Chicago Cubs face a tough task in matchup with surging Houston Astros

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MAY 07: (L-R) Members of the Chicago Cubs mob Kris Bryant #17 (center) after he hit the game-winning three run home run in the bottom of the 9th inning against the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field on May 07, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Marlins 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MAY 07: (L-R) Members of the Chicago Cubs mob Kris Bryant #17 (center) after he hit the game-winning three run home run in the bottom of the 9th inning against the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field on May 07, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Marlins 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Cubs will have their hands full this week, beginning with a three-game set against one of the best teams in baseball, the Houston Astros.

It’s no question that the Chicago Cubs have been figuring things out game-by-game with no established ‘plan’ in the bullpen and they’ve made it work to this point. Sitting in first place in a division of this caliber is definitely an accomplishment as we head into the second quarter of the season.

However, with an MLB-leading 11 blown saves, the bullpen situation has made fans wary and has breathed new life into a sense of uncertainty. As the Cubs head to Houston on Memorial Day, they will face the game’s best pitching staff in terms of ERA – setting this up as a great measuring stick for two teams with postseason aspirations.

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The Cubs definitely have some questions heading into this series aside from the bullpen in the form of Kris Bryant and Jon Lester. After the former’s collision in Sunday’s game with Jason Heyward, he was cleared to travel with the team, but even if he is able to play, we are unsure how this will affect him going forward. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious, but with the way his shoulder affected him last season, the Cubs should proceed with caution.

The other question mark is veteran left-hander Jon Lester. Set to start the second game of this series against Corbin Martin, Lester has gotten rocked his last two starts. In those two outings, he has gone a combined 8 1/3 innings, giving up 17 hits and nine earned runs.

With Houston leading the league in terms of batting average at .275, Lester needs to lock back in and get back on track if the Cubs want to win this series.

This series is especially important for the bullpen. The Cubs are going to get to see first hand how impactful a lock-down bullpen can be. With Ryan Pressley and Roberto Osuna having a stronghold on the end of games, the Astros have a Top-10 save percentage to add to the best ERA in baseball.

Comparing this to a Cubs team that leads the league in blown saves, and trails only Washington and Kansas in terms of save percentage, it will be great to see if they can overcome these issues in the bullpen to piece together a series win. We all know the Cubs should be adding some reinforcements to help out this staff late in games, and in a worst case scenario, this series could help expedite that process.

The Cubs have the starting rotation and offense to beat anyone in baseball, so it will be interesting to see if this will be enough to take down another top team. With Gerrit Cole set to start Monday’s opener in Houston, revenge will no doubt be on his mind, as I’m sure the 2015 Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh still comes to mind for the righty. This offense has to be ready to lock in, in order to back Cole Hamels and get this series off to the right start.

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These three games could tell us a lot about this Chicago Cubs team and show us how ready they are for the big stage. Championships certainly aren’t won in May, but having a meaningful series like the one they are heading into can definitely show a team what they need to do to get to that next level. We have a great series in store, and with two divisions leaders that hold top records in baseball, I have no doubt it’s going to have a playoff atmosphere.

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