Coming off of a mixed homestand that saw them take three of five from the Pirates and Angels, the Cubs are escaping to Miami for a three-game set with the Marlins. The return to Chicago saw strong performances for several on the pitching staff, including a long run of scoreless innings from the bullpen, and the Cubs will hope to use this momentum to build some much needed consistency.
The last-place Marlins (4-12) are limping into the series having lost six of their last seven games, including two of three to the Phillies. After the recent offseason roster teardowns, they are likely to struggle to compete in the tough NL East.
The Miami series always represents a fun opportunity to match up against former Cubs All-Star and fan favorite Starlin Castro. The shortstop served as one of the few bright spots throughout the rebuild years from 2011-15 with offensive performances that brought the Wrigley crowd to its feet and a smile to match his bat. Cubs fans sometimes forget his three All-Star appearances because of his move to second base and eventual trade out of town, but Anthony Rizzo and Co. always seem to enjoy the reunion.
Cubs pitchers will look to feast on opposing hitters throughout the series. After trading away MVP contenders Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and JT Realmuto over the past two years, the Marlins lineup has few intimidating offensive performers.
Martin Prado has provided much of the spark for the offense this season. The 35-year-old center fielder is among the league leaders in batting average, hitting .440 on the year, though he only has two extra base hits. Catcher Jorge Alfaro has been an admirable replacement at catcher for Realmuto, slugging three homers and entering the series with a .918 OPS.
On the pitching side, the Marlins have built a strong arsenal of interesting young arms. All five starters are under 28 years old, including elite former prospects Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez. Despite the upside throughout the rotation, they are clearly still developing many of these arms and are a few years away from reaching their potential.
Here’s to hoping the Cubs can take South Beach by storm and build the confidence throughout all aspects of the team that they will need to compete against the playoff contenders.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
Monday, April 15 at 6:10pm on WGN
Tuesday, April 16 at 6:10pm on NBC Sports Chicago
Wednesday, April 17 at 6:10pm on NBC Sports Chicago
What to Watch For
- Yu Darvish has had mixed performances in each outing this season, but overall results have been disappointing. His last start against the Pirates saw him command his fastball well, so he will hope to build on the positives and continue progressing back to the ace he was in Texas.
- Cole Hamels threw 106 pitches over eight dominant innings in his last start against the Angels on Friday. It will be intriguing to see how the 35-year-old bounces back from that performance and if the Cubs have him on a tighter pitch count this early in the season.
- To many Cubs fans’ surprise (and delight), Jason Heyward is still streaking at the plate. He is coming into this series hitting .375 with a 188 wRC+ that comes from a performance that has him on pace to surpass his career-high home run mark.
- Willson Contreras has been a major contributor for the offense, but he’s been feast or famine at the plate and will need to build day-to-day steadiness to be the contributor that the Cubs need behind the plate.
- Kris Bryant will look to turn around his slow start after having the weekend off. The former MVP, who seemed ready to challenge for the award again, hasn’t hit a home run since opening day and is hitting just .231 on the season.