Friday, June 2, 2023
Press Pass Collectibles

MLB Preview: Chicago Cubs (19-21) at Houston Astros (21-19)


The Cubs and Astros’ will face off for the first time since 2019 in this three-game series, the teams’ only meeting of the season … both of the previous two series were played in Houston (2019 and 2016) … in the last 10 seasons, the Cubs have gone 5-4, winning two of three series.

HOUSTON, WE GOT A PROBLEM: The Chicago Cubs tonight begin a three-game set against the 2022 World Series champion Houston Astros for the second leg of a nine-game, three-city, 10-day road trip (1-2) … Chicago yesterday suffered a lopsided 16-3 loss in Minnesota, losing the third-straight road series … the Cubs last won a set on the road April 17-19 at Oakland.

Following this three-game series at Houston, the team heads to Philadelphia for three more (starting Friday), with an off-day in between the two sets.

The Cubs went 10-3 in 13 games from April 4-19, but have gone 8-15 in 23 contests starting April 20.

Today is the 17th game (5-11) of a stretch that sees the team on the road for 16 of 22 contests through May 21.

FACING OFF AGAINST THE CHAMPS: In the next six games, Chicago will play three games each against the reigning A.L. and N.L. Pennant winners, the Astros and the Phillies … the only previous time the Cubs have played the defending pennant winners from both leagues within a 10-game span was in 2006, playing the 2005 A.L. Pennant winning White Sox June 30-July 2 at Wrigley Field then travelling to Houston to play the Astros, the 2005 N.L. Pennant winners, July 3-5. (thanks to Ed Hartig for this info!)

What’s more? … The Cubs have only played the defending A.L. champs in six seasons since the start of interleague play: in 1998 against Cleveland, 2005 and 2014 against the Red Sox, 2006 against the White Sox, 2015 against the Royals and 2019 against the Astros.

LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: The Cubs have scored at least one run in each of their first 40 games in 2023, just the fourth time in the expansion era (since 1961) the team has gotten on the board in each of its first 40 contests … the longest season-opening streaks in this span: 47 G in 1995, 43 G in 2020 and 40 G in 2012.

Chicago is one of four teams in the majors this season to have scored at least one run in every game played thus far (also the Diamondbacks, Angels and Blue Jays).

Below is a look at how each Cubs team stacks up through the first 40 games of their season-opening streaks with at least one run scored:
Year Record Win % R RA
2023 19-21 .475 193 164
2020 23-17 .575 186 173
2012 15-25 .375 149 180
1995 22-18 .550 186 172

AT THE PLATE: Christopher Morel’s 461-foot blast in yesterday’s game is tied for the longest home run by a Cub since Willson Contreras hit one 464 feet July 29, 2021(Patrick Wisdom also had a 461-foot homer June 21, 2022) … in five games this season, Morel is batting .381 (8-for-21) with one double, three home runs, six RBI, a .857 slugging percentage and a 1.238 OPS.

Seiya Suzuki hit his second home run of the season yesterday, ending his drought of 110 plate appearances without a long-ball, the second-longest such stretch of his career (he went 128 plate appearances April 18-May 26, 2022).

Swanson has tallied his seven extra-base hits in 27 plate appearances, compared to seven extra-base hits (5 doubles, 2 homers) in his previous 152 plate appearances to start the season.

The Cubs .340 OBP ranks second in the majors and their .266 batting average (368-for-1,383) ranks fourth … the Cubs are batting .268 (97-for-362) with RISP, good for third-highest in the N.L., compared to .179 with bases loaded (7-for39) which ranks third-lowest in the N.L.

HIGH FIVES, HIGH SCORES: The Cubs have played in 13 games this season with a five-run or greater margin of victory, including the two losses yesterday and Saturday, tied \for eighth-most in the league … in those contests, the Cubs .692 winning percentage (9-4) is fifth-highest in the majors.

Chicago surrendered 27 runs over two games Saturday and Sunday … the last time the Cubs allowed at least 27 runs in a two-game span was June 14-15 of last season (31 runs allowed).

LUCKY NUMBER 7: The Cubs scored eight runs in the seventh inning or later in the three-games against Minnesota this weekend, including five runs on Friday to earn the come-from-behind win over the Twins … Chicago has scored 71 runs in the seventh inning or later, tied for fifth-most in the league … the team’s .365 OBP paces the majors and the .275 batting average (125-for-455) in the last third of the game ranks second.

Chicago’s hurlers have pitched to a .232 opponent batting average, good for third-best in the N.L.

WHEN IT’S RIGHT, IT’S RIGHT: Ian Happ has posted a .478 on-base percentage against right-handed pitching this season, the best mark in the majors.

Happ has hit .349 (37-for-106) against right-handed pitching, the third-highest mark in the game … Arraez leads with a .390 average.

