After completing a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres, the Phillies welcome the last place Chicago Cubs to Citizens Bank Park. Here’s a look at what they’ll be up against.
The last time they met
The Phillies and Cubs squared off at Wrigley Field in early April. The Phillies won the first two games of that series before a shaky start by A.J. Burnett allowed the Cubs to salvage the final game.
The star of the series was Chase Utley who went 6-11 with two home runs in the series. Oddly, those two homers are as many as he has in 228 at bats against all other opponents.
What’s new with the Cubs
The Cubs have not thrived since that series and are currently sitting in last place. There was hope that they were beginning to turn things around last week when they had a five-game win streak. But since the streak ended, they have lost four out of five.
The Cubs biggest problems are on offense where they rank 25th in the majors in runs scored.
Cubs player who isn’t entirely horrible
First baseman Anthony Rizzo has emerged as a star this season. The 24-year-old has already hit 13 home runs and looks to be fulfilling his former status as a top-50 prospect.
It seems strange that he’s already been traded twice in his young career, but at least the Red Sox got a star player (Adrian Gonzalez) when they traded for him. The Padres only got Andrew Cashner, a guy who hasn’t yet proven worthy of being traded for a future star.
Cubs player who is horrible
Many Phillies fans were upset when the team non-tendered Nate Schierholtz before the 2013 season. It seemed like they could have gotten something in a trade rather than simply letting him go. Or – in what would have been a truly radical move – they could have actually played him. Considering the alternative was Delmon Young, this wouldn’t have been a horrible idea.
Schierholtz made them look bad with his strong 2013 season, but he’s definitely not wowing anybody in 2014. His .592 OPS is Ben Revere-esque.
Arrieta has been in the majors since 2010, but has never been unable to secure a full-time rotation spot. He’s been used as a “sixth starter” throughout his career, typically bouncing between the majors and minors, depending on whether the major league team needed another starter.
He’s performed well lately, only surrendering one earned run in his last two starts; the caveat being that he only pitched 10.2 innings between those two starts. So the Phillies should expect to get some at bats against the Chicago bullpen.
Actually, it’s a safe bet that both teams will give their bullpens a lot of work in this game. Phillies starter Roberto Hernandez rarely makes it past the sixth inning. Hernandez has been slumping lately, giving up eight earned runs in his last two starts.
The Phillies are quite familiar with Jackson, having faced him several times over the years, as well as two different postseason series. Jackson has always been a dependable enough fourth or fifth starter type, and his 4-6 record and 4.70 ERA seems right in line with his career numbers.
David Buchanan is filling in for the injured Cliff Lee, and will likely have to continue to do so for another month. Buchanan has pitched much like you’d expect a non-roster invitee to pitch. In other words, the Phillies had better be able to muster some offense behind him.
Travis Wood made the All-Star team in 2013, giving Cubs fans hope that they had another solid pitcher at the top of their rotation. Wood hasn’t been able to build on that this year, as his ERA has shot up to 4.95. He has had some success against the Phillies with a 2.90 ERA in four starts against them.
A.J. Burnett’s key to success appears simple. When he’s able to limit the walks he allows, he does well. When his control is off, he struggles. Hopefully, he can consistently find the strike zone on Sunday.
I think the Phillies will extend their winning streak to five games before Travis Wood outpitches A.J. Burnett on Sunday.
For great deals on Philadelphia Phillies tickets for all games, visit our friends at TiqIQ.com.