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Series Preview: Rays vs Cubs

Why is Wrigley Field called “the friendly confines?”

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays continue their trip to Chicago this time with a trip to Wrigley Field to take on the Chicago Cubs. The Rays salvaged the final game to stop their four game losing streak and bring themselves back to .500 at 5-5. The Cubs have gotten off to a good start at 5-4.

This isn’t the same Cubs team we’ve gotten to know over the last half a decade. Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Javier Baez have moved on. They made a big splash this winter signing Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki.

Schedule:

Monday 7:40 PM: Shane McClanahan vs Kyle Hendricks
Tuesday 7:40 PM: Josh Fleming vs Justin Steele
Wednesday 7:40 PM: Drew Rasmussen vs Marcus Stroman

Drew Rasmussen is being projected to be the starter on Wednesday night, but I’m not entirely sure who will make that start. It’s been suggested Ryan Yarbrough could make his season debut. The Rays have their first off day of the season on Thursday, so it could be a bullpen game.

Kyle Hendricks is the name brand version of Ryan Yarbrough. Hendricks lives off a fastball or sinker that has averaged 86.6 mph. Both pitchers also rank highly in lowest average exit velocity allowed with Yarbrough at 84.8 mph and Hendricks at 86.4 mph since 2018. Hendricks does throw more innings, but he’s yet to post a 200 inning season despite throwing over 180 innings four times. Over his career he has a 3.39 ERA/3.74 FIP/3.89 xFIP over 1,237.1 innings.

Justin Steele made his MLB debut last summer. In 66.1 innings he’s posted a 3.93 ERA/5.04 FIP/4.06 xFIP. He’s an extreme flyball pitcher. The left hander leans on a 93.2 mph four-seam fastball nearly half the time. In his first two starts this year he’s relied almost entirely on a 82.1 mph slider as his secondary offerings. Last year he threw a 92.9 mph sinker, 87.5 mph changeup, and 79.1 mph curveball equally.

Marcus Stroman has been a very good major league pitcher for nearly a decade. Over 1,037.1 innings he’s posted a 3.65 ERA/3.64 FIP/3.59 xFIP while doing most of his work against a lineup with a designated hitter while playing for the Toronto Blue Jays. The right hander works primarily off a 91.8 mph sinker that doesn’t generate whiffs but does induce groundballs. He’ll mix in a 92.9 mph four-seam fastball, 89.6 mph cutter, 84.3 mph slider, and 85.3 mph split finger changeup.

New Cubs offense

Most of the turnover has come on the offensive side of the ball. Their offense has gotten off to a terrific start hitting .281/.364/.447 and putting up a 128 wRC+.

Seiya Suzuki has led the way with four homers, a .400/.543/.960 line, and a 282 wRC+.

Wilson Contreras (172 wRC+), Jonathan Villar (192 wRC+), Ian Happ (148 wRC+), Jason Heyward (139 wRC+), and Yan Gomes (158 wRC+) have all gotten off to hot starts.

Rays look to start a winning streak.

The Rays pitching staff is continuing to work itself into regular season shape while dealing with a couple of injuries. Thursday’s off day will be welcomed by the team as they look to rest up for the run before they have to cut the roster from 28 to 26 on May 2.

After a few post-World Series years in the doldrums, the Cubs have assembled an exciting team. This should be a good series.