It hasn’t always looked pretty, but the Cubs have scored enough runs to take the first two games from the Pirates. Starting pitching continues to drive the story, with Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood dominating their opponents so far over the weekend. The bullpen is another matter, but the Cubs have added lefty Justin Steele in place of James Norwood, who hit the IL with right shoulder inflammation.
Kris Bryant was out yesterday with what the Cubs are calling gastrointestinal issues and he’s out again today, perhaps pending the results of a precautionary COVID test. David Bote will lead off and play third in his stead, followed by Anthony Rizzo at first and Javy Báez at short. Willson Contreras catches and bats cleanup, Kyle Schwarber is in left, and Steven Souza Jr. is in right with a lefty on the mound.
Josh Phegley is the DH, making this an historic day for former Indiana University catchers. Though I have zero research to support my claim, I believe this is the first time two such players have started a game for the same team. Huge. Nico Hoerner follows Phegley at second base and Albert Almora Jr. bats ninth.
Bryant has had two negative test results since Saturday, but David Ross said he is still unavailable Sunday.
Jon Lester carries a broom to the mound and he’ll get to use it if he pitches like he did Monday in Cincinnati. The lefty threw five hitless and scoreless innings, walking one and striking out another before turning the ball over to his relief corps. We won’t talk about that part.
While he can still generate swings and misses, Lester is at his most effective these days when he’s hitting his spots and getting opponents to beat themselves with weak contact. If he can do that again in this one, he’ll put his team in position to pick up another win.
The Pirates send lefty Steven Brault, he of the intricate biomechanical sleeve tattoos, out for his second start. He went only two shutout innings against Milwaukee in that one, allowing one hit and walking two with one strikeout. If history predicts the future, Brault may only be good for another abbreviated outing this afternoon.
Across 14 career matchups, five of which are starts, the Cubs have straight-up rawked the ink-stained southpaw. Members of the current roster have a .322/.443/.682 aggregate slash with 10 doubles and eight home runs against Brault, feasting on his erratic control and relatively pedestrian stuff. He may be changing his repertoire up a little, shifting emphasis among his primary pitches.
It’s difficult to draw conclusions from one short start, but Brault threw a lot more sliders and changeups while dialing back on his four-seam and sinker. Again, that could just be an aberration from the small sample, but it’s something to monitor.
First pitch from Wrigley is set for 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 2, 2020