Series 31 Preview: Cubs at Rockies
Troy Tulowitzki has anchored the Rockies offensively this year. (Photo by Ryan McKee/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
The Cubs start the second half with a three-game set against the Rockies, in the far-from-cozy confines of Coors Field. Though the humidor has tempered home-run rates a fair amount, Colorado’s ballpark still plays heavily toward the offense because of its friendly dimensions. Also tempered has been the Rockies’ hot start: At 11-19 in their last 30 games, they’re one of three teams heading in the wrong direction in the NL West (the Giants and Padres both are 10-20 over that span). Still, the Rockies sit just 4.5 games back of the first-place Diamondbacks thanks to an outstanding outfield and some real bright spots in the rotation and bullpen.
HITTING: 4.4 Runs Scored/Game (2nd in the NL)
As Troy Tulowitzki’s fortunes go, the Rockies’ do too. With 64 games played so far, he’s already 17 games ahead of last year’s entire total. His performance numbers—a .332 AVG/.400 OBP/.608 SLG slash line—once again are excellent. But it’s no surprise that the Rockies’ slide coincided with Tulowitzki hitting the DL in mid-June. He’s back on the field, so the Cubs will be facing a stronger team than the recent record would suggest. Surrounding him in the lineup are left fielder Carlos Gonzalez (.302/.370/.610) and right fielder Michael Cuddyer (.330/.391/.568), two parts of a great outfield that’s completed by leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler (.284/.381/.458). The starting outfielders also deserve special mention for a 35-for-40 success rate in steals. In fact, the entire team has an excellent 82 percent success rate, making this a dangerous on the basepaths. But the lineup’s stars are balanced by a disappointing non-Tulowitzki infield: 39-year-old first baseman Todd Helton, second basemen DJ LeMahieu and Josh Rutledge, and promising 22-year-old third baseman Nolan Arenado each have on-base plus slugging percentages below .720 so far.
PITCHING: 4.3 Runs Allowed/Game (11th in the NL)
The Cubs will see two of the Rockies’ three best starters so far, starting with veteran Jorge De La Rosa tonight and capped by 23-year-old Tyler Chatwood on Sunday. Chatwood, acquired from the Angels for Chris Iannetta a couple years ago, has enjoyed a breakout season after compiling a 4.96 ERA his first couple MLB seasons. The key difference for the ground-ball machine has been command. While Chatwood’s strikeout rate has increased to a slightly below-average 16 percent, it’s his walk rate that has dropped from 11 percent to 8 percent, and his home run rate from 3 percent to 0.7 percent. Cubs hitters should expect to see a pair of fastballs in the low-to-mid 90s, a curve, and either a slider (versus righties) or change-up (lefties). The development of the latter two pitches have helped him improve tremendously against batters on both sides of the plate. The back end of the bullpen has done its job by keeping the ball in the park above all. Lefty Rex Brothers (owner of the team’s best strikeout rate at 26 percent) and righty Matt Belisle set up for unspectacular-but-consistent closer Rafael Betancourt.