Chicago Cubs Lineup: Almora Leads Off, Zo in RF, Happ LF in Battle of Southpaws

Wow, I did not see this lineup coming. Lefty-killer Albert Almora Jr. was a lock, but having him in the leadoff spot was unexpected. We’ve got the standard trio of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Willson Contreras after that.

Addison Russell bats fifth, with Ben Zobrist following and playing right. I know I said we’d see Zo lot in this series and I know Maddon loves him, but I do not like his right-handed hitting. Like, at all. Javy Baez and Ian Happ comprising the bottom of the order at least helps to balance things out.

The other big surprise to me here is no Jon Jay, but Maddon obviously wanted to go very righty-heavy. Rizzo is the only true lefty in the lineup, as both switch-hitters will bat right-handed. I do like Jay and Tommy La Stella should the Nats utilize righty relievers.

Jon Lester knows his way around the playoffs and there are few pitchers you’d rather have out on the mound in this situation. While his overall results haven’t been nearly on par with what we’re used to, the lefty has shown flashes of greatness at various points. Pitching on the road with a 1-0 series lead might be just the catalyst for another vintage performance.

Gio Gonzalez is getting the Game 2 start because of Max Scherzer’s balky hamstring, but this isn’t some kind of great advantage for the Cubs. The tough lefty has given them fits over the years, particularly Rizzo. Normally better against southpaws, Rizzo has just a .258 career OPS against Gonzalez.

Such a poor showing is unlikely to continue, as Gonzalez hasn’t been very sharp since the end of August. And Rizzo is primed for a patented hot streak after getting the job done against Stephen Strasburg last night.

Gonzalez doesn’t have a crazy repertoire, sticking with a four-seam/sinker/curve/change setup. He’s lost a lot of velocity on the heater over the years, but he’s still able to locate it well enough to be potent. If the Cubs can time him up and put pressure on him early, they may really be able to open things up. This feels like a game in which they can break with past trends in a big way.

First pitch is at 4:30 CT on TBS.

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