The DBacks lead the NL West division with a record of 30-23, which would be good for fourth place in the surprisingly competitive NL Central. The Cubs are movin' on up, and now have a comfortable three game lead on the Brewers for fourth place. We're not Number Five! Let's see if they can continue to promote the ephemeral momentum narrative into this series.
NL ranks listed
Pitching and defense is the name of the game in Arizona, it seems. Leading the way on defense are CF A.J. Pollock and RF Gerardo Parra, who recently won a gold glove and lost his job. His strong spring as well as a longer than expected DL stint for OF Adam Eaton gave him a lot more playing time, and he's taken it and run with it.
The Cubs are finally scoring runs, and now have a positive run differential. Six regulars-to-semi-regulars have wOBAs over .350, and they've improved their RISP average to .229 (.681 OPS). Not sure what their old OPS was, but I seem to recall the BA was well under the Mendoza line relatively recently.
DBacks 3B Eric Chavez just hit the DL with an oblique strain. SP Ian Kennedy missed his last start due to a cut on his finger suffered while washing dishes. He's slated to pitch tomorrow. CF Adam Eaton was diagnosed with a partially torn UCL in the spring. He's been rehabbing it since and despite some fluid buildup problems the docs say he doesn't need surgery. J.J. Putz is on the DL with a UCL strain, also not needing TJS. The Dbacks have been pretty lucky with this apparently, except in the case of SP Daniel "Stolen Goods" Hudson, who is on the 60-day DL recovering from TJS last year. 2B Aaron Hill has been out since mid-April with a broken hand.
The Cubs, meanwhile have had lots of bad TJS luck. Fujikawa is due for TJS, and Arodys Vizcaino and Scott Baker have had setbacks in their recovery this year. Shawn Camp is still on the DL with a case of gopherballitis and a sprained big toe.
Random News and Notes
If Garza gets an RBI today, the Cubs will tie the MLB record for pitcher RBIs in a month. The Cubs pitchers have a total of 19 RBI in May, after totaling zero in April. Not seeing this happen though: Garza is as much of an example of why the NL needs the DH as Travis Wood is for why pitchers hitting can be fun.
Bob Brenly may be back in town for this series, but one former Cubs figure that will not be in attendance is Mark Grace. Grace is finishing up a four month sentence for an aggravated DUI charge. Normally I would call for even harsher punishments for DUIs, but Grace has been serving time in Joe Arpaio's Tent City jail, which is the dumbest fucking idea I've ever heard. An outdoor jail. In fucking Phoenix. So much for "cruel and unusual punishement".
Miley is a much better pitcher than I remembered. He had a fantastic first full season with the Dbacks last year, making 29 starts with an ERA of 3.33 and a FIP of 3.15. Miley's pretty much a fastball/sinker guy, only busting out his slider as an out pitch. He gets a lot of ground balls, which strangely enough is not something you would prefer in a pitcher given the Dbacks incredible OF defense.
Garza's stuff has looked good, both in velocity in movement. However, he hasn't really found his command yet. He's thrown less than 40% of his pitches for strikes, well below the 50% or so typical of the rest of his career, and has been racking up big pitch counts early accordingly. It would be nice to see him get to the sixth inning at least today.
Saturday: Ian Kennedy, RHP (4.70, 110, 4.41, 3.91) vs Jeff Samardzija, RHP (2.85, 75, 3.11, 3.40), 6:15 PM CT
Shark was absolutely dominant in his last start, pitching a shutout with two hits, two walks, and eight strikeouts. He was also much more efficient than his past few starts, only needing 110 pitches to get through 28 batters, roughly 4 pitches per PA.
Kennedy is another member of the WRHOF, though much of his fame is derived from a 21-4 year in 2011. Granted, he did pitch very well (2.88 ERA, 3.22 FIP) but most of the reputation is from those 21 wins. He pitched more like the above average pitcher that he is last year, and he's projected to do more of the same this year.
Corbin will be the fifth left handed pitcher that the Cubs have faced in the last seven games. What is it with the DBacks and these lefties that came out of nowhere last year? No wonder they felt okay with trading Bauer. Corbin made 17 starts last year and posted a 4.00 FIP. He's been lights out in his ten starts this year. He recently threw a complete game at Coors Field of all places, allowing one run and striking out ten.
Jackson's stuff looked like the best we've seen it in his last outing, which was unfortunately rained out. However, after accounting for the Cell's hot radar gun it looks like his velocity is still down. Still, it was a good sign to see him getting much more control on his pitches, which has been his problem this year.