Saturday, September 23, 2023

MLB Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks (72-68) at Chicago Cubs (76-64)


THE WILD STRETCH: The D-backs are 8-7 in this 28-game span from Aug. 21-Sept. 20, which includes 21 games against playoff contenders in the Rangers (2-0), Reds (3-1), Dodgers (0-3), Orioles (1-2), Cubs (4 games Sept. 7-10 and 3 games Sept. 15-17) and Giants (2 games)…this stretch also includes series against the Rockies (2-1) and Mets (4 games).

ROSTER MOVES: The D-backs selected INF Jordan Lawlar from Triple-A Reno, C Seby Zavala reported to the team and is active, recalled RHP Ryne Nelson from Reno, designated INF Nick Ahmed for assignment and, following yesterday’s game, optioned C Jose Herrera and RHP Bryce Jarvis to Reno.

LAWLAR HAS ARRIVED: Jordan Lawlar, 21, is rated as the D-backs’ No. 1 prospect, Major League Baseball’s No. 6 prospect by The Athletic, No. 9 by Baseball America and No. 10 by MLB Pipeline…he was selected by the D-backs in the fi rst round (6th overall) of the 2021 draft out of Jesuit College Prep in Dallas, Tex. Hit .278 (116-for-417) with 23 doubles, 4 triples, 20 home runs, 67 RBI, 56 walks and 36 stolen bases in 105 games this season between Double-A Amarillo and Reno. In 16 games with the Aces, hit .358 (24-for-67)/1.050 OPS with 1 triple, 5 home runs, 19 RBI and 9 walks…since his promotion to Triple-A on Aug. 15, he ranked among Pacific Coast League leaders in runs (T-2nd, 18), SLG (4th, .612), OPS (4th, 1.050), total bases (T-4th, 41), RBI (T-4th, 19), homers (T-4th, 5), hits (T-6th, 24), average (5th, .358) and OBP (6th, .438). Participated in the 2023 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Seattle. ♦Over parts of 3 Minor League seasons, has played in 207 Minor League games and hit .291 (236-for-811) with 42 doubles, 11 triples, 36 homers, 130 RBI, 114 walks and 76 stolen bases…2 G in 2021, 100 G in ’22 and 105 G in ’23. Made 188 starts at shortstop, 1 at third base and 16 as designated hitter in the Minors.

NL CENTRAL OPPONENTS: The D-backs are 14-11 (.560) vs. NL Central opponents this season (3-4 vs. Reds, 3-3 vs. Brewers, 4-2 vs. Pirates and 3-3 vs. Cardinals).

BULLPEN BOAST: The D-backs bullpen, over the last 2 games, is scoreless (0 R in 11.1 IP) with only 1 hit allowed in 37 batters faced…since Aug. 30, D-backs’ relievers boast a 2.12 ERA, second best in the NL and fifth in the Majors, behind the Yankees (0.00), Pirates (1.06), Rays (1.98) and Astros (2.05), while their 17 hits allowed are fourth fewest, behind the Yankees (10), Astros (15) and Mets (16).

VS CUBS: The D-backs will face off vs. Cubs 7 times in the next 11 days (4 @ Wrigley Field and 3 @ Chase Field)…last year, the D-backs went 4-3 vs. Cubs (3-1
on the road and 1-2 at home)…the D-backs outscored the Cubs 32-28 over their 7 matchups in 2022.

RECENTLY ON THE ROAD: Gabriel Moreno, in his last 8 road games with runners in scoring position, is batting .400 (4-for-10)/1.655 OPS with 2 doubles, 2 homers and 9 RBI. Christian Walker, in his last 10 road games, is hitting .343 (12-for-35)/1.179 OPS with 1 double, 4 homers, 11 RBI and 8 walks.

ANSWER-BACKS: The D-backs’ 37 comeback wins are tied for fourth most in the Majors (also: Red Sox), behind the Reds (44), Orioles (44) and Phillies (40)…the D-backs’ 37 comeback wins match their total from 2022)…the last time they had 38+ was in 2019 (41). Yesterday’s comeback victory vs. Rockies marked their fi fth win this season when trailing 4+ runs, tied for fourth most in MLB… the D-backs improved to 10-0 in their last 10 games where they scored 10+ runs in a game.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Recalled from Triple-A Reno prior to tonight’s game.
• Posted a 3.74 ERA (10 R-9 ER in 21.2 IP) in 4 starts with Reno from Aug. 17-Sept. 2.
• In his last 6 road games, is 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA (14 R-13 ER in 36.2 IP).
• In 5 of his last 6 road starts, has allowed 2 or fewer runs and 2 or fewer walks.
• Limiting hitters with infi eld hits to a .072 average (12-for-167)/.072 OBP/.078 SLG.
• In open air stadiums, owns a 4-2 record with a 3.47 ERA (22 ER in 57.0 IP) and is holding opponents to a .217 average (45-for-207)/.276 OBP/.682 OPS with 17 walks and
42 strikeouts.

LAST START: Took the loss on Aug. 11 @ Padres (6 ER in 3.0 IP).

VS. CUBS: Making his fi rst career start.

