2023 Cubs Road Trip Preview: San Diego, Anaheim, San Francisco
The Cubs are embarking on their longest road trip of the season with a 12-day, 10-game excursion throughout the state of California.
First up will be a 4-game set in San Diego followed by a 3-game series in Anaheim against the Angels. The Cubs finish it off with a 3-game set in San Francisco against the Giants.
West Coast trips are notoriously difficult given the time change and the Cubs are going up against a trio of teams that have their eyes set on a postseason run.
The Padres came into the year with sky-high expectations after signing Xander Bogaerts in the offseason but they have since underwhelmed (26-30 record as of June 1). Still, they have a potent lineup with Bogaerts and Juan Soto joining Fernando Tatis Jr. Manny Machado is currently on the IL with a broken hand but could return in the coming days.
Tatis rejoined the Padres in late April after missing over a year due to injury and a PED suspension. During his last full season, he led the NL with 42 homers and finished 3rd in MVP voting.
The Angels are looking to make a playoff run behind the two-headed monster of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. Ohtani is a free agent at the end of the season and the Angels are hoping to take advantage of what time they have left with the two-way star. They entered June just 3 games out of the AL Wild-Card spot.
The Giants began June with a 28-28 record and 0.5 games out of the NL Wild-Card. They’re dealing with some injuries (Joc Pederson and Thairo Estrada are both currently on the IL but could return by the Cubs series) though they boast a strong pitching staff and are led on offense by J.D. Davis and Michael Conforto.
Friday: RHP Jameson Taillon vs. RHP Michael Wacha
Saturday: LHP Drew Smyly vs. RHP Yu Darvish
Sunday: RHP Marcus Stroman vs. LHP Ryan Weathers
Monday: RHP Kyle Hendricks vs. LHP Blake Snell
Former Cubs starter Darvish will toe the rubber against his old team Saturday while Wacha has been the hottest pitcher in baseball (0.84 ERA in 5 May starts).
The Cubs are searching for ways to get Taillon back on track after he was the big addition to the rotation over the winter. Smyly and Stroman have been stellar for the Cubs in the first two months of the season with Stroman coming off his best start in Chicago – a complete game shutout on Memorial Day against MLB’s top team (Rays).
Hendricks has made 2 starts in his return from a shoulder injury that cost him 11 months. His 2nd outing Tuesday at Wrigley Field looked more like vintage Hendricks and presents optimsim that he can help provide a major boost to the Cubs rotation.
Quote of the Week
When asked how many postseason games he hopes to start for the Cubs in the future, Hendricks expressed optimism about this 2023 team:
“I hope a lot. Especially with this group. We got the core, we got the pitching. We got it all. It’s just taking it one day at a time, one pitch at a time. The better we can do that, we’ll be right where we need to be at the end of the year.” – Kyle Hendricks
Storylines to keep an eye on
– The Cubs are coming off one of their longest homestands of the season where they went 4-5 against the Mets, Reds and Rays. They bookended a weekend sweep at the hands of Cincinnati with a pair of series victories over two contenders (Mets, Rays). After going 14-13 in March/April, the Cubs slipped to 10-18 in May. Can they right the ship in June beginning on this tough West Coast trip?
– Justin Steele departed his start Wednesday after only 3 innings due to forearm tightness. The Cubs maintained it was a precautionary measure but that’s a concerning sign, especially for a guy who has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last calendar year.
– The Cubs might have some reinforcements on the road trip. Reliever Codi Heuer continues to get his work in with Triple-A Iowa and could provide a boost to the bullpen. Cody Bellinger has been dealing with a knee injury but is progressing as well and could return in the next couple of weeks.