Cubs News

2023 Cubs Road Trip Preview: Minnesota and Houston

11 months agoAndy Martinez

After a quick homestand, the Cubs begin a long, three-series road trip with matchups against AL opponents in the Twins and Astros. The Cubs will travel to Minnesota for three games, then go to Houston to take on the Astros for three and have an off day before finishing the road trip against the Phillies.

The Cubs last faced the Twins in 2021 and went 2-2 against Minnesota. They are 20-17 lifetime against the Twins.

For the first time in 4 seasons, the Cubs play the Astros. They were 1-2 against the Astros in 2019 and have faced the Astros just 6 times since Houston moved from the National League to the American League ahead of the 2014 season. Houston owns the lifetime series 380-334.

Minnesota features a trio of talented starters, including two that the Cubs will get a firsthand look at — Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan. Gray leads the majors in ERA (1.35) and Ryan is 12th (2.45). The third, Pablo López boasts a 3.47 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP.

The defending World Series champion Houston Astros are teetering around the .500 mark, but are loaded with talent. Slugger Yordan Alvarez has 8 home runs and a .946 OPS and their rotation is spearheaded by Framber Valdez (2.38 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) and Cristian Javier (3.47 ERA, 1.01 WHIP).

Friday night’s game will be on Apple TV+, with post game to follow on Marquee Sports Network. The rest of the road trip will air live on Marquee Sports Network.

Pitching probables


Friday: LHP Drew Smyly vs. RHP Sonny Gray

Saturday: RHP Hayden Wesneski vs. RHP Joe Ryan

Sunday: RHP Marcus Stroman vs. RHP Louie Varland

For the most part, Smyly has been stellar for the Cubs so far this season, posting a 3.05 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP across 7 starts. His last outing against Miami was his first tough outing since his first start of the year — he lasted just 3.1 innings, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks. He’ll look to bounce back against the Twins in the series opener.

After an up-and-down start to the season, Wesneski has begun to settle into a groove over his last three starts. In that time, he’s turned in a pair of quality starts and another outing of 1-run ball over 5 innings.

Marcus Stroman has been pitching like an ace for the Cubs this season and has turned in a quality start in 7 of his 8 starts this season. He’s posted a lowly 1.06 WHIP and 2.28 ERA in 47.1 innings.


Monday: RHP Jameson Taillon vs. LHP Framber Valdez

Tuesday: LHP Justin Steele vs. RHP Cristian Javier

Wednesday: LHP Drew Smyly vs. RHP J.P. France

Tailllon returned from the injured list in Washington D.C. and has been building back up in his pitch count. In his first two starts since he returned, he’s gone 5.2 innings, allowing 7 runs on 8 hits with 9 strikeouts. He threw 42 pitches on May 4 and 69 on May 9. Javier Assad has piggybacked off him and been stellar in that role, allowing just 2 runs on 6 hits in 10.1 innings of work. This could be the last outing that Taillon is on some sort of limit.

While Stroman has been pitching like an ace, Steele has taken the title and ran with it — he’s been terrific this year for the Cubs, posting a 1.82 ERA – the second-best mark in the NL — and a 1.03 WHIP – the seventh-best mark in the NL.

Valdez, who finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting and was an All-Star last year, has turned in a quality start in every start except his first of the year. France made his major-league debut on May 6, turning in 5 shutout innings with 5 strikeouts and just 3 hits.  

Quote of the week

Willson Contreras returned to Wrigley Field for the first time as a St. Louis Cardinal and embraced the role of villain. But president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said that Contreras shouldn’t always receive jeers when he’s back at the Friendly Confines.

“I don’t think it should matter what uniform he’s wearing. I think the fans should cheer him for what he did here,” Hoyer said. “They should cheer him every time he comes back. It shouldn’t be a one-time deal … it’s good to see him back and he deserves the accolades.”

Storylines to keep an eye on

— The Cubs’ offense struggled offensively with runners in scoring position since they went on their previous road trip to Miami and Washington D.C. In those 13 games, the Cubs hit .208/.325/.312 with 38 strikeouts and 31 RBIs and left 110 runners on base. If you take away Wednesday night’s finale against the Cardinals where they scored 10 runs, the Cubs hit .180/.304/.243 with 37 strikeouts and 24 RBI. The Cubs had more success offensively as they prepare to hit the road, but whether that can continue will be something to keep an eye on.

— Could we see Kyle Hendricks back on this road trip? The righty threw 61 pitches in 5 shutout innings earlier this week in a rehab start with Triple-A Iowa. He has another rehab start on Sunday where he’ll likely build up to 75 pitches. If that goes well, the Cubs could have a nice problem on their hands.

— Speaking of pitching, the Cubs’ rotation has the 4th best ERA in baseball (3.36) behind only Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Atlanta. The Cubs will face two of the top 5 rotations in baseball on this road trip as Houston (3.37) ranks fifth. The Cubs will need their starters to match their opponents to have a chance.

— This road trip marks the start of a very tough stretch for the Cubs. When they come back to Wrigley Field, the Cubs will host the Mets, Reds and Rays, before hitting the road again to take on the Padres, Angels and Giants.

— The Cubs’ trip to Houston will be special for starter Hayden Wesneski, who was born in Houston and attended Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas, just 24 miles northwest of downtown Houston. He grew up an Astro fan and cheered on the 2017 team that went on to win the World Series.

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