Jon Lester continues to be the Cubs’ version of Old Faithful because, well, he’s old and he’s faithful. See what I did there? That’s what we in the writin’ biz call “wordplay.” The seasoned southpaw has gone at least five innings in all but his first start and has given up only six earned over his last five starts combined.
Lester will have his hands full against a Braves team that handles lefties very well, so he’ll probably want to tone down the walks. He’s also going to want to do a better job of keeping the ball out of the air, as his astoundingly low 26.6 percent grounder rate over the last five games is more than 20 points below his career average.
The Cubs were originally slated to face rookie Mike Soroka in his fourth career start, but he was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a shoulder strain. Taking his place is 24-ear-old lefty Max Fried, who has thrown 6.0 innings of relief and posted a 6.00 ERA.
For his MLB career, which only dates back to 2017, Fried has tossed 32.0 innings and has posted a 4.22 ERA. He’s made four starts, one of which came at Wrigley Field last September. Fried allowed just one run (on a home run by Ian Happ) over five innings in a victory over the Cubs.
Fried’s splits are about even in terms of handedness. Righties have posted a .359 wOBA against him while lefties have performed slightly better with a .371 wOBA.
With a lefty on the hill, Albert Almora Jr. will handle the leadoff duties. He will be followed by the usual suspects in Ben Zobrist, Bryzzo, and Willson Contreras.
Kyle Schwarber gets the day off after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Wednesday night’s game, so Contreras is followed by Javy Baez, Addison Russell, and the aforementioned Happ to round out the lineup.
Happ and Zobrist got the best results against Fried in their only matchup, with both notching two hits in last September’s contest at Wrigley.
The fact of the matter is that the Cubs are going to need to put in some work to take this rubber match and head into Cincy with a little momentum following that downer yesterday. This is a matchup they should be able to take advantage of, but that was the case with Brandon McCarthy Wednesday night as well.
First pitch is once again at 6:35pm CT and can be seen on WGN for those of you in the Cubs market who have access to it. If you’re out of market, you can watch on MLB Network. If you’re in purgatory, you’re SOL.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 17, 2018