It looked as though the Cubs had gotten right on Monday in the Motor City, then the wheels fell off and as Tyler Chatwood’s return to the rotation backfired. They need a much better all-around performance to finish the first half and head to Cincinnati with a win.
Ian Happ will try to get things started in left field, followed by Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez. Kyle Schwarber is the DH, Willson Contreras is catching, Jason Heyward is in right, and David Bote is at third. Jason Kipnis at second and Albert Almora Jr. in center complete the order.
Jon Lester has to pull a Dennis Rodman and rebound in this one because he’s been nothing short of awful in his last two starts. The lefty has allowed 13 earned runs on 18 hits, one-third of which left the yard. The one positive takeaway is that he didn’t walk anyone in those starts, though that also means that when he’s missing his spots, he’s doing so in the zone.
That’s not great news against a Tigers team that is second only to the White Sox when it comes to beating up lefty pitching. Detroit has an aggregate 140 wRC+ and .378 wOBA against southpaws so far, though there are some good signs in there. They’ve hit the fewest fly balls (26.8%) and third-most grounders (50.3%), though they do so with the least soft contact (10.8%) in MLB.
You may be tempted to point out that the stats above indicate they hit a lot of hard line drives, but I’ll ask you to kindly shut your mouth lest the baseball gods hear you.
Lester may not have to be all that good if Michael Fulmer keeps pitching the way he has through four starts so far this season. The 27-year-old righty has yet to record as many as 10 outs in a game and he’s walked at least one batter while giving up at least three hits in each start. Traditionally a very even-split pitcher, Fulmer has destroyed by right-handed hitters this season.
He’s only struck out three of the 22 righties he’s faced so far and he’s given up five homers to them while allowing a .476 average and .682 wOBA. That’s bound to come down over time, but maybe he can work on that next week. He might also want to work on his velocity, which has been way down over previous seasons. After sitting around 96-97 mph with his fastball and sinker in the past, he’s down to 93-94 so far.
Sure enough, his fastball combo is among the 20 worst in baseball by both overall and per-pitch value. His changeup and slider have likewise been ineffective, leaving the curve as his only pitch with positive value at this point. But when he only throws it 4% of the time, that value means next to nothing.
With so many Cubs hitters just barely treading water over the last few weeks, this matchup sets up like a nice opportunity to flex their muscles. Famous last words, I know. First pitch is at 6:10pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
Jon Lester starts the rubber game tonight in Detroit! pic.twitter.com/LGkZJguqnv
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 26, 2020