Coming off of a wire-to-wire win Friday, the Cubs are back at it in the beautiful sunshine of a Wrigley afternoon. Jason Heyward is leading off in right, followed by Nicholas Castellanos in left and Kris Bryant at third. Anthony Rizzo cleans up, Javy Báez handles short, Willson Contreras is catching, then the lineup finishes with Albert Almora Jr. in center and David Bote at second.
Heyward appears to have been installed as the leadoff hitter on a more permanent basis, which is good to see. While the platoon splits aren’t favorable for him against lefties, having the same guy there is good. Having Castellanos behind him helps to mitigate those issues to an extent, though.
We’ve also got another game with no Ian Happ, who seems like the odd man out now the the Cubs have another outfielder who needs everyday playing time. It’s more than a little strange that Joe Maddon isn’t giving Happ a little run at second base, but I’ve given up on trying to understand such things.
They’ll be facing Gio González, who has held them in check through two previous starts this season just as he has throughout his career. Once capable of sitting in the mid-90’s, the southpaw now averages upper 80’s on both his four-seam and sinker. He’s throwing them less than ever as well, favoring the changeup as his primary offering.
The offspeed pitch is his best and he’ll deploy it differently based on the handedness of the batter. The tumbling action induces a 63.3% groundball rate on less than 70% contact and batters carry just a .108 average against it this season. While some pitchers are afraid to use their change against like-handed batters, González is perfectly comfortable attacking lefties as well.
Righties will get it about a third of the time with relatively even frequency in all counts. The exception is when batters get ahead, in which case Gonzalez will through it around 43% of the time. He’ll almost never throw it for a first pitch or in even counts when facing a lefty batter, but he’ll use it when he gets ahead and to put them away.
González is exactly the kind of pitcher the Cubs seem to struggle with because he doesn’t have a big fastball and his stuff looks hittable. But he doesn’t pound the zone and doesn’t make mistakes, baiting hitters into swing at pitches they can’t do much with. That’s why he’s given up only two homers in 35 innings and has a career 0.77 HR/9 mark.
Going for the Cubs is Colbert Michael Hamels, who is making his return after 5 weeks on the IL. Hamels was the Cubs’ best starter prior to that and getting back to that form would provide a huge boost. He’ll probably be on a short leash in this one, so maybe the offense can give him a few early runs.
First pitch is at 1:20pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 3, 2019