Chicago Cubs Lineup (7/29/20) – Kris Bryant Returns, Kyle Hendricks Back on Bump Looking For 2-0 Start

The Cubs enter Wednesday’s game with the best record in baseball and the offense firing on all cylinders, but they’re facing a stiffer test than Cincy has offered up through two games. This one should be quite the pitchers’ duel, so scoring first for the sixth straight game would be a good idea.

Kris Bryant is back in the lineup after getting a day off to rest a banged-up elbow and reboot his mindset, leading off and playing third. He’s followed by Anthony Rizzo at first, Javier Báez playing short, and Willson Contreras catching. Jason Heyward is once again slotted in the sixth spot and playing right field, Ian Happ is playing center, Victor Caratini is the DH, and Nico Hoerner is batting ninth and playing second base.

This feels like a good time for the first home run prediction of the season, so how about KB going yard against Gray?

Kyle Hendricks is on the mound for the first time since his complete-game shutout of the Brewers to open the season as he looks to improve upon his career marks at Great American Ball Park. The righty has struggled in Cincy, posting a 6.00 ERA with a 1.44 WHIP over eight starts there. Getting that curveball working again should help him reverse those trends.

Opposing the Cubs is 30-year-old righty Sonny Gray, a man who’s had their number over the last few years. Gray is 3-2 in six starts against the Cubs, boasting a 2.83 ERA and 0.086 WHIP by holding them to a .553 OPS with 39 strikeouts to just eight walks. None of the current Cubs have fared very well against him, though Bryant, Heyward, Jason Kipnis, and Albert Almora Jr. have all homered against him.

Gray has an almost Darvishian ability to manipulate his pitches, morphing grips on his breaking balls at will to change movement and velocity. He’s been a little more prone to giving up hard contact over the last few years, though, so maybe someone can get hold of a mistake on one of his sliders or curves.

The Cubs will see a lot of breaking stuff, perhaps on more than 40% of Gray’s pitches. His fastball sits 93-94 and he’ll sink it quite a bit to set up the secondaries. His curve and slider are similar enough that they are sometimes misclassified, but that also goes back to the way he throws them. That ability to manipulate his stuff also means Gray is equally effective against hitters from both sides.

In fact, his splits were almost identical last season as he settled into a better situation with the Reds than the one he had with the Yankees. When Gray is on his game, he’s one of the best righties around. When he’s off, however, he can give up runs in bunches. He allowed more than one homer in a game just once last year, so the Cubs may need to take advantage of every opportunity by getting aggressive at the plate and on the bases.

First pitch is once again set for 5:40pm ET and will be carried by Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.

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