SOMETHING OF QUALITY: Cubs pitchers have recorded 20 quality starts this season, tied for the second-most in the majors (Pittsburgh and Minnesota lead with 21).

The Cubs last season recorded their 20th quality start in their 95th game of the season, July 24 at Philadelphia.

Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele both have seven quality starts, tied with Framber Valdez (HOU), Shane Bieber (CLE), Joe Ryan (MIN) and Mitch Keller (PIT), for the league lead.

Starting Pitcher – #50 RHP Jameson Taillon (0-2, 6.41)
Last Time Out
Jameson received a no-decision May 9 vs. St. Louis … has not walked more than two batters in 15-straight starts dating to Aug. 14, 2022, the fifth-longest active streak among major league starting pitchers … has allowed at least three earned runs in four of his five starts in 2023 … the 2.2 IP marked his shortest non-injury shortened start since July 22, 2022 at Baltimore (also 2.2 IP).

Date Opp. Result IP H R ER BB SO PC-S Left
5/9 STL ND, 4-6 2.2 5 4 4 2 5 69-42 1-3, 3 on
2023 Splits and Season Notes
Home 0-2 8.49 3 3 11.2 18 12 11 4 14
Road 0-0 3.38 2 2 8.0 5 3 3 2 11
AVG vs. LHB: .333 (14-for-42) / AVG vs. RHB: .225 (9-for-40)

Jameson will make his sixth start of the 2023 season today … is looking for his first win as a Cub … has walked two or fewer batters in 15-straight outings dating to Aug. 14, 2022, the fifth-longest active streak among major league starting pitchers … has a 3.38 ERA (3 ER/8.0 IP) in two starts on the road, compared to an 8.49 ERA (11 ER/11.2 IP) in three starts at Wrigley Field in 2023 … has made 21 career interleague starts, going 7-7 with a 3.99 ERA (52 ER/117.1 IP) … hitters are batting .118 (2-for-17) with seven strikeouts against his curveball.

Began his stint on the 15-day injured list April 20 (retroactive to April 17) with a left groin strain … was activated on May 4.

Went 2-0 with a 3.93 ERA (8 ER/18.1 IP) with 23 strikeouts, compared to no walks, during Spring Training … was the only pitcher in the Cactus League with at least 10.0 IP to not walk a batter.


TONIGHT’S GAME: The Astros will open a six-game homestand tonight with the first of three games against their former NL Central rival, the Cubs…Astros Opening Day starter LHP Framber Valdez will open the homestand for Houston opposite The Woodlands native RHP Jameson Taillon.

IT’S BEEN AWHILE: The Astros and Cubs, who spent 19 seasons (1994-2012) together in the NL Central, have only played each other in three series since the Astros moved to the AL in 2013, with Houston going 4-5 in those games…the two teams last saw each other in 2019 in a three-game series in Houston from May 27-29 (Astros won two of three)…among all players to appear that series, only two players are currently on the active rosters on these two teams, 3B Alex Bregman and RHP Ryan Pressly.

SUNDAY FUNDAY: The Astros won the rubber game of their three-game series in Chicago yesterday with a 4-3 victory over the homestanding White Sox…the offense jumped out early, scoring three in the 1st inning, and did not relinquish the lead for the entirety of the contest…LF Yordan Alvarez had the big hit in the 1st, a two-run double…DH Yainer Diaz capped the scoring by hitting his first MLB homer in the 4th…RHP Hunter Brown (3ER/5.1IP) picked up the win, while four relievers combined to shut out the White Sox through the final 4.0 innings.

ON THE BUMP: The Astros rank second in the Majors in team ERA (3.29), trailing only the Rays (3.26), while their starter’s ERA (3.31) ranks third in the AL…the Astros have done this by posting strong strikeout numbers while limiting walks… the Astros lead the Majors in strikeout to walk ratio (3.44) and rank third in the AL in both walks per 9.0 (2.81) and in strikeouts per 9.0 (9.67).

FRAMTASTIC: LHP Framber Valdez is coming off one of the best starts of his career last Tuesday at LAA, in which he tossed 8.0 innings of three-hit, one-run ball, while striking out 12 without issuing a walk…Valdez has been one of the best pitchers in the AL this season, as he currently ranks fourth in innings pitched (53.0), sixth in ERA (2.38) and tied for sixth in strikeouts (57)…Valdez’s dominance goes back over the last three-plus seasons (2020-23) as he ranks in the top three in the AL over that timespan in wins and ERA.

AL Wins Leaders (2020-23) AL ERA Leaders (2020-23)
Gerrit Cole: 41 Shane Bieber: 2.69
Framber Valdez: 36 Framber Valdez: 2.98
Dylan Cease: 34 Gerrit Cole: 3.17

MATON’S MONDAY: Prior to tonight’s game, RHP Phil Maton and his wife, Katelynn, will host the second Maton’s Monday of the season, treating two kids from B.I.G. Love Cancer Care, a local non-profit organization easing the journey for kids battling cancer, for shopping sprees at the Astros Team Store…the kids will also be on the field for Astros batting practice.

