Anytime you go 7-3 on a homestand, I think you’ve done a good job. Still, it’s impossible not to be a little frustrated, given that the Cubs started out 7-1 on this homestand and then forgot to score runs in the two weekend games, dropping both. Ramirez almost singlehandedly lost the game on Saturday, going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts with men on base during each of his at bats. He’s won quite a few games almost singlehandedly for the Cubs this year, so I’ll forgive him.

The Cubs will now go on the road for six games against the Cardinals and Reds, and the most likely outcome is probably a 4-2 record. I think forecasting over the short term in baseball is extremely stupid, but, if you’re going to do it, the best way is just to look at starting pitching matchups, and that’s what I’ll do now.

The Cards are a bad team, and the Cubs with Derrek Lee back in the lineup should feast on their weak starting pitching. The matchups for the series will be Zambrano vs. Wells, which seems almost unfair, Lilly vs. Wainwright (check out the Cubs’ collective 1.007 career OPS vs. Wainwright), and Marquis vs. Looper. This last matchup is the only unfavorable one for the Cubs, as Jason Marquis is not very good to begin with and should be worse against a team that knows his tendencies quite well, and Braden Looper has dominated the current crop of Cubs hitters. My prediction: 2-1 series victory for the Cubs.

In Cincinnati, the matcups will most likely be Rich Hill vs. Bronson Arroyo, Sean Marshall vs. Aaron Harang, and Zambrano vs. Matt Belisle. The last of these matchups heavily favors the Cubs (although the Reds have been good against Z), but the first two are less certain. Arroyo basically dominated the Cubs last year, posting a 4-0 record in five starts and a 1.01 ERA. This year, however, he’s 0-2 with a 3.95, so maybe there’s some hope. Floyd, Lee, and Ramirez have all hit him well; the rest of the Cubs have not (to say the least). As for Hill, he’s been good against the Reds, but he may be too homer-prone to succeed against Arroyo. The Cubs have faced Harang twice this year already; he beat them on Opening Day in Cincinnati and got beat around by them in Chicago in that terrible 6-5 loss in which Zambrano blew a 5-0 lead. Last year, he was 1-1 against the Cubbies with a 5.14 ERA. Marshall has no experience against the Reds. My prediction: Cubs win the Zambrano/Belisle matchup easily and beat up on Harang; Arroyo gets the best of the Cubbies again.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs swept the Cards, and I would be surprised if they lost 2 of 3. I’m less confident about the Reds series, but I still think the odds are in the Cubs’ favor. All in all, I think 4-2 is the most likely outcome, 3-3 is a distinct possibility, 5-1 is a slightly less distinct possibility, and anything else would really surprise me.

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