Arizona Diamondbacks at Chicago Cubs
When and Where: Friday, April 19, Wrigley Field, Chicago, Ill., 2:20 p.m. EDT.
Having righted themselves in South Beach, the Chicago Cubs look to further their momentum starting with Friday night’s series opener versus the surging Arizona Diamondbacks.
Diamondbacks riding high after sweep of Braves
Arizona (10-9) has followed up a four-game losing streak with four straight wins, capped by Wednesday’s 4-1 victory at Atlanta to finish off a three-game sweep of the Braves. Luke Weaver struck out nine over five shutout innings and Christian Walker‘s seventh-inning two-run homer provided an extra cushion for the bullpen.
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) April 18, 2019
Walker has been dynamite hitting in the late innings, going 13 for 21 (.619) with six homers in at-bats in the seventh inning or later. The first baseman is batting .300 overall and has gone 9 for 17 with three homers and two doubles during Arizona’s winning streak.
“… I just tried to re-start and check back into the game,” Walker told The Associated Press, referring to his three strikeouts against Braves starter Mike Soroka. “I kept telling myself I’m going to help the team today, one way or the other.”
Diamondbacks rookie Merrill Kelly (1-1, 3.79 ERA) would not mind getting some of Walker’s power earlier as he takes the ball for the series opener. The 30-year-old had his first non-quality start last time out, giving up four runs and eight hits in five-plus innings and leaving without a decision before Arizona lost 5-4 to San Diego on Saturday.
Kelly, who has given up a homer in each of his first three starts, won his only road start — allowing three runs and five hits in six innings of a 10-3 victory at San Diego on April 1.
Hendricks to attempt to extend Cubs’ shutout streak
The Cubs (8-9) were idle Thursday after sweeping a three-game set at Miami earlier in the week. They won their last two games by shutout and carry a 23-inning scoreless streak into this game, starting with the fifth inning of their 7-2 victory Monday night.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 18, 2019
Javy Baez homered for the second straight game, and the runner-up in the 2018 NL MVP race is 11 for 18 with two homers, four doubles, and six RBIs in his last four games, spiking his average to .324.
“I’m seeing the ball well,” said Baez, who went 6 for 20 with two homers versus the Diamondbacks last year, to the Chicago Tribune. “No matter where it is. Hopefully when we go home I can keep the same approach.”
Kyle Hendricks (0-3, 5.40) tries to end his early-season funk and also get some run support in a bid for his first win of the season. The right-hander has made small steps of progress in each start and allowed three runs and six hits in five innings of a 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday.
Hendricks, who has been backed with only two runs of support in his three outings, is 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA in four career starts versus Arizona, but both wins came in the southwest. He is 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA at Wrigley against the Diamondbacks, yielding three runs in 10 innings, but also has been backed with a solitary run in those games.
Diamondbacks third baseman Eduardo Escobar is 3 for 7 with a pair of doubles versus Hendricks.
The Cubs have not recorded three consecutive shutouts since July 21-24, 1992.
The Diamondbacks are:
- 2-6 in their last eight games vs. NL Central opponents.
- 1-4 in their last five games vs. right-handed starters.
- 1-5 in their last six games vs. the Cubs.
The Cubs are:
- 8-3 in Hendricks’ last 11 starts following a loss in the previous game.
- 5-2 in Hendricks’ last seven starts during game 1 of a series.
- 4-0 in Hendricks’ last four Friday starts.