Ian Happ is back in center and leading off as the Cubs open a short series with the Reds Monday afternoon. He’s followed as always by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the latter of whom is off to a slow start. Willson Contreras is back at cleanup after a pair of extra-inning games.
Kyle Schwarber has started every game thus far, which is kind of a big deal since the Cubs have already faced two lefties. I guess a 1.242 OPS has a way of getting you consistent playing time. Addison Russell will look to keep his hot start going, followed by Jason Heyward and Javy Baez.
Tyler Chatwood is on the bump for the Cubs in an attempt to put them back over the .500 mark, which isn’t something that’s fun to think about after four games against the Marlins. The rotation struggled against weak Miami lineups, missing the zone all too frequently and running up pitch counts early. Chatwood would do well to work efficiently and give the bullpen a break in this one.
He shut the Reds down over two innings of work in his second spring outing, though that’s not really something upon which to base any significant conclusions. What we can point to, however, are the strong strikeout totals and consistently going five-plus innings over his last three starts. It’d be great to get six from the fifth starter in this one.
The Cubs will be facing 23-year-old righty Tyler Mahle (no relation to former Cubs hitting coach John Mallee, by the way), who will be making just his fifth big league start. He’s a strike-thrower who walked fewer than two batters per nine innings across five minor league seasons, but has struggled with control against big league hitters. A fastball-heavy pitcher (93 mph), Mahle also works with a slider that can bite pretty hard but has a tendency to hang up in the zone a little bit.
Mahle’s strikeout numbers were pretty solid in the minors, but working in the zone means he gives up a lot of contact as well. He gave up 19 hits across 20 innings with the Reds last season and allowed 20 hits in 23.2 spring innings, so look for the Cubs to come out swinging against him this afternoon.
First pitch is at 3:10 ET and can be seen on NBC Sports Chicago and heard on 670 The Score. Let’s see if the Cubs can make Thom Brennaman say “Enough already.”
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 2, 2018