So far, this road trip has been fantastic. The Cubs’ record on the swing is 6-3, and they travel to Boston to park their cars at Harvard yard while also trying to win their seventh series of the season. The Cubs currently sit at the top of the National League Central with a 12-9 record, leading the Milwaukee Brewers by one game.
Believe it or not, this will be only the second series of the year against an opponent from outside of the division. The first was the Dodgers, and you may remember they played at Wrigley through all the fanfare of the World Series victory celebration and ring ceremony. Given all the hubbub surround Theo Epstein’s return, among other storylines, it should be a fun series.
The Red Sox (11-10) starters have had their struggles so far this year. Knuckleballer Steven Wright, who broke out in 2016, has had trouble striking out batters at as high a rate as he was last year (10.3% vs 19.4%) and is allowing a much higher average on balls in play (.400 vs .279). Drew Pomeranz is allowing a ton of contact in the air (70.7% vs 53.8% of outs via the fly ball) and allowing home runs at a higher rate (17.6% vs 13.6% HR/fly) compared to last year.
Pacing the offensive effort for the Red Sox is rookie phenom Andrew Benintendi. He’s leading the team in batting average, RBI, runs scored, and on-base percentage. This is likely just the tip of the iceberg for the 22-year-old. If Cubs pitching can limit his production throughout the weekend set, they should be able to head home with another series win.
What I’m most eager to see is which Cub hits a homer over the Green Monster. Will it be last year’s MVP, or will it be somebody you wouldn’t guess in a million years? Watch the games this weekend to find out!
Game Time and Broadcast Info
Friday, April 28 at 6:10 CST on CSN
Saturday, April 29 at 3:05 CST on ABC-7 and FS1
Sunday, April 30 at 7:05 CST on ESPN
What to Watch For
With two lefties scheduled to start for the Red Sox, look for the Cubs to continue hitting southpaws well. In 293 plate appearances against LHP, they are slashing .280/.396/.868 as a team. Leading the way against lefties is none other than Kris Bryant, who’s destroying them to the tune of .438/.571/.875 (1.446 OPS) in 21 plate appearances.
Pay attention to how Cubs pitchers approach the Boston lineup this weekend. The Red Sox strike out less than any other team in the majors (16.5%), but are in the bottom half of baseball in terms of walk rate (8.2%). Red Sox batters have a great feel of the strike zone and sit at the top of the league in contact rate (high) and swinging-strike rate (low). But while they hit for average (.266; 4th best in the majors), their league-worst .102 ISO indicates they aren’t going bludgeon you with power.
Sounds like a recipe for strike-throwers to pitch to contact and let the defense make some plays behind them. Look for John Lackey to rebound from a shaky start against the Reds. Some of the struggles he had could be attributed to the defensive issues the Cubs experienced that game, so a return to form there will help too. There’s also the added intrigue of Lackey pitching against his former team.
Jake Arrieta will be looking to rebound from a pair of starts in which he’s allowed a pair of home runs, so it sounds like this Red Sox lineup may be just what the doctor ordered. He fared pretty well in his last trip to Boston, carrying a no-hitter for 23 outs. Keep an eye on how he’s locating, as Arrieta has been busting righties inside rather than working them down and away.
There’s been a lot of talk about a downward trend in velocity numbers from Cubs starters, and that includes Kyle Hendricks. This isn’t a new thing for him, though, and it appears that he’s getting a feel for his pitches again. He’ll look to build on his best start of the season, the only one in which he didn’t allow at least 3 earned runs, as he takes the bump in Sunday night’s finale.