runs behind 10 earned runs on 23 hits (3 HRs) and a 35/6 K/BB ratio in 35 innings. He’ll need to approach Stanton with caution as the reigning N.L. Home Run champion has nine of his 15 home runs coming at home.
Starting opposite Hammel will be 23-year-old hurler Jose Urena. Urena (0-1, 9.39 ERA) will be making his 2015 home debut after getting hammered in his first big league start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Bucs really took it to the kid, tagging him for five earned runs on 10 hits including a home run in just 4 2/3 innings. Urena made one appearance prior to the start, giving up two earned runs to the New York Mets in two innings back on Apr. 18.
So if the Chicago Cubs want to run away with the series opener, they’re going to need to attack him quick and force this club to turn to their bullpen early just like their division rivals did just six days ago.
Not only have they been able to keep up with great teams such as the Nats’ and Royals, but they’ve found ways to keep themselves in tight ballgames, reaching extra-innings in back-to-back road games in Arizona.
While the starters have been excellent, the bullpen is going to need to pick things up if they have any hopes of closing the gap on the first place St. Louis Cardinals. Chicago once trailed the Cardinals by three games but have found themselves six back after dropping key games this past week.
Here’s a look at tonight’s lineup’s:
First pitch is slated for 6:10 pm central time and will be aired live on CSN, WBBM 780.