Baseball

Series Preview – Angels vs. Cubs: Shorn Of All The Fun

vs.

RECORDS: Angels 7-6   Cubs 4-8

GAMETIMES: Friday-Sunday 1:20pm

TV: NBCSN Friday, ABC Saturday, WGN Sunday

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Tyler Skaggs vs. Cole Hamels

Chris Stratton vs. Kyle Hendricks

Trevor Cahill vs. Tyler Chatwood

Probable Angels Lineup

David Fletcher – LF

Andrelton Simmons – SS

Albert Pujols – 1B

Jonathan Lucroy – C

Taylor Ward – 3B

Kole Calhoun – RF

Zack Cozart – 2B

Peter Bourjos – CF

 

Probable Cubs Lineup

Albert Almora – CF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Willson Contreras – C

David Bote – 2B

Mark Zagunis – RF

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Note: Against right-handed starters Sat. and Sun. expect to see Heyward in center with Descalso at 2nd and Zobrist in right

After winning their first series of the year, the Cubs turn right around and host the Angels of Somewhere, a team shorn of all that makes it interesting. Which is fine, because the Cubs need wins so they’ll take boring as they can get for now. And they’re not without drama themselves.

We’ll start with the Northside Nine, who last night lost their backup catcher Victor Caratini to a broken hand for at least a month, and more likely six weeks. Of course this turned Cubs twitter, always anxious to paint their lives as a dark, dark room, in to the most obnoxious Cure fans around. Why oh why they pontificated, didn’t the Cubs sign a third catcher? Why must we suffer with Taylor Davis for a month? Please, unleash me from this hell and give me the sweet release of the great darkness beyond!

Fuckin’ eh, shut up.

One, almost no team has three catchers. Any catcher goes down, you’re almost certainly going to have to toss some tomato can out there once a week. Yes, I remember 2016 as well. That was an accident, because Montero and Ross were signed the season before you’ll recall, which is also the season Willson Contreras started tearing up the minors out of really nowhere. He didn’t give the Cubs much choice. That’s generally how you end up with three catchers.

Third, even the max six weeks time frame, that’s probably at most 12 Caratini starts. How much value, even with how well he was playing, do you think Victor Caratini has over 12 starts? Yes, Taylor Davis blows and he’s got a little league swing, but he’s also not a double-amputee. I’m fairly sure he can catch the ball. This isn’t the disaster Cubs fans are so desperate to make it.

Anyway, other than that, after getting Jose Quintana on track and at least moving Yu Darvish toward it, it would be lovely if Kyle Hendricks followed the trend on Saturday, especially with Lester out, and especially as the Chatwood Experience awaits on Sunday. A battery of Tyler Chatwood-Taylor Davis. Remember kids, the Cubs have new executive suites!

To the Angels. Before the year, you probably thought, “Hey! Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani at Wrigley! That’s exciting!” Well sorry, fucko. Ohtani isn’t back until May and Trout tweaked a groin earlier in the week while the Angels were stuffing the Brewers. He won’t play today and is iffy for the weekend.

Those aren’t the only injury concerns for the Halos. Andrew Heaney went boom again, and Justin Upton ended up with turf toe in the season’s first week and is out until possibly July. Certainly June. So yeah, stripped of all that, this becomes a very ordinary outfit. Unless watching Albert Pujols try and scramble his unorganized collection of bones around first base in an NL park entertains you, and it should. The grounds crew should have a large dustpan nearby.

That hasn’t stopped them from winning six in a row over the Rangers and Brewers, mystifying the Cubs I’m sure. But it can also be inspiration, as the Angels started 1-6 and this early that’s how quickly things can look rosy again. It’s hard to know what the expectations were for this team, as they look to be well behind the A’s and Astros in the division, which doesn’t put you anywhere near a wildcard.

Without Trout, absolutely no one in this lineup is hitting. As you know, Pujols died five years ago, Kalhoun is striking out a third of the time, Simmons might as well go up there with a coloring book, and Justin Bour seems to only have mastered two of the three true outcomes so far, and that’s the two where nothing happens. Tommy La Stella had a nice half-week there for a minute, but that’s been about it offensively for the Angels. Zack Cozart is hitting .033. That’s a thing.

Which means they’ve had to do it with pitching, though it’s also hard to see how. They’re getting more miracles out of Trevor Cahill, who looks like he struggles to actually throw the ball 60 feet but here we are. Matt Harvey has gone back to being the utter disaster he was for two years before a half-revival in Cincinnati, but don’t worry it’s not like anyone can party in Southern California or anything. He’s given up 14 runs in his last two starts. Skaggs has been ok, but he doesn’t strike anyone out nor does he get a ton of grounders so one wonders how long this will last. That puts them praying for the safe return of Heaney, which is Beckett-ian.

Which means it’s been yeoman work from the pen, and that is the case. Hansel Robles (who uses the Undertaker theme and hence is now my favorite player), Ty Buffrey, and Cam Bedrosian have been unhittable so far, and Justin Anderson and Cody Allen are carrying 0.00 ERAs as well. They’re already third in the AL in appearances, and fifth in innings. But they also have the best pen ERA and fifth-best FIP. They don’t want to go to this well too often but while it’s working no one’s going to bitch.

If there’s a team that Hendricks can find it against, it should be this one. The offense probably needs to do its work in the first five innings, and that might be harder than you’d first think with both Skaggs and Cahill going. But then again, it’s fucking Skaggs and Cahill. Let’s get a move on already.

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