Cubs vs. Padres: Series Thread (Games 22-24)
The Cubs remain at Wrigley after an off day and host the Padres for a three-game series to close out the homestand. They had a run of five series wins in a row before losing three of four to the Dodgers at home. Positive production from the top through the middle of the lineup along with mostly solid starting pitching have allowed their current 12-9 record. They've gotten little offense from DH or 1B, and Yan Gomes's homeruns have been the only real offensive contribution from the catcher position. Meanwhile, Mervis, Velazquez, and Morel are each making strong showings in Iowa. The Padres come in at a somewhat disappointing 12-12 record despite having dropped a whole bank or two this offseason on free agents and extensions. Bogaerts has made a strong impression early, slashing .330/.417/.545 and playing a surprising plus defense. Juan Soto appears to have angered the BABIP deities, but has walked over 20% of the time to compensate a bit. Matt Carpenter also continues his Padres resurgence with three homers and a .548 slugging percentage thus far. See below for daily matchups.
Game 22, Tuesday, April 25, 6:40 pm central
SDP: LHP Blake Snell (0-3, 6.00 ERA)
CHC: LHP Justin Steele (1.44 ERA)
Snell started his career with the Rays, showing some signs of dominance but having trouble sustaining those levels. He neared those heights with the Padres in 2022, albeit in 24 starts, striking out over 12 batters per nine innings and putting up an ERA of 3.39. Command has been an issue so far this year. He walked only one batter in his first start but has issued four, five, and three free passes in each of the last three. His first-pitch strike percent is 48.8% and his zone percentage is only 34.3%.
Justin Steele has consistently kept his team in the game and has been rewarded with three wins while avoiding a loss thus far. He's gone at least six innings in four starts, has struck out 24 in 25 innings, and has mostly shown command of the strikezone but for a slightly wild second start in which he walked four Rangers. He's getting by almost exclusively with a fastball and slider pair, throwing his changeup and curve once or twice per game so far.
Game 23, Wednesday, April 26, 6:40 pm central
SDP: RHP Michaeal Wacha (2-1, 7.08 ERA)
CHC: LHP Drew Smyly (2-1, 3.13 ERA)
Wacha will be a familiar face to most Cubs fans, having started with the Cardinals from 2013 to 2019. Since then, he's bounced from the Mets to the Rays to the Red Sox and is now a Padre. His ERAs in each of the last three years have ranged from 3.32 to 6.62, but his peripherals show he's been pretty consistent in his execution and performance variations look to correspond with varied homeruns per nine innings, a number that jumped for him 2019 and has mostly stayed at 1.66 or higher except for his strong 2022 performance, when it dropped to 1.27. He's much more of a flyball pitcher these days than when Cubs fans saw him in the 2010s.
Smyly carried a perfect game into the 8th inning of his last start and had it broken up by an infield hit that may or may not have been prevented but for a collision as he and Yan Gomes both pursued the soft grounder aggressively. He's gone to his curve a whopping 47% of the time thsu far in 2023 and opposing batters have given him little reason to adjust. Since his poor first start, he's allowed two earned runs in 18.1 innings while striking out 20 and walking three.
Game 24, Thursday, April 27, 1:20 pm central
SDP: RHP Seth Lugo (2-1, 2.78 ERA)
CHC: RHP Hayden Wesneski (1-1, 6.23 ERA)
Seth Lugo spent the first seven years of his career with the Mets, making 39 starts and 236 appearances in relief. He's starting the Padres and has been good enough to overcome a .344 BABIP allowed thus far. He's boasting a strikeout per inning pitched and a groundball rate north of 50%. A high 70s curve is his go-to breaking pitch and his slider is coming in a few ticks slower this year than in previous years.
Wesneski was dominant in the Cactus League, pitching like it was the regular season while many opponents were still warming up to the idea of baseball. He's often looked frustrated in April. He's managed only 12 strikeouts in 17.1 innings and has often missed a few inches of the plate and then had to cave in to fastballs getting too much of the zone. His Baseball Savant page shows his hottest spots for the four-seamer basically center-center and center-down along with a red spot up and in to righties. If he can heat up the outer third of the plate without trying to paint the black, he might find a bit more success.