Sizzling Cubs square off with reeling Giants

The hottest and coldest teams in the National League open a four-game series Thursday night when the Chicago Cubs visit the San Francisco Giants.

The clubs will be meeting for the first time this season, with the Cubs having flown into San Francisco on Wednesday’s off-day with a six-game winning streak, while the Giants were suffering their seventh straight loss, 5-3 in Arizona.

Left-handers Justin Steele (4-6, 4.02 ERA) of the Cubs and Alex Wood (6-8, 4.21) of the Giants are the scheduled starters in a matchup of teams who have met twice in the playoffs in the last 33 years, including a 4-1 Giants win in 1989 that featured Will Clark’s heroics that sent the club to the infamous Earthquake World Series against the Oakland Athletics.

Clark will have his No. 22 retired by the Giants on Saturday.

The Giants could have used Clark’s productive hitting during their seven-game slide, where they have scored just 19 runs. They were outscored 19-6 in three losses to the Diamondbacks earlier this week.

San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler addressed what needs to happen differently entering an eight-game homestand.

“I think we need to come out and just come out with a ton of fire,” he said. “Guys are pressing a little bit. They’re wanting to do too much and sometimes that just creates a little tightness in the play, and I think that’s what’s happening right now.”

Wood has been a victim of poor run support this month. He has just one win to show for his last four starts despite allowing just three earned runs in 20 2/3 innings.

He took the loss in his most recent outing last Saturday in Los Angeles against the Dodgers after allowing two runs in four innings in a 4-2 defeat.

The 31-year-old has gone 3-2 with a 3.82 ERA in 10 career games, including seven starts, against the Cubs. He hasn’t faced Chicago since 2019 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds.

The Cubs’ hot streak has been pitcher-driven. They’ve allowed no more than three runs in each of their six wins, surrendering a total of 13 during the streak. That’s two fewer than what they scored in a 15-2 road win over the Philadelphia Phillies last Friday.

Steele was lucky enough to have been scheduled to pitch that day. He threw the ball well, limiting the Phillies to one run in five innings.

The 27-year-old has been charged with just one loss in his last nine starts, going 3-1 with a 3.10 ERA.

Steele has faced the Giants just once previously, taking the loss after allowing four earned runs in five innings in a 6-5 home defeat last September.

The Cubs held a game-long ceremony of sorts for catcher Willson Contreras and outfielder Ian Happ during Tuesday’s 4-2 home win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Both are rumored to be likely trade exports before the rebuilding club returns home.

“Getting traded to a team that is competing is good,” Contreras said. “If the Cubs get a good package for me to make this team better, they’re going to do it. And I’ll be more than happy to help a different team to make it to the World Series. If (a trade) doesn’t happen, I’ll be more than happy to stay here with my teammates and try to find a way to make everyone better.”

–Field Level Media