After splitting a four-game set in Miami, the Chicago Cubs head to the nation’s capitol to take on the NL East-leading Washington Nationals in a series chock-full of great pitching matchups.
The Chicago Cubs are in the middle of a stretch in which they play 17 games in 18 days. So far, the club is 6-4, continuing the erratic stints of genius which have kept them in second place in the division nearly all season.
However, the Cubs are likely to be without switch-hitting second baseman Ben Zobrist and their Gold Glove-winning right fielder, Jason Heyward, while in Washington. Zobrist is still dealing with a lingering wrist injury and Heyward is in the middle of a 10-day DL ride with a left hand issue.
Vegas has the Cubs listed as underdogs in every game of the series. Chicago is 2-6 this season as a visiting underdog. The team finished last season 4-7-1 in the same category.
Even so, the series will feature four entertaining pitching match-ups.
Hot pitching probables
On Monday, the Cubs will trot rotation newcomer Eddie Butler to the hill to face veteran lefty Gio Gonzalez. Butler is coming off an outing against the San Diego Padres in which he allowed five hits and just one run through four innings. He has yet to make it through the sixth inning in any start this year.
Arrieta hasn’t been the same pitcher Cubs fans are accustomed to seeing since winning the 2015 Cy Young Award. His velocity has decreased dramatically and, at times, he looks as though he has no idea where his secondary pitches will end up.
Scherzer, on the other hand, recently became the third-fastest pitcher to reach the 2,000 strikeout mark in league history. The Cubs are striking out 22 percent of the time they step into the batter’s box this year. By contrast, Scherzer is striking out 35.3 percent of batters faced this season.
Veterans do battle
Wednesday has two veteran hurlers facing off, both of whom are seemingly looking to recoup lost time. Chicago’s John Lackey has been a shell of his former self in 2017. He’s currently on pace to set a career-high in earned runs allowed and hits.
Washington’s Stephen Strasburg has yet to reach the heights scouts projected him to hit when he made his debut in 2010. Strasburg struggled at home as well. Opposing batters slash .251/.433/.726 with seven home runs and scoring 23 total runs in seven home starts.
The series concludes with Jon Lester facing off against Joe Ross. Though Lester’s 5-4 record and 3.38 ERA are nothing to write Mom about, it can easily be argued that he has been the linchpin of Chicago’s successes this year.
He made all 16 of his scheduled starts, and owns the team’s second highest K/9 at 9.06. He also leads the starting corps in innings pitched with 96 1/3.
Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday’s games will all be televised on CSN while Tuesday’s matchup gets prime-time airtime on ABC-7. All games are available to listen to on WCSR-670 AM.