Chicago Cubs Lineup: Lester on Hill in Cards Finale, Almora Leads Off, Baez Batting Second

After a rain/snow/freeze out on Monday, a frustrating 5-3 loss on Tuesday, and yet another postponement on Wednesday, the Cubs will look to grab their first win against the Cardinals of 2018 in the impromptu series finale on Thursday. To that end, the Cubs will turn to Jon Lester to get the job done.

Lester’s last outing was an uninspiring one, giving up four runs on seven hits in five innings of work in the Cubs’ 13-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates last Wednesday. A key for Lester in the early-going has been the BB:K ratio. In his first start against the Marlins, Lester walked three and struck out two, and against the Pirates last week he both walked and struck out three. By contrast, in his strong six inning victory in Milwaukee, Lester struck out six and only walked one. Lester is always going to live and die on the edges of the strike zone. If he isn’t going to miss as many bats, he needs to limit the free passes.

Lester went 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA against the Red Birds in 2017. Recently activated third baseman Jedd Gyorko poses perhaps the toughest matchup for Lester, as Gyorko has a career 1.013 OPS against Big Jon (21 PA), to go along with two home runs in 11 at-bats during the 2017 season. Offseason addition Marcell Ozuna only has nine plate appearances against Lester during his career but has three hits (one of which was a homer) and one walk.

Opposing Lester will be 24-year-old right-hander Luke Weaver for St. Louis. Weaver only made one start against the Cubs in 2017, giving up eight earned runs in just three innings of work with Kris Bryant and Javy Baez taking him deep. Weaver is off to a great start in 2018, however, bringing a 2-0 record with a 2.08 ERA/2.74 FIP into Thursday’s start at Wrigley Field. His last outing against the Reds saw him give up two runs in six innings of work while striking out seven. Weaver will sit around 94 with his fastball, and his arsenal also features a cutter, change-up, and curveball.

Weaver will face a Cubs lineup with a slightly different look than normal. Firstly, it will be Albert Almora Jr. getting the shot in the leadoff spot this afternoon against a righty. While not the largest sample, Weaver did post reverse-split numbers in 2017 (.337 wOBA vs RHB/.252 wOBA vs LHB) and has been about equally successful against lefties/righties in 2018 (.240 wOBA vs RHB/.238 wOBA vs LHB). The other notable change is Javier Baez moving up to the two-hole. Javy has a 1.346 OPS with five home runs in his last seven games, so it’s not entirely surprising to see Joe Maddon give the Cubs second baseman some better opportunities in this lineup. The rest of the lineup plays out in a familiar manner, with Bryzzo handling the middle of the order duties followed by Contreras and Kyle Schwarber. Addison Russell and Jason Heyward round things out in front of Jon Lester.

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