VS. NL CENTRAL: Making his third start against an NL Central opponent (all in 2023). Faced the Cardinals on July 24 and the Brewers on June 20 (0-0, 6.55 ERA).

ROAD WARRIOR: In 13 road starts, has held batters to a .239 average (65-for-272), .282 on-base percentage, 17 walks and struckout 55.

NASTY NELLY: Is 4-0 with a 2.59 ERA (17 ER in 59.0 IP), .179 opponent average and .086 WHIP when he pitches 6.0+ innings (9 GS).

IT’S UNDER CONTROL: In 5 of his last 7 starts, has walked 1 or fewer batters, including 3 starts with no walks.

LIMITING LEFTIES: In his last 7 road starts, is limiting lefties to a .179 average (15-for-84) with 1 homer, 4 walks 17 strikeouts. In 11 games from June 3-July 31, held left-handed batters to a .233 average (27-for116) and .298 on-base percentage.

BATTER BREAKDOWN: Limiting 1-2 hitters to a .224 average (28-for-125), .589 OPS, 11 walks and 23 strikeouts. Hitters 7-9 are hitting .233 (34-for-146) with a .260 on-base percentage, 6 walks and 27 strikeouts.

CHANGING IT UP ON THE ROAD: In his last 4 starts on the road, opponents are batting .125 (1-for-8) with no home runs, 1 walk and 2 strikeouts off his changeup. In 13 road starts, opposing batters off his changeup are hitting .057 (2-for-35) with no homers, 2 walks and 9 strikeouts.

FIRST PITCH SUCCESS: His first-pitch swing (23.2 to 33.1) and first-pitch strike (53.6 to 62.1) percentages are up from 2022.

BATTED BALL STATS: His groundball percentage is up to 38.1 from 25.5 while his fly ball percentage is down to 29.8 from 44.7.

INNING INFO: In innings 6-8, owns a 1.32 ERA (2 ER in 13.2 IP) with a .125 opponent average (6-for-48) and 11 strikeouts.

UNFAMILIAR FACES: The Cubs will be the 16th opponent faced for the first time this season: Marlins, Royals, Rockies, Nationals, Giants, Athletics, Phillies, Braves, Tigers, Brewers, Angels, Mets, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Twins.


Cubs vs. Diamondbacks
The Cubs and Diamondbacks play seven games spanning two series in an 11-day span … following this four-game set in Chicago the teams meet for three games at Chase Field, Sept. 15-17 … prior to go 3-4 against Arizona last season, the Cubs had won three-straight season series over the D’backs from 2018-19 and 2021.

CUBS CARRY ON, HOSTING THE N.L. WEST: Fresh off a three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants, puncutated by yesterday’s 8-2 victory, the Chicago Cubs tonight play the first of four games against the Arizona Diamondbacks to continue this seven-game homestand … the Cubs enter tonight riding a four-game winning streak. Following this series, the Cubs embark on a six-game seven-day sojourn through Colorado (3 games starting Monday) and Arizona (3 games beginning Sept. 15). Including the series victory against the Giants, Chicago is 12-1-2 in its last 15 series dating to July 17. Tonight marks the 11th of 14-straight games against teams either holding a division lead or sitting within a few games of an N.L. Wildcard spot … Chicago is 7-3 thus far. The Cubs are 20-10 in their last 30 games and 35-13 in their last 48 games since July 18 … following play on July 20, the Cubs sat 7.0-games out of a wildcard spot and 8.5-games back of the division lead … the club enters today in the second wild card spot (1.5 games behind Philadelphia for the top WC spot and 3.5-games ahead of Miami in the third WC spot) … Chicago is 1.5-games back of division-leading Milwaukee.

ABOUT THE RECORD: The Cubs sit a season-high 12-games over .500 at 76-64 … Chicago was 26-36 following play on June 8 and this marks the first time in franchise history that the club reached 10 games over .500 in a season in which it sat at least 10 games under .500. Chicago is 12-games over .500 for the first time since sitting 82-70 following play on Sept. 18, 2019. Since waking up June 9 sitting at 26-36, the Cubs are 22-games over .500 at 50-28 (.636), the second-best mark in the N.L. and third in the majors behind Atlanta (52-24/.684) and Baltimore (50-27/.649). The team’s 76 victories this season already surpasses its output from all of last year in which the club finished 74-88.

YOUTH MOVEMENT: Yesterday’s win saw Jordan Wicks (2 ER/6.2 IP), Daniel Palencia (0 ER/1.1 IP) and Luke Little (0 ER/1.0 IP) on the bump for Chicago – it marked just the third time since the 1893 season – when the mound moved to its current 60’6″ distance from home plate – in which the team won a game and used three or more pitchers with all of them making their MLB debuts that season … thanks to Ed Hartig. Prior to yesterday it happened in Aug. 23, 2010 against the Nationals (Casey
Coleman, Andrew Cashner and Thomas Diamond) … prior to that, it happened Sept. 26, 1967 vs Cardinals (Joe Niekro, Rick James and Bill Stoneman).

