After a rough finish to their road trip in Boston, the Chicago Cubs will return to Wrigley Field on Monday when they welcome the Philadelphia Phillies to the Friendly Confines.
The Cubs, who had an up-and-down month to start the season, still find themselves atop the heap in the National League Central despite those struggles, with a one-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers. They have gotten a recent surge in production from Kris Bryant, who has an 11-game hitting streak, and Jason Heyward too has been a vital cog, with a .279 batting average and 16 RBI in the season’s opening month.
So what can fans expect when the Cubs battle the Phillies beginning on Monday night?
Mon. 5/1 7:05 p.m.: Vince Velasquez (1-2) vs. Brett Anderson (2-0)
Anderson has had a solid start to his season with the Cubs, posting a 3.54 ERA (best among the team’s starters) and striking out 14 batters in 20-plus innings of work on the season.
Meanwhile, Bryant will be looking to keep up his hot hitting of late, as he has an 11-game hitting streak and hit two mammoth home runs against the Red Sox over the weekend. Unfortunately for Bryant, all four of his home runs have come in games that the Cubs have lost, so his success has not translated into team success in the power department.
Tues. 5/2: 7:05 p.m. Jeremy Hellickson (4-0) vs. Jon Lester (0-1)
Lester has gotten shelled in his last two starts, giving up five earned runs in each of them and giving up a total of three home runs and 19 hits. It isn’t surprising then that he has yet to record his first win of the season, and he’ll be looking to change that against a young Phillies squad at Wrigley.
Kyle Schwarber is also going to be looking to turn things around, as he comes out of the season’s first month with a paltry .204 batting average and no home runs in his last 10 games. He does have a solid on-base percentage of .333, but the Cubs would love for him to start translating some of that on-base ability into getting hits and home runs as well.
Wed. 5/3 7:05 p.m.: Jerad Eickhoff (0-2) vs. Jake Arrieta (3-1)
Arrieta is coming off his first really rough start of the season, as he gave up five first inning runs to the Red Sox on Friday night. He did end up limiting the damage through the rest of his start, but he racked up 98 pitches in just four and one-third innings, as he continued his recent trend of giving up lots of early hits and forcing himself into early exits.
As recently as Wednesday, Ben Zobrist’s batting average had dropped below .200 for the season, but he had a solid weekend at Fenway Park as he hit three extra-base hits and drove in three runs for the Cubs, who need him to start providing some punch out of the clean-up spot in the lineup.
Thurs. 5/4 1:20 p.m.: Zach Eflin (0-0) vs. John Lackey (2-3)
If there’s one thing that Lackey needs to work on, it’s keeping the ball in the ballpark. After giving up a mammoth shot to Hanley Ramirez in the Cubs’ win over the Red Sox on Saturday, Lackey has now allowed at least one home run in each of his last four starts, and although giving up fly balls isn’t necessarily a bad thing, he is allowing too much solid contact because he’s missing his location on plenty of occasions.
Miguel Montero has been one of the biggest surprises for the Cubs this season, and he’ll look to continue that trend this week. He has at least one hit in six of his last seven games, and he is batting a healthy .394. If he can continue that kind of production, he may push Willson Contreras for some playing time, and rightfully so.