Chicago Cubs look to close out first half against San Diego Padres

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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With three extra-inning affairs in their last four games, the Chicago Cubs will undoubtedly be happy to see the All-Star Break after a final series in San Diego.

One might have hoped the Chicago Cubs had come away with more than one win from a three-game set in San Francisco. But, alas, a pair of extra-inning losses, despite strong starting pitching, ruined those chances.

Thankfully, Chicago (52-38) and Milwaukee matched each other, win for win, loss for loss, over the last week. That means the Cubs enter their final first-half series against the Padres 1 1/2 games out of first. Winners of seven of their last ten, the Cubs have a real chance to leapfrog the Brewers this weekend before Jon Lester, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras head to D.C.

Now, the team heads to San Diego for a three-game set against the San Diego Padres. First, though, they’ll enjoy an off-day in Cali before opening the series. On Friday, Tyler Chatwood takes the ball against former Cub Clayton Richard.

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Chatwood needs to close out his first half on a high note. His first few months in a Cubs uniform featured more ups and downs than a roller coaster. He enters Friday with a 5.01 ERA, 8.0 BB/9 and 1.785 WHIP throughout 16 starts.

We all know the issue at-hand. Control. There’s no questioning his stuff. For a number five starter, Tyler Chatwood has an above-average arsenal at his disposal. But, for whatever reason, harnessing that potential has proven difficult since coming to Chicago. Hopefully, Friday offers a brighter view moving forward.

Hendricks, Lester close things out

Coming off his best start since 2016, Kyle Hendricks takes the ball on Saturday. He pitched into the ninth earlier this week, finally showing that fastball location the team needed from him.

With his location on-point, the effectiveness of his off-speed stuff grows exponentially. And, as I talked about last week, getting Hendricks back to his ace-like status of recent years is a huge piece to the Cubs’ postseason puzzle. (Not to mention winning another National League Central title).

Of course, the man ahead of Hendricks in a hypothetical postseason rotation? Veteran left-hander Jon Lester. The southpaw heads to the All-Star Game for the fifth time next week after a sterling first half.

Chicago has won 15 of Lester’s 18 starts this season – with the lefty notching wins himself in 11 of them. A two-time 19-game winner, could 2018 be the year he finally notches 20 wins?

A chance ripe for the taking

It’s no secret. San Diego hasn’t played like world beaters this season. They enter Thursday’s game against the Dodgers at 40-55, the third-worst record in the National League. This is a series the Cubs should win.

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But we’ve seen them struggle in such scenarios on multiple occasions this year, namely with the Reds. Taking the fight to the Padres and picking up a series sweep, or at the very least, a series victory. Closing out the first half on a high note before some well-deserved rest could set them on the path toward another strong second half showing.

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