As we say goodbye to the Brewers, the Cubs can take solace in the fact that they did well against the NL Central leaders. If not for some dreary weather on Friday, the Cubs probably win both games. That’s neither here nor there, because they lost the rain-filled affair and did so by walking a ton of batters.
The struggling Giants come to Wrigley for a four-game set starting Monday night. San Francisco currently sits seven games below .500 with a 19-26 record, nine games out of first in the NL West. So far this month, the Giants are playing .500 ball with a 10-10 record.
Their pitching hasn’t looked great, as you can tell by the scheduled starters’ statistics. They rank 20th in ERA, 15th in WHIP, 23rd in batting average against, and lead the league in hits allowed. One thing their staff excels at is keeping the ball from leaving the yard. The Giants have allowed the fewest home runs in the league, with only 40 dingers given up.
The Giants offense hasn’t done much to help the pitching, either. They rank 27th in batting average, 29th in runs scored, 29th in on-base percentage, dead last in slugging, 26th in walks, and 17th in strikeouts. They are led by Gerald “Buster” Posey, who continues to be the great hitter he’s been since he came into the majors. Brandon Belt has also performed well and leads the team in home runs, RBI, runs scored, walks, and strikeouts. After a cold April in which he slashed .250/.278/.293, Eduardo Nunez has been heating up in May, hitting .300/.315/.471 thus far on the month.
In order to get over on San Fran, the Cubs have to keep Posey, Belt, and Nunez off the basepaths. Given how poorly their offense has been slugging and getting on base, it should not be difficult to keep them from making great contact. The Cubs should focus on pitching to contact against this team, as they don’t walk very much (ranked 26th in walks) and strike out at a decent rate (ranked 17th in strikeouts).
The Giants’ pitching staff does a decent job of striking batters out, but doesn’t walk many, so the Cubs will have to be selectively aggressive in order to score runs. This is something they’ve struggled with over the course of the season, but have improved on recently. Right now they’re ranked 25th in hard contact rate, which is higher than the dead last ranking they had earlier in the season.
All in all, the Cubs are the superior team on paper and should be able to win this series (something that could be said pretty much every time they take the field). Of course, that is why you play the game; the Giants could come out and hit a ton of doubles and home runs while limiting the Cubs to weak contact all series. Unlikely, but still plausible enough to take into consideration.
Would it be possible for the Cubs to sweep the series? Yes, but I’m going to guess they win three out of four games. You’ve got to account for baseball randomness, after all.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
Monday, May 22 at 7:05 on WGN
Tuesday, May 23 at 6:05 on ESPN and CSN
Wednesday, May 24 at 7:05 on CSN
Thursday, May 25 at 1:20 on ABC-7
What to watch For
It’s going to be imperative for Eddie Butler to hit the strike zone with consistency. In his previous start, he had issues finding the zone and walked five batters while striking out three in a mere three innings of work. He’s got the stuff to be successful if he’s able to control it, and so far this season he has yet to be able to control it particularly well.
Watch for the Cubs’ defense, which has been disappointing so far this season. That was evident in both games against the Brewers and it has been an alarming theme overall. So far, they have committed the second highest number of errors (37) in baseball, though having everyone healthy and in their more natural spots should help.