With the arrival of September, the Cubs and Phillies are focused on evaluation, not contention, and they enter the month with an eye on finishing strong.
Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick matches up against Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta in the rubber game of the three-game weekend series and the season finale between the clubs on Sunday at Wrigley Field.
While the Phillies have been playing for a postseason spot in September most years recently, the Cubs and second-year manager Dale Sveum know the value of the season's final act when the playoffs aren't in sight.
"I think the last month is priceless for some guys, especially some guys who had a tough struggle or whatever. Other guys are being evaluated for next year," Sveum said. "The adage of it's not how you start, it's how you finish, it helps the winter a lot. You don't want a bad September and then sit on that for the winter."
Arrieta, acquired from Baltimore in the trade for Scott Feldman, fits as one of the guys being evaluated. He'll be making his fifth start for the Cubs since his arrival via trade, and he's coming off his first loss with the club. Arrieta allowed four runs on six hits while walking five and striking out three in five innings of a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers on Monday.
Kendrick will take the mound against the Cubs after an August in which he struggled to a 4.94 ERA in five starts. His only victory of the month came against the Cubs on Aug. 6, when he allowed four runs on six hits in six innings. In five career appearances (four starts) against the Cubs, Kendrick is 1-1 with a 2.86 ERA.
His last time out, Kendrick allowed five runs (one earned) on five hits in six innings against the Mets, taking the loss. Kendrick is 3-7 with a 6.10 ERA in his last 11 starts.
Phillies: Ruf was tough in August
Darin Ruf showed off his eye on Saturday, with a pair of walks in an 0-for-2 final day of the month, but the rookie made some history in August with his powerful swing.
Ruf hit nine homers in the 29 games he played in the month, becoming the first Phillies hitter to hit that many in a month since Ryan Howard hit 10 in September 2005. Of his 24 hits in the month, 11 went for extra bases.
• Interim manager Ryne Sandberg said third baseman Cody Asche (mild right hamstring strain) and outfielder Domonic Brown (sore right Achilles) were available to come off the bench on Saturday. He used only Brown, who struck out in the ninth, and said they both might be in the starting lineup Sunday.
• After Saturday's game, the Phillies traded shortstop John McDonald to the Red Sox for Minor Leaguer Nefi Ogando.
Cubs: Castillo catching on
In his first full year as a regular catcher in the Majors, Welington Castillo has impressed his manager with the physical tools he has shown, but even more so with the mental maturity he's shown from behind the mask.
"The things that have improved with 'Welly' is the game management, the preparation, and knowing the weaknesses of the hitters. He's done a great job of that," Sveum said. "His throwing and blocking is as good as anybody in the league."
• With the arrival of Sept. 1 and expanded rosters, the Cubs will add outfielder Ryan Sweeney off the disabled list for Sunday's game. Sweeney has been out since June 20 with a fractured rib. Third baseman Luis Valbuena also is due to return soon, but he needs a little more time in the Minors.
• Heading into Sunday's rubber match, the Phillies are 4-0-1 in their last five series against the Cubs, their last series loss coming in a four-game set at Wrigley from July 15-18, 2010.
• Following Sunday's game, the Phillies head home for a Labor Day meeting with the Nationals in the opener of a three-game set. The Cubs host the Marlins starting with a Monday afternoon meeting.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.