Chicago Cubs Preview: John Lackey looks to continue strong second half

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Since the All-Star Break, Chicago Cubs veteran John Lackey is undefeated. He hopes to continue that trend against the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday night.

Last week at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs opened a three-game set against the Arizona Diamondbacks in spectacular fashion. Joe Maddon‘s club topped the visitors by a staggering 16-4 margin and all seemed well with the world.

But, the next night, Jake Lamb provided the offense for Arizona and the Cubs’ bats fell silent as Jake Arrieta took a tough-luck loss. In the finale, the Diamondbacks scored four runs in the final two innings and Paul Goldschmidt clubbed three home runs in a 10-8 Arizona victory.

Now, Chicago (59-54) hopes to get back to the basics after dropping two-of-three on the road in San Francisco this week. It starts with veteran right-hander John Lackey.

Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs /

Chicago Cubs

Lackey (9-9, 4.81) remains undefeated at 4-0 since the All-Star Break. Over that stretch, he owns a 3.00 earned run average. His last time out, the right-hander allowed two earned runs over five innings against Washington. Really, that’s all Maddon asks for with Lackey these days: five innings.

He’ll throw to a new battery mate Friday night, as well, in Alex Avila. With Willson Contreras sidelined for the foreseeable future, the veteran catcher’s importance only grows.

Opposite Lackey, Arizona (64-50) taps former Seattle right-hander Taijuan Walker. Walker (6-5, 3.60) comes off a six-inning no decision his last time out. Funny enough, Avila is one of two Cubs with at-bats against him. He owns a 3-for-6 (.500) mark with a home run and four RBI.

Big bats waiting for Lackey

Cubs fans surely haven’t forgotten what Goldschmidt is capable of. The perennial MVP candidate and perhaps the most underrated player in the game is batting .318 this year with 90 runs batted in with a month-and-a-half left to play.

Meanwhile, Jake Lamb gives the Arizona first baseman the support he’s long craved. Lamb singlehandedly downed the Cubs last week and is rapidly approaching the 100-RBI mark, as well. Both players own career averages north of .375 against John Lackey.

Starting lineups

Next: With or without Willson, Cubs have a job to do

What’s Next

Chicago and Arizona continue their three-game set Saturday at Chase Field.

Jon Lester (8-6, 3.97) battles Patrick Corbin (8-11, 4.76). First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. CT.