Chicago Cubs Lineup: Zo Leads Off, Heyward in CF, Chatwood Looks for Third Straight W

Ben Zobrist is leading off in right, followed by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Willson Contreras is in the cleanup spot, Kyle Schwarber is in left hitting fifth, and Addison Russell is sixth.

Jason Heyward is patrolling center with a righty on the mound and Javy Baez is finishing up the order.

Tyler Chatwood has been money in his last two starts, allowing just a single earned run on six hits. He’s issued eight walks over 13 innings in those outings, but would you believe his BB/9 mark actually came down? It was 8.29 after three starts and is now all the way down to 6.91, which is nice but still not really good.

As we’ve been saying all along, what Chatwood needs to harness some of that Miles Mikolas magic and work close enough to the zone to get some bad swings. Well, they’d be good swings as far as the Cubs are concerned. He’s always done a good job of keeping the ball on the ground and in the park, so continuing that trend should mean good things.

The Cardinals will send 24-year-old Luke Weaver to the bump in this one and he’ll be trying to reverse his recent run of poor showings. After allowing a total of four earned runs across his first three starts (17.1 IP), the righty has surrendered at least that many in each of his last three (14 IP). The first of that latter trio came in Chicago, when Weaver gave up six earned on nine hits.

He only gave up two hits to the Mets his next time out, but walked six and ended up allowing four runs. Then he paired six hits with two walks to give up four more to the Pirates. Weaver just hasn’t been putting it all together lately, and a lot of that can be attributed to the curveball. That’s Weaver’s only breaking pitch, so losing the feel for it really limits his ability to keep hitters off balance.

Weaver works off of a fastball that sits 94 and can flash upper 90’s, offsetting it with a firm change that clocks in around 86 mph. Those pitches are both up over last year, which could simply be a matter of being fresh, but the curve is coming in about two ticks higher than last year as well. It’s possible that the spindly righty — he’s listed at 6-2, 170 — added some muscle this winter and is overthrowing his bender.

The difference in location is clear from the heat maps below.

Rather than getting 12-to-7 break that carries the ball down and out of the zone like he did last year, Weaver is absolutely littering the middle and lower third. If that keeps up and the Cubs can sit on his breaking stuff, Weaver becomes a two-pitch guy and doesn’t have nearly as much deception.

His splits are fairly even overall, though he’s been tougher on righties as far as batting average is concerned. They’ve hit both home runs he’s allowed, though, so it’s more boom-or-bust from that side. We didn’t see many good at-bats from the Cubs against Mikolas, but Weaver is a different animal is doesn’t locate nearly as well his mop-topped counterpart.

If the Cubs can time up the change — the pitch that has allowed both homers — and wait back on the curve, they should have plenty of opportunities to snap out of their recent funk.

First pitch is set for 1:15pm CT and will be carried by ABC-7 (as always, check your local affiliates) and 670 The Score.

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