TRAFFIC:LF Yordan Alvarez has opened his season by reaching base safely in all 34 of his games, which is the franchise record for a start-of-season streak…a few notes on the streak:

  • prior to Alvarez, the previous franchise record start-of-season streak was 25 games, accomplished three times, most recently by 3B Alex Bregman in 2020.
  • the last Major Leaguer with a longer start-of-season streak was SS Odúbel Herrera (40g) for the 2018 Phillies.
  • Alvarez’s on-base streak is the longest in the Majors this season, topping a 30-game streak by SS Xander Bogaerts.
  • going back to last season, Alvarez has reached base safely in a career-long 38 straight games, which is tied for the seventh longest on-base streak in Astros franchise history…the last Astro to post a longer streak was 3B Alex Bregman, who had a 41-game run spanning parts of the 2019-20 seasons.

STUFF OF NIGHTMARES: LF Yordan Alvarez has been at his best in the big moments in his career, especially this season…he’s hitting .500 (14×28) with RISP, .563 (9×16) with RISP and two outs, .667 (4×6) with the bases loaded, and .391 (9×23) in close and late situations…Baseball-Reference has a leverage metric, which lists Alvarez as hitting .542 (13×24) with five homers, 30 RBI and a 1.940 OPS in high leverage situations.

ON THE MEND: 2B Jose Altuve started an injury rehab assignment with Triple A Sugar Land on Friday and played in all three of their games over the weekend, going 1×13…Altuve started twice at second base and once at DH (Saturday)…Altuve has missed the entire season after being hit by a pitch during the WBC and fracturing his right thumb.

LAST START – 5/9 AT LAA: had one of the best starts of his career, tossing 8.0 innings of 1-run, 3-hit ball on Tuesday in Anaheim…struck out 12 hitters, which ranked as the 2nd-highest total in his career…earned the win in the Astros 3-1 victory…bested Angels starter RHP Shohei Ohtani (3ER/7IP), handing him his first loss of the season…also marked Valdez’s 8th consecutive quality start.

LEAGUE LEADERBOARD: in AL, is 4th in innings (53.0) and 6th in ERA (2.38), T-6th in strikeouts (57) and 7th in pitching WAR (1.6)…is T-1st in MLB with 7 quality starts.

REVERSE, REVERSE: has posted reverse splits to open his ‘23 campaign, holding right-handed hitters to a .213 batting average (36×169) while lefties are batting .333 (9×27)…traditionally, has been extremely tough on left-handed hitters, holding them to a .212 average (87×410) and a .617 OPS throughout his career, allowing just seven homers.

VS. CHC: will be making his first career appearance against the Cubs…the Cubs are 1 of 5 teams that Valdez has not faced (also, CIN, HOU, MIL, STL)…no active player on the Cubs has a hit against Valdez in a combined 13 career at-bats.

STAYING GROUNDED: among AL starters this year, ranks 1st in groundball percentage (64.0)

  • owns a career 66.4% groundball percentage, which ranks as the lowest percentage in the Majors since 2018 (min. 300 IP)…SF RHP Logan Webb is the next-closest over that span at 57.2 %…since ground ball percentage started being tracked in 1987, Valdez career ground ball percentage is the highest ever posted by a starting pitcher (min. 250 IP).

ABOUT VALDEZ: the 2022 All-Star is pitching in his 6th Major League season (2018-23) and his fourth as a staple in the Astros rotation.

  • has been one of the AL’s most prolific starters since 2020, ranking 2nd in the AL in opponent OPS (.620), ERA (2.98) and wins (36), 5th in opponent’s batting avg (.225), and innings (459.2) and 7th in pitcher’s WAR (4.8) and strikeouts (452) in that timespan.

OPENING DAY STARTER: made his 2nd consecutive (and career) Opening Day start…is the first Astros pitcher to make back-to-back Opening Day starts since Justin Verlander (2018-21) • was the second Dominican-born pitcher to start Opening Day for the Astros, joining Wandy Rodriguez in 2012…was one of three Dominican-born pitchers to get Opening Day nod in ‘23, joining Marlins RHP Sandy Alcantara and Mariners RHP Luis Castillo.

  • was the third LHP in Astros history to make back-to-back Opening Days, joining Dallas Keuchel (2015-17) and Dave Roberts (1973-74).
  • became the first Dominican-born pitcher in Astros history to pick up a winning decision on Opening Day in ‘22…tossed 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 6 batters to 1 walk, in a 3-1 win at LAA.
UFC Replica Champion Belt

Related Articles

UFC Tickets

Latest Articles

Sports Gaming Digest Sports Magazine