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Series #38: Athletics at Cubs - Home Safe

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MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

The A’s will be getting another dose of National League baseball by taking on the new NL Central leader, the Cubs. After winning the series against Milwaukee last week, and after sweeping the Cardinals over the weekend, this is the A’s chance to upset another strong contender. The A’s will actually be spending the full week in Chicago as the team will take on the White Sox after their three game set with the Cubs.

The Cubs are, once again, in the thick of the playoff hunt, as the team has been for the past several years. This year hasn’t been going as smoothly as in previous seasons, as their precarious lead in the division would indicate, but one couldn’t say that the Cubs haven’t been playing well in good faith.

The main issue the Cubs have had this year has been winning on the road. In Chicago, the Cubs have more than twice as many wins than losses, with a record of 39-18. However, on the road, the Cubs are like an entirely different team, with a measly 21-33 record away from Wrigley. The biggest cause of the disparity of the Cubs’ home/road splits is their pitching staff, as the Cubs have allowed sixty more runs on the road than they have allowed at home. The team’s ERA jumps from 3.29 in Chicago to 4.73 on the road. Entering today’s series, the Cubs have won three games in a row, all at home, after going 3-6 on their road trip immediately prior.

All that doesn’t bode great for the A’s, who won’t get the opportunity to face the Cubs in Oakland this season, but the team has faced far worse this year and an unfortunate scheduling quirk won’t make or break the team.

The Cubs don’t score as much as their team OPS would imply, meaning that the team has struggled to consistently deliver clutch hits. While their OPS is a collective .780, good for 8th best in the big leagues, they are 14th in runs scored with 550, between the Rays and Nationals. The offense has similar power numbers to Oakland, with the A’s having hit 175 home runs to the Cubs’ 171.

The top performers on offense are the exact players one would expect. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have nearly identical numbers. In 394 at bats, Bryant is slashing .287/.388/.528 with 21 home runs and 55 walks. In 392 at bats, Rizzo is slashing .286/.391/.518 with 21 home runs and 52 walks. Javier Baez is leading the team in games played and home runs hit with 26 total while playing a mean shortstop.

The pitching is Chicago’s real bread and butter, as evidenced by the team allowing the fifth fewest runs up to this point in the season. While the team doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, they are masters of inducing weak contact and being difficult to square up. The starting staff has also stayed remarkably healthy this year, as their top five guys have made all but a handful of starts all year long.

Looking at surface level stats, it does look as if some of the bigger names on Chicago’s staff are having down years. Yu Darvish’s ERA is at 4.36 and Jose Quintana is at 4.40. Jon Lester is at 3.86. However, the Cubs have still been able to win despite their veterans showing some signs of aging. Their bullpen has also struggled with consistency, and the team signed Craig Kimbrel to address that potential issue, but that consistency has yet to be found.

It should be a hard fought series between two playoff bound teams, but the A’s are going to have to dig deep to hang with a team that is very hard to beat at home. But even though the pitching matchups don’t appear to be in the A’s favor, if Oakland keeps close some late game magic is well within the realm of possibility.

Potential Lineup

Jason Heyward - CF

Nicholas Castellanos - RF

Kris Bryant - 3B

Anthony Rizzo - 1B

Javy Baez - SS

Kyle Schwarber - LF

Victor Caratini - C

Tony Kemp - 2B

Pitching Matchups

Chris Bassitt vs Kyle Hendricks

Brett Anderson vs Jon Lester

Homer Bailey vs Jose Quintana

Game Information

Game #114: Monday, August 5th at 5:05

Game #115: Tuesday, August 6th at 5:05

Game #116: Wednesday, August 7th at 11:20

Game #114 will be broadcast on ESPN. Game #115 will be on NBCSCA and on the MLB Network for those out of market. Game #116 will be broadcast on NBCSCA only.