After a wild and exciting three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins, the Cubs return to action with a brief two-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Wrigley Field.
Offense was the story of the Minnesota series, as the Cubs (47-35, 1 GB) exploded for 35 runs over three games. While both teams were certainly aided by the offense-friendly weather conditions over the weekend, Chicago simply had a great approach at the plate, finishing with 46 hits and 19 walks in the series.
The starting pitching for the Cubs wasn’t nearly as impressive, as Mike Montgomery, Tyler Chatwood, and Jon Lester all struggled to make it through five innings. That said, some of that can be chalked up to the aforementioned weather, which made life difficult for the Twins’ staff as well.
Meanwhile, the rebuilding Tigers (38-48, 9.5 GB in AL Central) come into the series on a modest two-game winning streak. While that may not sound like much, it comes fresh off the heels of an 11-game losing streak that saw Detroit go from 2.5 to 9.5 games behind division-leading Cleveland.
The offense really struggled for the Tigers during their losing skid, continuing an overall trend for the season. Detroit is 10th in the AL in runs (346), 12th in OPB (.307) and 13th in both ISO (.144) and wRC+ (89). The Tigers don’t strike out a ton (21.1 percent), but they also don’t walk much either (7.1 percent), which figures to be put to the test against a Chicago pitching staff that has the worst walk rate (11.3) in the majors.
The Detroit offense has been led by right fielder Nick Castellanos. A former top prospect, Castellanos is in the midst of a career-best year at the plate, posting a .310/.356/.521 line with 13 home runs, 53 RBI and a wRC+ of 137. A big part of his success this season has been a dramatic uptick in the quality of his contact. His hard-hit rate has skyrocketed to 49.2 percent thus far, a huge increase over the 36.6 percent he was carrying in his career prior to 2018.
On the pitching side, the Tigers have been fairly nondescript, sitting in the lower third of the American League in most categories. With Justin Verlander now in Houston, Michael Fulmer has become the de facto staff ace for Detroit. His traditional numbers have taken a hit this season (3-7, 4.20 ERA), but his strand rate (70.6 percent) and HR/FB (12.6 percent) are both worse than his career averages, which suggests an improvement could be on the way.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
- Tuesday, July 3 at 1:20 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago
- Wednesday, July 4 at 1:20 p.m. CT on WGN
What to Watch For
- Can the Cubs keep this offensive outburst going? Since dropping five in a row from June 21-25, Chicago has won five of its last six games with the offense being the catalyst. As a team, the Cubs have scored 60 runs while posting a .377/.437/.605 line with a wRC+ of 159. The fact that Jason Heyward’s 145 wRC+ is the lowest among Chicago regulars over the past six games tells you how well the offense is rolling.
- Former Cub Jeimer Candelario is making the most of his opportunity to play everyday in Detroit. While he didn’t have a great June (.172/.304/.344 with a wRC+ of 81), his overall line in 2018 (.242/.344/.458 with 12 home runs and a wRC+ of 120) has helped place him in a tie for the second-best fWAR on the team (2.1).
- While Chicago will not rush Kris Bryant’s return from the DL, Joe Maddon probably wouldn’t mind having Bryant back in the lineup for Wednesday’s game against Liriano. Bryant is 5-for-11 in his career against the Detroit left-hander, with three doubles and a home run.