The Cubs mashed the gas and then set the cruise in Friday afternoon’s game, but they’re going to have to grind out at least one of these weekend contests. That’s especially true when they face opponents like the Cardinals with whom there’s a great deal of mutual familiarity.
Kyle Schwarber is back in the leadoff spot after ceding his role to Anthony Rizzo for a game. Kris Bryant is at third base, Rizzo resumes his third spot, and Javy Báez cleans up. Willson Contreras is catching, Jason Heyward is in right, David Bote is at second, and Albert Almora Jr. is in center.
Joe Maddon said recently that he felt Almora’s success against righties this season might be a small-sample fluke, hence Carlos González getting a lot of run. But that may have simply been an unnecessarily blunt way to say they wanted to throw the new guy into the deep end of the pool right away. AlAl has hit like an everyday player and it looks like he’s back to being one.
On the mound for the Cards is righty Jack Flaherty, who’s facing the Cubs for the third time. His repertoire features a mid-90’s heater, a biting slider, and a changeup that has been really good despite limited use. Flaherty is a strike-thrower with excellent control, racking up 73 strikeouts against 20 walks. He’s struck out 15 — eight of which came in last weekend’s start — against no walks in his last two, though the Cubs coaxed four free passes from him last month.
He’s also given up 11 homers in just under 65 innings, three of which have been hit by Cubs, so his mistakes have been punished. With that in mind, the Cubs should go up there expecting to get something in the zone right out of the gate. Lefties will see either four-seam or curve nearly 80% of the time to open plate appearances and righties will see a similar ratio, just with the slider as the secondary.
Those respective mixes stay pretty similar no matter the count, as Flaherty is comfortable throwing all of his stuff for strikes. If the Cubs can time him up and jump on mistakes, they have a very good chance to continue mashing like we’ve seen all season. With two homers in as many games against Flaherty so far this season, expect Rizzo to make some loud contact in this one.
Going for the Cubs is Jon Lester, who appears to have gotten the cutter back after a really ugly stretch last month. He’ll keep the Cubs in it, so it’s all about the offense hanging runs in support.
First pitch from Wrigley is at 6:15pm CT on FOX, but you can always tune to 670 The Score if you prefer the local flavor. The FOX practice of using the home team’s play-by-play broadcaster on occasion makes their coverage much more bearable, but tonight’s game is Joe Buck and John Smoltz.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 8, 2019