Sunday, May 19, 2024

Cubs: Three Things To Watch This Weekend At Wrigley

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After rain washed away any chance of baseball Thursday night, the Chicago Cubs will open their four-game series against the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field on Friday. The originally scheduled Thursday game will now be part of a doubleheader on Saturday.

So far, the Cubs have swept the Rockies in three games and taken two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers. It will be a little chilly, but the weather will be much more favorable this weekend than a couple of the previous games at Wrigley.

Vibes are mostly positive for the Cubs, who are coming off a West Coast road trip with plenty of twists and turns. The first game in San Diego featured an eight-run lead lost to the Padres, which set the tone for a tough showing from the bullpen for the week. But the team grinded, Michael Busch homered, and the Cubs ended the trip with a 5-4 record. They now sit 11-7 on the season, just a half-game back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the division.

The Cubs have an opportunity to potentially take control of the division with a strong showing against Miami. There are storylines galore going into these four games, and there is plenty to pay attention to.

Follow our new Twitter account for real-time updates and in-depth analysis of all things Chicago Cubs.

Taillon and Wisdom Return To Team

After their rehab stints in the minors, starter Jameson Taillon and power-hitter Patrick Wisdom have regained their health and returned to the roster. In exchange, utility man Miles Mastrobuoni and reliever Hayden Wesneski were optioned to AAA Iowa. The starting rotation regains one of its pillars, and Craig Counsell welcomes an option of power and leadership back to the bench.

Taillon had a tough start to his Chicago Cubs career in 2023. Through the first half of the season, he posted a 6.15 earned run average. However, things took a turn for Taillon after a start against his former team, the New York Yankees. He had a 3.70 ERA down the stretch and is looking to carry the success of late into 2024. He did not pitch all of spring training due to tight hamstrings and back ailments, but he is back healthy and ready to begin his season.

Patrick Wisdom played just six games in the spring before being shut down. After a couple of weeks of rest, he joined the AAA Iowa Cubs for an extended stint to rehab and prepare. In nine games with Iowa, Wisdom posted a .407 batting average with three home runs and ten runs batted in. He did strike out about 44% of the time, but that’s a price managers are willing to pay these days for power. Wisdom will likely see a lot of time batting against left-handed pitchers.

Alexander Canario Is Here

We saw his first season start in Arizona, and you expect to see more from him this weekend. Alexander Canario was called up to the Cubs after Seiya Suzuki hit the injured list with an oblique injury. He leapfrogged Pete-Crow Armstrong to take the call-up.

Speculation is Canario was called up specifically for this weekend’s opportunity. The Marlins are scheduled to start three left-handed pitchers in four games. With Canario batting from the right side, it is a much more favorable matchup than Pete Crow-Armstrong batting lefty. But with Patrick Wisdom now back in the mix, he may split some time.

There’s also a belief that Canario was called up to display his worth in potential trade talks. The Cubs’ farm system currently has a surplus of outfield talent. The current Cubs are sitting pretty with Suzuki, Ian Happ, and Cody Bellinger. But Canario, PCA, and Owen Caissis have all been ready and waiting for their chance. When it comes down to it, Canario may be the odd man out.

Cubs Need Quality Start From Kyle Hendricks

The Cubs find themselves at a crossroads with veteran pitcher Kyle Hendricks. He is the only remaining 2016 World Series team member, but he shows just how long ago that was. Through four starts, Hendricks is 0-2 with a 12.71 ERA. In 17 total innings pitched, Hendricks has surrendered 31 hits, resulting in 24 runs. Statistically, it’s one of the worst starts to a season in history.

His best start came at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers. But even in that game, he went just four innings and gave up five runs. His longest outing came in San Diego, where he managed five full innings but surrendered seven earned runs.

Many are wondering what the Cubs’ plan is for Hendricks moving forward. His falloff has been apparent in the last couple of seasons, but it’s coming to a head here in 2024. Hendricks is slated to start on Sunday against a struggling Miami team with the home crowd behind him once again. With a solid showing, he will earn more opportunities to bounce back. However, a slip-up will only raise the temperature of his seat in the starting rotation.

More Pitching Woes

So far this season, the Cubs starters have pitched 82.1 innings, and the bullpen has almost matched that with 78.2. The starters are struggling to get through five innings, and the wear and tear on the bullpen has shown. As a staff, they rank in the league’s bottom half in earned run average (4.31) and WHIP (1.33).

Shōta Imanaga, Javier Assad, and Mark Leiter Jr. have been incredible for the Cubs to begin 2024. However, they cannot start or pitch in every game, and they need help from the rest of the staff. Currently rostered, reinforcements have been called by Ben Brown, Keegan Thompson, and Colton Brewer.

Conditions are favorable for the Cubs’ pitching staff to begin to turn things around this weekend. It will be borderline chilly with an indoor team coming up from warm, sunny Florida with a struggling offensive attack. The Cubs need efficiency from their starters to consistently make it through (at least) five innings. This, in turn, should take pressure off the bullpen to have to piece together five-plus innings of work.

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