LET’S TALK DIFFERENTIALS: The Cubs enter this Arizona series with a +101 run differential, the third-best mark in the N.L. behind Atlanta (+230) and Los Angeles (+156) … Chicago is one of eight teams in the majors with a run differential over 100.

ROSTER RUMINATIONS: Including Alexander Canario and Luke Little yesterday the Cubs have had six players make major league debuts this season (also Miguel Amaya, Matt Mervis, Daniel Palencia and Jordan Wicks) … Chicago has utilized 46 players this season after using 69 in 2021 and 64 in 2022.

A RESURGENT SEIYA: Seiya Suzuki in his last 20 games since Aug. 18 is hitting .382 (29-for-76) with a .429 on-base percentage and a .737 slugging mark … in that span, his 10 doubles and 16 extra-base hits lead the majors while his 56 total bases are tied for third … his .382 average in this stretch is seventh in baseball.

BRING THEM AROUND, BELLI: Cody Bellinger has driven in 27 runs in his last 19 games dating to August 19, with 40 RBI since August 1 (34 games) and 64 RBI since July 1 (60 games) … he tallied 59 RBI in a 55-game span from July 1-September 12 for the first time in his career … he is the first Cub to acheive the feat since Sammy Sosa did so August 3-October 7, 2001 (61 RBI in 55 games) and just the second player in the majors this season to do so (also Matt Olson). His 64 RBI since July 1 lead the majors (Kyle Tucker is second with 51). This season, Bellinger’s .321 average is fifth in the majors, his .920 OPS ranks seventh and his .555 slugging percentage ranks eighth.

COMFORTS OF HOME: Chicago has won 10 of its last 13 home games since Aug. 5 and in its last 24 home contests dating to July 18 has posted an 18-6 record … Cubs pitching has posted a 3.83 ERA (92 ER/216.0 IP) in its last 24 home games while the offense has posted a .281/.351/.499 slash line in that span.

GOMES AT THE DISH: Yan Gomes in his last two games has five hits, including two doubles, and three RBI … his 13 doubles since July 23 are tied for fifth-most in the majors in that span … he is batting .297 (33-for-111) with the 13 doubles, one homer and 16 RBI during the run. Gomes’ .275 season average is fourth among major league catchers with at least 300 plate appearances.

COMPARE AND CONTRAST: Monday’s shutout was Chicago’s 12th of the season, tied for fourth-most in the N.L. … last season, the Cubs recorded 11 shutouts. On the other end of the spectrum, Cubs batters have logged 22 games with at least 10 runs scored, tops in the N.L. and second in the majors behind the Rangers (23) … Chicago’s 22 games reaching 10 runs are its most in a season since doing so 24 times way back in 1935.

Starting Pitcher – #72 RHP Javier Assad (3-2, 2.69)
Last Time Out
Javier on Sept. 2 in Cincinnati tossed a career-high 8.0 scoreless innings in a no-decision … extended his scoreless streak to 14.0 IP dating to the first inning on Aug. 27 … recorded a career-high-tying seven strikeouts for the second-straight start (also Aug. 27 at Pittsburgh) … has allowed three runs or fewer in all six of his starts since re-joining the rotation on Aug. 5 (1.95 ERA).

Date Opp. Result IP H R ER BB SO PC-S Left
9/2 @CIN ND, 1-2 8.0 7 0 0 1 7 98-62 1-0
2023 Splits and Season Notes
Home 0-2 3.55 15 3 45.2 41 19 18 22 42
Road 3-0 1.74 10 4 41.1 29 8 8 11 25
AVG vs. LHB: .241 (34-for-141) / AVG vs. RHB: .211 (36-for-171)

Javier is scheduled to make his 26th appearance of the season (eighth start) tonight … has allowed nine runs (eight earned) in 37.0 IP (1.95 ERA) in six starts since being added to the rotation Aug. 5 … his 1.95 ERA since Aug. 5 is the lowest in the N.L. and second-lowest among major league starting pitchers (min. 5 GS) … has pitched to a 1.37 ERA (9 ER/59.1 IP) in 15 outings (six starts) since June 27 … is 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA (22 ER/76.2 IP) in 15 career starts, compared to 1-2 with a 3.19 ERA (17 ER/48.0 IP) in 19 career relief appearances … has allowed two earned runs or fewer in nine-straight starts dating to Sept. 29, 2022 …Sept. 2 in Cincinnati, tossed a career-high 8.0 scoreless innings with a career-high tying seven strikeouts. From June 27-August 4, posted a 0.40 ERA (1 ER/22.1 IP) in nine relief outings, the second-lowest ERA among major league relievers during that span (min. 15.0 IP) … held opponents scoreless in eight of the nine outings. Has made four starts over three stints with Triple-A Iowa in 2023 (April 10-20, April 21-May 3, May 12-24), going 0-1 with a 3.68 ERA (6 ER/14.2 IP). Made his first career Opening Day roster, appearing in two games in relief (6 ER/4.1 IP) … was optioned to Iowa April 10. Pitched in three games (one start) in spring training, posting a 2.57 ERA (2 ER/7.0 IP). Pitched for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, tossing 5.2 scoreless innings with six strikeouts in two relief appearances.

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