A four-game set against the team USA Today’s Bob Nightengale has frequently anointed as the collective second coming is a daunting task, but the Cubs are going to need to beat good teams on the road at some point. Actually, it’d be great if they’d also beat mediocre and bad teams.
Maybe winning big on getaway day will spur the offense to hang some runs in LA this weekend. That starts with Kyle Schwarber at leadoff, where’s been mashing home runs at a high rate over the last three weeks. Kris Bryant bats second in right, Anthony Rizzo is at first base, and Javy Báez cleans up at short.
Clayton Kershaw is not the same pitcher who was once hands-down the best in the game, but he’s still Clayton Freaking Kershaw. As his fastball has lost velocity — it’s at an almost Hendricksian 90 mph now — he’s leaned much more heavily on the slider. Easily his preferred secondary over the last decade, Kershaw now throws as many sliders as four-seams.
Some of that is because his big, looping curveball isn’t quite what it once was and he doesn’t get as many whiffs from it. In fact, Kershaw’s 8.05 K/9 mark would be the lowest of career if he maintains it. On the other hand, so would his 1.36 BB/9. And his 52.1% groundball rate is also higher than at any other point. Simply put, ol’ dude knows how to pitch.
Kershaw’s platoon splits are pretty neutral and he’s been just as effective at home as on the road. Lefties have actually hit him well at Chavez Ravine so far, though we’re only talking about 23 batters. Perhaps the Cubs can try to leverage that a little bit now that the curve isn’t quite as big a weapon.
Going for the visitors is Jon Lester, who needs no introduction. What he does need, however, is to get off to a good start and help the Cubs avoid their recent trend of giving away the first couple games of a road series.
First pitch from LA is at 9:10pm CT and can seen on NBC Sports Chicago+ or heard on 670 The Score.
Here is tonight's #Cubs starting lineup.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 13, 2019