The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Detroit Tigers vs Chicago Cubs Aug 21

Detroit Tigers vs Chicago Cubs Aug 21

We’re heading into the home stretch of the 2023 MLB regular season with the trade deadline in the rearview mirror and less than two months remaining before the playoffs begin. Of course, every game matters the same over the course of the 162-game regular season, but each contest holds a bit of extra meaning now as teams who struggled to disappointing results through the first few months of the season rush to make it up all in one go during the final, frantic push for the playoffs.
We’ll see a pair of those clubs teeing off in a little less than two weeks when the Chicago Cubs head to Motor City to take on the Detroit Tigers for a three-game series starting on August 21. Here’s a look at how the matchup could play out as we gear up for the stretch run for both teams.

Detroit Tigers: What’s the Outlook?
We’ll get started by examining the home team. The Tigers sit with a miserable 49-63 record through the end of play on August 8, putting them ten games behind the division-leading Minnesota Twins with 50 games to play. They aren’t entirely out of it yet, but their playoff hopes are on life support. For Detroit, the good news is that the rest of the division is similarly miserable as well.

The Twins are the only team above .500 in the American League Central division and the Kansas City Royals are amidst a season that could put them amongst the worst teams of all time… were it not for the similarly struggling Oakland A’s, who are even farther behind them in the standings. With the AL Central a veritable punching bag (a fact that the Twins benefit from as well, as they’ve gone 22-15 against division opponents and 38-39 against the rest of the field), the Tigers could, in theory, flip the switch at any time and do their best attempt at running the table (although no team is going to win out with nearly a third of the season left to play), beating up on cellar-dwellers like Kansas City and the Chicago White Sox in order to close the gap in the division.

Chicago Cubs: What’s the Outlook?
Almost everything described for the Tigers’ scenario applies to the Cubs as well. The North Side of Chicago’s favorite club sits third in the National League Central division, but they’re significantly closer to the head of the pack, sitting just 2.5 games out of first place at the end of play on August 8 with a 58-55 record. The NL Central isn’t much better than their compatriots in the AL, and the Cincinnati Reds (who sit a game ahead of the Cubs in second place) are amidst an 0-6 free fall since the trade deadline. The division-leading Milwaukee Brewers, similarly, are 4-6 in their last ten games, and with the clubs ahead of them sputtering, the Cubbies could be ready to make a late push for the division in a down year. The stage is set for them to do so, as they have an eight-game stretch against the three worst teams in none other than–you guessed it–the AL Central over the next two weeks: two against their crosstown rival White Sox, and three apiece against the Royals and Tigers. If Chicago can take care of business against some of the worst teams in baseball, they could emerge from the dust in a couple of weeks as the division leaders. The Cubs, the favorite for the Illinois sportsbooks, are building up these next games to make a late-season push.

Matchups to Watch
This far ahead of the game, it’s sort of hard to gauge which pitchers will get the ball to start a specific game, as teams can skip a slot in the rotation trying to steal an extra game out of their best pitchers as they drive for a playoff spot. Position players have a little more consistency. The Cubs made one of the best moves of the offseason when they signed 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger to a one-year prove-it deal that contains a mutual option for the 2024 season: after Bellinger’s career with the Dodgers stagnated, the change of scenery has done wonders for the 28-year-old outfielder, as he’s slashing .332/.383/.552 with 16 home runs in just 82 games this season. The Cubs could’ve flipped Bellinger to a well-established contender at the trade deadline but decided to stand pat instead. With a respectable 3.6 fWAR to date this season, he could be the catalyst to a late season run. Chicago sits middle of the pack with a 4.19 team ERA, with their offense putting them over the
top since the middle of June: their 5.10 runs scored per game are good for fifth, and Detroit sits No. 22 and No. 28, respectively. They may not win it all this season, but Chicago certainly has enough pop to keep things interesting (and to mop the floor with the Tigers if they have a strong week at the plate).

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