The Cubs get back to work Tuesday and open a 10-game homestand against the Angels, Cardinals and Brewers with the first of two against Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and the Halos.
After a well-timed off day, the Cubs enter play Tuesday owners of the best record in baseball (69-41) and riding a seven-game winning streak.
Joe Maddon’s team is a season-high 28 games over .500, 11 games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central and four games in the loss column in front of the Nationals for the best record in the Senior Circuit.
The Cubs and Angels will conclude the season series over the next two days that began on Opening Night in Anaheim. The Cubs swept the two-game series at the ‘Big A’ in early April (April 4-5). The Angels season has not gone the way Mike Scioscia would have liked. And the Halos will look to even the books with the Cubs at Wrigley.
The Cubs pitching staff will have to deal with Albert Pujols before welcoming his former team to Wrigley for the four-game series. Pujols is not having a good season (.257/.326/.436/.761, 12 doubles, 21 home runs) but this is the Cubs and Wrigley Field.
For his career, Albert Pujols has a .301/.402/.620 slash line with 36 doubles, two triples and 56 home runs for a 1.022 OPS in 180 games against Cubs’ pitching. At Wrigley Field, Pujols has hit .302/.405/.620 with 17 doubles, one triple and 28 home runs for a 1.025 OPS in 88 games. And a ball Pujols launched to center off Ryan Dempster about nine years ago still hasn’t landed.
The Cubs and Angels posted the probable starting pitchers for the two-game series …
- Tuesday, Aug. 9 (7:05pm CDT) – RHP John Lackey vs. RHP Jered Weaver
- Wednesday, Aug. 10 (7:05pm CDT) – RHP Jason Hammel vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco
Joe Maddon has a knack of keeping his players focused on the day at hand and not looking ahead. Taking care of business against the Angels for two days will make the Cardinals series from a Cubs standpoint less significant. But stumbling against the Halos will add to what is already a big four games against the Redbirds in mid-August.
The Cubs will begin play Tuesday with a full 11-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central. The Cubs lead in the division was the Reds bullpen away from being a full 12 games. The Reds took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning and lost 5-4 after Ross Ohlendorf walked in the tying run and plunked Yadier Molina with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth to force in the winning run. The Cardinals five-run rally started with a leadoff single by Molina. All five runs scored after two outs and back-to-back gifts. Tony Cingrani walked Tommy Pham and hit Kolten Wong with two down to load the bases.
The Cubs will have to deal with a desperate Cardinals team for four games starting Thursday. And the Cardinals are a better team on the road (32-21) than at Busch Stadium (27-32) this season.
Here are the probable starting pitchers for the series:
- Thursday, Aug. 11 (7:05pm CDT) – LHP Jon Lester vs. RHP Carlos Martinez
- Friday, Aug. 12 (1:20pm CDT) – RHP Jake Arrieta vs. RHP Adam Wainwright
- Saturday, Aug. 13 (1:20pm CDT) – RHP Kyle Hendricks vs. RHP Michael Wacha
- Sunday, Aug. 14 (7:08pm CDT) – RHP John Lackey vs. RHP Mike Leake
The Cardinals still feel they can catch the Cubs and win the division. First goal for the Cubs this week is to beat a team with a sub-.500 record at Wrigley. Then bury the Cardinals to the point the NL Wild Card is the only shot St. Louis has at playing in the tournament this year.
While the Cubs did not play a game Monday, it was a very busy day for the team. Here are the headlines from the off day to get you caught up on all the news you can use before the Cubs kick off the 10-game homestand on Tuesday night (7:05pm CDT).
- Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 08/08/16
- Kris Bryant Goes Yard, Jorge Soler Returns and Other Cubs News
- Cubs Return to Wrigley to Host Angels, Cardinals and Brewers During 10-Game Homestand
- MLB Pipeline’s Updated Cubs Top 30 Prospects Includes Bailey Clark
- Cubs Name OF Eddy Julio Martinez, LHP Jose Paulino Minor League Player, Pitcher of the Month for July
- Cubs Re-Sign LHP Brian Matusz to Minor League Contract
- Kyle Hendricks Named NL Co-Player of the Week
- Cubs Option Justin Grimm to Triple-A Iowa
News and Notes
• According to the Tribune, Cubs find extra rest has been best in August.
• The Tribune reported the Cubs know tough roster decisions come with being playoff contenders.
• Patrick Mooney explained why the Cubs are built to withstand the 162-game marathon and sprint into the playoffs.
• The Tribune noted Anthony Rizzo has reached base safely in 14 straight starts. And Dexter Fowler has scored at least one run in nine straight games and he’s hitting .370 during seven-game hitting streak.
• The Cubs, Nationals, Blue Jays, Indians and Rangers are the top five teams in ESPN’s latest power rankings.
• The Tribune reported the Cubs extended their winning streak to seven games and reinforced playoff credentials.
• Jay Jaffe posted a list of the untouchables or the one player he thinks each National League team should not trade. For the Cubs that player would be Kris Bryant.
• The Arizona Fall League released its schedule for the upcoming season. Opening Day in the AFL is Oct. 11 and the Mesa Solar Sox begin the season against the Surprise Saguaros. The AFL Fall Stars Game is Nov. 5 and the Championship Game is Nov. 19 at Scottsdale Stadium.
And last, but not least, ESPN ranked all 30 managers. Joe Maddon is one of three top tier skippers and ended up as No. 2 in the ranking behind only the Giants’ Bruce Bochy.
This Day in Cubstory
2008 – Micah Hoffpauir tied a PCL record when he homered in each of his first four at bats in Iowa’s 15-3 win over Round Rock.
2005 – Cubs traded Mike Remlinger and cash to the Red Sox for Olivio Astacio
1989 – Jason Heyward, born
1988 – The first official night game was played at Wrigley Field with the Cubs beating the Mets 6-4.
1966 – Bob Scanlan, born
1951 – Steve Swisher, born
1950 – Junior Kennedy, born
1948 – Bill Campbell, born
1913 – Cubs acquired Hippo Vaughn from Kansas City of the American Association for Lew Richie
1906 – Jack Taylor beat the Dodgers 5-3 in Brooklyn and recorded his 187th straight complete game, a Major League record. Taylor’s streak of complete games began on June 20, 1901 and during his streak he also made 15 relief appearances. Taylor’s streak ended on Aug. 13 when he was replaced in the third inning of a game against the Dodgers.