After a day off to revel in their sweep of the first-place Mets in Queens, the Cubs are back home to face the moribund Rockies for a weekend series. This should be an easy set for the Cubs because the Rox are a truly terrible team with a very weak pitching staff, but those seem to be exactly the kinds of opponents that give the Cubs fits.
Colorado starter Germán Márquez hasn’t been able to live up to the hype he spurred as a 23-year-old in 2018, the same season he plunked Kris Bryant in the head. There are still people out there who conflate causation with correlation by perpetuating foolish theories about that beanball being the root of Bryant’s subsequent issues, so I want to take this opportunity to say once again that there’s no merit to such things.
In any case, Márquez looked like an ace in the making with a mid-90s fastball and a devastating breaking-ball combo of slider and curve. He struck out 230 batters and walked only 57 in 196 innings while posting a 3.77 ERA, but he’s never gotten back to that kind of overall performance. His 3.75 ERA in 2020 came with fewer strikeouts and more walks, now he’s starting to give up more homers.
The fastball still has zip and the curve is a very good pitch, but the slider isn’t fooling hitters as well in the thin Denver air. Márquez has been much better on the road, though, which is to be expected from a Rockies pitcher of his ilk. His 3.58 road ERA is more than three runs lower than at home and he’s holding opposing hitters to a .207 average (.312 at Coors). The big difference comes in slugging, as Márquez allows a .563 SLG at home and just .363 on the road.
He’s particularly hard on right-handed batters, so the Cubs are going to have their work cut out for them. Zach McKinstry leads off at second base as he attempts to drag his average back over .200 on the season, Ian Happ is in left, and Yan Gomes is in right. Franmil Reyes cleans up as the DH, David Bote is at third, Jared Young makes his MLB debut at first base, and Michael Hermosillo is in center. Nelson Velázquez mans right and Christopher Morel is at short batting ninth.
Marcus Stroman is on the bump for the Cubs and he’ll be trying to find a little consistency following an up-and-down month of pitching. He’s either incredibly sharp or way off his game from start to start, with his last two starts at Wrigley falling in the latter category. Stroman talks frequently about how much he loves the energy at home, but he’s allowed nine earned runs on 18 hits over nine innings in those two most recent contests.
Here’s to hoping this one breaks the trend. First pitch is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 16, 2022