Rosemont, Ill. – Following a brief three-game road trip the Chicago Dogs return home Monday for the first game of a four-game home-and-home series against the Gary SouthShore RailCats.
Chicago, which has lost four consecutive games entering the series, begins a favorable stretch of their schedule Monday, with their next 15 games all taking place within 50 miles of Rosemont, including 11 games at Impact Field.
Monday’s game will feature a Mustard Monday at Impact Field, with the Dogs hosting a celebration of their chief condiment. Chicago will play host to their first ever weekday matinee crowd on Tuesday with an 11:35 a.m. first pitch. Tickets to both games are available in line at the Impact Field ticket office and online at www.thechicagodogs.com/tickets/
The Dogs and RailCats meet for the second time this year after Gary took all three completed games between the two clubs in late May. Gary and Chicago played a four-game set from May 28 through May 31, but the fourth game was suspended due to league curfew after ten innings. It will be resumed as part of the home-and-home, with the resumption scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday evening in Gary.
The RailCats enter the series having salvaged the final game of a three-game weekend series with the league-leading Sioux City Explorers over the weekend. All three games of the series saw shutouts, with Gary being held scoreless for the first two before defeating the X’s 3-0 Sunday in a rain-shortened affair. Gary sits at 18-15 overall on the year, and is one game back of first place in the American Association’s Northern division. Chicago meanwhile, enters the series at 9-24 after being swept in Lincoln over the weekend by the Saltdogs.
Gary features an offense that is fairly middle of the road in most statical categories. The RailCats profile very little power, having hit just nine home runs as a team this year, the lowest total in the American Association.
Gary has been the epitome of a feast-or-famine club at the dish for most of the year, but has really embodied that mantra over the past two weeks. The RailCats have scored three or fewer runs in 15 of their past 21 games, but posted 48 runs in the other six games combined. Gary has scored one run or fewer in five of their past eight games.
On the mound the RailCats are the ultimate pitch-to-contact staff. Gary enters the series with the fewest walks issued in the league at 82, and the fewest strikeouts at 184. The RailCats are a full 39 strikeouts behind the next lowest staff total, belonging to the Sioux Falls Canaries. Gary also has hit the fewest batters in the league at just nine.
The high volume of balls in play against the RailCats staff has, in turn, led to a high opponent’s average. Opposing batters are hitting .273 against the ‘Cats this year, the third highest mark in the league. Overall, the Gary staff sports a 4.05 ERA, good for sixth best in the American Association.
The high opponent’s average should bode well for a Chicago team that has produced 120 hits over their past 13 games, good for an average of 9.23 hits per game. The Dogs have raised their overall team average 16 points in that span from .232 to .248 and are hitting .262 in the month of June.
Chicago has struggled to produce extra-base hits, however, as 91 of the 120 hits over that span have been singles. Chicago has amassed just nine extra-base hits over their past five games.
The Dogs pitching staff was cuffed around over the weekend in Lincoln against the league’s best offense. The Saltdogs produced 35 hits over three games, and scored 17 runs. Chicago pitching allowed three home runs, and a bullpen that had been spectacular through the month of June began to leak. Chicago relievers allowed nine earned runs in ten innings pitched over the weekend, raising the Dogs June bullpen ERA from 1.88 to 2.86. Chicago has lost three games this year when leading after eight innings. No other American Association team has lost more than one.
Jonathan Moroney comes into this week’s series the hottest of any Dog at the plate. Moroney is riding an 11-game hitting streak that has seen him go 15-44 (.341), with two doubles, two home runs, one triple, and five RBI during the stretch. Moroney has batted lead-off for Chicago in eight straight games.
Treysen Vavra enters this week with a three game RBI streak to his name. Vavra boasts a .348 batting average on the year, good for fourth in the league, a .444 on-base percentage, sixth best in the league, and a 1.042 on base plus slugging percentage, ranking him third in the league as one of just seven players with an OPS above 1.000.
Gary’s strongest offensive cog is D.K. Carey. Carey’s .344 batting average ranks sixth in the league. Carey is 4-8 with one double, one home run, five RBI, and three walks against Chicago this year. Colin Willis leads the RailCats in home runs with three and RBI with 17. Willis is 2-8 with one double and four walks against Chicago this year.
Despite sitting in the bottom half of the league in walks drawn, Gary has walked 20 times in three games against Chicago this year, including five against Chicago’s Monday starter, Michael Wagner in Wagner’s first start of the year on May 28.
Wagner will be pitted against Alex Gunn in Monday’s series opener. Wagner, who earned his first win of the year in his last start, enters the series with a 1-3 record and a 4.30 ERA. Gunn, meanwhile, is 4-2 with a 3.00 ERA. Lars Liguori goes for Gary in game two against Josh Goossen-Brown for Chicago. The Dogs will send Scott Barnes to the mound Wednesday, and will finish off the series with Connor Root on the mound Thursday. The RailCats have yet to announce a starter for Wednesday or Thursday.
All four games, as well as the resumption of the May 31 suspended game between the two teams, will be broadcast at www.thechicagodogs.com/broadcasts/