Ben Zobrist leads off in right, followed by Kris Bryant at third and Anthony Rizzo at first. Boy, a breakout game for Bryzzo would be nice. Javy Báez plays short, Kyle Schwarber is in left, and Willson Contreras is catching to round out the heart of the order.
Then you’ve got Daniel Descalso at second and Jason Heyward in right, perhaps the two most pleasant surprises on the roster this season.
Dodgers righty Kenta Maeda is a really solid pitcher who will give the Cubs a different look from just about anyone else they’ll face this season. Of the 106 MLB pitchers with at least 20 innings on the season, only eight throw fewer fastballs. Going with the four-seam about 35% of the time means Maeda has a lot of room left for the slider (28.9%) and change (25%). He’ll mix in a curve or sinker on occasion, but he mainly sticks to those first three pitches.
Though he’s generating more swinging strikes than ever (14.9%), Maeda’s 7.61 K/9 is more than two strikeouts below his career average. He’s also walking batters at a higher rate than ever, as evidenced by a 3.80 BB/9 that’s more than a full walk above his career mark.
This tells us he’s having a difficult time putting batters away, something the Cubs may be able to take advantage of. In the past that meant relying on the lefties in the lineup, but Maeda isn’t displaying his typical platoon splits at this point of the season. In fact, righties are slugging much better against him and have posted a .315 wOBA that’s just 14 points behind their left-handed counterparts.
There’s a pretty common lament about the Cubs faring poorly against junk-ballers and pitchers they don’t know, so you’ll be forgiven if you’re a little anxious about this particular matchup. But there’s also a sense that the Cubs are putting things together in terms of following through on opportunity hitting.
At the very least, they’ve got their own excellent pitcher on the mound in José Quintana. The lefty enters Tuesday’s game looking to extend his best two-start stretch in a Cubs uniform, if not his entire career, and it all starts with getting ahead early. Then it’s a matter of using the changeup to keep hitters, especially righties, off balance.
The Dodgers have a ton of thunder in the lineup and Quintana hasn’t exactly done a great job of limiting this group in the past. Members of the current roster have an aggregate slash of .354/.456/.458 in 48 at-bats against him, with just 12 strikeouts and eight walks. Despite the .914 OPS, there’s only one homer from that group. Wanna guess who hit it?
That’s the formula for success in this one: Locate down and keep the ball in the park. Simple enough, huh?
First pitch from Wrigley is set for 7:05pm CT and can be seen on NBC Sports Chicago and MLB Network (out-of-market only). As always, apologies to those of you who live “in-market” but don’t have access to NBCSC. There’s always 670 The Score in that case.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 23, 2019
It was Max Muncy, by the way.