Sports Baseball

On Deck: Blue Jays at Cubs

By Donald Duench, Toronto Sun

Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs. (MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AP files)

Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs. (MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AP files)

TORONTO BLUE JAYS at CHICAGO CUBS

Probable starting pitchers

FRIDAY 2:20 p.m.
LHP J.A. Happ (6-8, 3.63 ERA) vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (12-8, 3.73 ERA)
Since the all-star break, Arrieta is 4-1, 2.09 ERA, .190 opponents’ batting average, 0.93 WHIP, in six games, all quality starts. Righties are hitting only .206 off him this season.

SATURDAY 2:20 p.m.
RHP Nick Tepesch (1-2, 5.25 ERA) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (3-2, 3.86 ERA in NL)
Quintana with the White Sox this year: .246 opponents’ batting average, 1.32 WHIP; with the Cubs (6 starts): .215 and 1.11.

SUNDAY 2:20 p.m.
RHP Marco Estrada (5-8, 5.09 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle Hendricks (4-4, 3.45 ERA)
Hendricks missed six weeks because of tendinitis in his right hand. He’s 0-1 in the five games since he returned July 24, but with a 2.00 ERA vs. 4.09 before he went on the DL.

 

TOP 3 STORYLINES

1. Second-half surge
The World Series champion Cubs were 43-45 at the all-star break, 5.5 games out of first place in the NL Central. At the break, they traded for pitcher Jose Quintana, then began the second half of the season on a 14-3 run to move into first place in the division. They began play Thursday with 52 home runs since the break, tied for most in the majors, and are relatively healthy, missing only INF Addison Russell, RHP Koji Uehara and C Willson Contreras.

2. Aroldis who?
Fireballing reliever Aroldis Chapman spent half a season with the Cubs last year, and wound up with a win (and a blown save) in Game 7 of the World Series. After Chapman became a free agent, eventually returning to the Yankees, the Cubs acquired Wade Davis in a trade with Kansas City for OF Jorge Soler. Davis is 24-for-24 in save opportunities this year. Chicago’s bullpen also includes Carl Edwards Jr., who has the lowest opponents’ batting average among National League relievers this season (.137).

3. Up in the sky
The weekend visit by the Blue Jays — only their second series at Wrigley Field in club history, following games in 2005 — coincides with the Chicago Air and Water Show. Veteran Blue Jays players, used to unexpected noise from the Snowbirds and the like during games on Labour Day weekend, shouldn’t flinch if the Blue Angels get a little too close to Clark and Addison.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

C Miguel Montero, Blue Jays
Montero and the Cubs split on bad terms earlier this year, with the catcher saying that pitcher Jake Arrieta was the reason Washington was able to steal seven bases in a game June 27. Montero could be batting against Arrieta on Friday.

3B Kris Bryant, Cubs
Entering play Thursday, Bryant was hitting .400 (26-for-65) with five doubles, three homers, 11 RBIs and a .481 OBP since July 29. He’s getting marriage proposals from fans — even when his wife is standing next to him!

 

DUENCH'S TAKE

For clarification, Ian Happ of the Cubs (who hit two home runs Thursday) is not related to Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ ... and Jon Jay is not a Blue Jay. Cubs win two of three.