Cubs vs Phillies Series Preview (May 20-23) – TV and Game Info, Starting Pitchers, Insights
Another series, another series win, though the three-game set against the Nationals wasn’t without some drama. The Cubs had to hold a slim lead late in Sunday’s contest to seal the win, not to mention the tiff about pitcher delivery methods, but it was a good series overall. As the Cubs head back to Chicago to welcome the Philadelphia Phillies to Wrigley for a four game set, they are 27-17 and hold a 1.5 game lead over Milwaukee in the Central.
The Phillies (27-19) just finished sweeping the Rockies over the weekend and now lead Atlanta in the NL East by 2.5 games. They have gone 6-4 in their last 10 games and seem to be coming around a little in the power department.
On the season, the Phillies have the 11th best offense in MLB (7.1 fWAR), slashing .244/.331/.408 as a team. JT Realmuto is the offensive leader of the club (1.7 fWAR; .273/.331/.435; 104 wRC+), followed by none other than Bryce Harper (1.6 fWAR; .235/.371/.478; 126 wRC+), who started the season off fairly slow and is striking out at a much higher rate than normal (30.7% this year compared to a typical 21.5%).
Behind these two are Jean Segura (1.4 fWAR; .322/.365/.490; 130 wRC+), Rhys Hoskins (1.1 fWAR; .261/.382/.527; 143 wRC+), who hasn’t slowed down after a breakout rookie campaign, and Cesar Hernandez (1.1 fWAR; .301/.369/.458; 122 wRC+).
The Phillies’ pitching staff has not be all that great this year, ranking 20th in fWAR (2.9) and posting a 3.94 ERA, 4.45 FIP, and a 2.59 K:BB. Two of their top three pitchers in fWAR, Zach Eflin (0.9 fWAR) and Aaron Nola (0.5 fWAR) are starting this series. Their best reliever, Hector Neris, has been effective at closing games out so far this year.
With a solid rotation, the Philly bullpen is their weakness. Aside from the aforementioned Neris, they do not have any other great arms. Coming into the season, they expected the tandem of Neris and David Robertson to shut teams down late in games, but Robertson is suffering from a sore right elbow and won’t be back with the major league club any time soon.
The Cubs should be able to at least take two games against Philly, but most of this will be based on how well the offense can perform. They struggled mightily with runners in scoring position against the Nationals, going 4-for-23 over the weekend. If that trend continues, this series may be a bit of a slog. Yu Darvish‘s start on Monday will set the tone for the series, so let’s hope he goes out there and shoves like he did against Cincinnati.
Game and Broadcast Info
- Monday, May 20 at 7:05 CT on NBC Sports Chicago and MLB Network
- Tuesday, May 21 at 6:05 CT on WGN and ESPN
- Wednesday, May 22 at 7:05 CT on NBC Sports Chicago and MLB Network
- Thursday, May 23 at 1:20 CT on ABC-7
What to Watch For
- Darvish’s last start was very encouraging and was easily his best start as a Cub: five hits, two runs, 11, strikeouts, no walks. Can he replicate that against former Cubs Jake Arrieta on Monday? That matchup is going to be fun to watch.
- Albert Almora Jr. has been on fire recently, slashing .400/.429/.800 and hitting some monster dongs against Cincinnati and Washington. Take a look at his adjusted mechanics, which feature a much quieter leg kick than what he displayed early in the season.
- Jason Heyward (-0.4 fWAR; .125/.192/.125 in his last seven games) and Daniel Descalso (-0.3 fWAR; .125/.118/.125 in his last seven games) have really struggled recently at the plate. Look for them to break out of their respective slumps in this series.