After putting up the league’s worst offensive performance over the previous week, the Cubs seem to have found themselves in the desert. Another outburst like we’ve seen the last two games will send them back to Chicago with a sweep and a magic number of seven at the most.
Albert Almora Jr. leads off in center, Kris Bryant is in left, Anthony Rizzo is at first, and Javy Baez cleans up at second base. Ben Zobrist is in right, Willson Contreras catches, David Bote handles third base, and Addison Russell plays short and bats last.
Cole Hamels has looked slightly more human over the last three starts, the only ones with the Cubs in which he’s allowed two or more earned runs. His five walks against Washington were as many as he’s allowed in any two other starts combined, so that feels like a complete aberration. The whole rotation has been great for a while now, so here’s to hoping Hamels maintains that.
Going for Arizona will be 26-year-old lefty Robbie Ray, who’s making his 22nd start of the season. He’s been effectively wild over his last eight outings, posting a 2.74 ERA and racking up 11.60 K/9 while cutting his home run rate nearly in half. But Ray has also walked 26 batters in that time (5.48 BB/9) and has pitched past the 6th inning only once.
He’s got a lively fastball that sits around 94 mph, backing it up with a slider and curve that he’ll use to get strikeouts. Not adept at keeping the ball down, Ray will give up a lot of hard contact in the air. But as noted earlier, he’s done a better job of keeping the ball in the park over the last few weeks.
Once a relatively split-neutral pitcher, Ray is much harder on lefties since scrapping the sinker and leaning more heavily on his breaking pitches. Those adjustments have him limiting lefty batters to a .223 wOBA while righties come in at .342. Hitters from both sides strike out a lot, but righties see the ball better and draw far more walks while slugging at a much higher rate.
Because he’s not efficient, Ray rarely works deep into games and doesn’t often see a lineup for a third time. Don’t be surprised if the Cubs scuffle for a bit as they feel him out, then bust free either at the end of Ray’s time or once they get into the fleshy underbelly of that D-backs bullpen.
First pitch from Chase Field is at 8:40pm CT and can be consumed on NBC Sports Chicago and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 19, 2018