Anthony Rizzo’s spot atop the lineup is starting to gain more permanence as he now makes his 17th straight start there. Ben Zobrist bats and plays second, Jason Heyward is in right, and Javy Baez cleans up at third base.
Ian Happ is in center, Kyle Schwarber plays left, Willson Contreras catches, and Addison Russell is at short. Now let’s hope his turns at second base are as good when he’s running as they are when he’s in the field.
Cole Hamels is on the mound for the first time as a Cub and he’ll be trying to leverage his elite secondary pitches while correcting the noted issues with his fastball. Hey, that sounds kind of like Kyle Hendricks. Hamels’ box score numbers have been gaudy this year, but there’s reason to believe he can be much better down the stretch.
Some of that may simply come down to pitching for a contender in more favorable physical and psychological conditions than he had in Texas. The veteran lefty spoke to that last week when he met with the media in Arlington following the trade. He said he was looking forward to the change of scenery and called pitching for the Cubs a dream come true.
Going for the Pirates is 26-year-old rookie Nick Kingham, a longtime Pirates farmhand who’s making his 12th MLB start after spending parts of eight season in the minors. The 6-foot-6 righty hasn’t exactly set the world on fire this season and his recent starts stand in sharp contrast to his team’s hot play.
Kingham has allowed at least one home run in his last five starts and has given up a total of 13 dingers in 60 innings pitched (1.95 HR/9). He gives up a lot of hard contact and a lot of fly balls, mainly from poor location of his two- and four-seam fastballs.
His slider and curve are his best weapons and can get swings and misses, but he can only used them so often when the hard stuff isn’t working well. And Kingham is a strike-thrower, which means Cubs hitters should be able to get aggressive early in counts. They haven’t taken much advantage of that in two previous matchups, but Kingham appears to be reeling lately.
Lefties have been particularly successfull against him, boasting a .370 wOBA with five of the six homers he’s allowed so far at PNC Park. Adding to that total would be a nice way to give Hamels a little help his first time out.
The game is set for 6:05pm CT and can be seen on WGN or MLB Network (out of market), with 670 The Score providing the radio coverage.
Cole Hamels makes his #Cubs debut tonight in Pittsburgh!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 1, 2018