Last night’s game delivered a kick to the solar plexus that left a Craig Kimbrel cleat-print on Cubs fans’ collective chest. Acting manager Mike Napoli, who was pulling the strings after David Ross and Mike Borzello were ejected and with bench coach Andy Green away from the team, decided not to give his struggling closer the hook. The loss left the Cubs with a split of the doubleheader and in need of a win in this one just to escape Cincy with a series split.
Ian Happ will be in center and trying to get things started against a pitcher he’s hit very well in the past, followed by Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez. Kyle Schwarber is in left, Willson Contreras is catching, Jason Heyward is in right, and Jason Kipnis is the DH. David Bote mans the hot corner and Nico Hoerner is at the keystone.
Tyler Chatwood only managed to record four outs in his first start back from the IL, walking five of the 12 Tigers he faced and putting the Cubs in a very tough spot. His previous start was even worse, at least in terms of runs allowed, raising serious questions about his fitness for the rotation after coming out of the gate looking like an ace.
Going for the Reds is hard-throwing righty Luis Castillo, whose 0-4 record through six starts is not the least bit indicative of his talent. He’s perfectly capable of putting up huge strikeout numbers, particularly against a Cubs team that is prone to extended bouts of swing-and-missitis. Even when he’s not missing bats, Castillo generates grounders at a 57% clip and is giving up less hard contact than in either of the past two seasons.
His fastball and sinker both sit around 98 mph, but it’s the incredibly firm changeup that makes up the highest percentage of his pitches. Thrown at 88 mph, harder than Kyle Hendricks‘ average fastball, the offspeed pitch has traditionally been Castillo’s best weapon by far. At 29.4 runs saved last year, it was the fourth most valuable offering in all of MLB. And I’m talking all pitches by all pitchers.
So far this year, however, Castillo’s changeup has produced negative value as a result of either location or action. While he had previously gotten it to tumble down out of the zone with arm-side run, the pitch has been hanging up a bit more in 2020. That could be part of the reason for his poor performance against right-handed hitters, who are batting .290 with a .299 wOBA against him compared his .209 and .265 career averages.
Castillo has only allowed one home run this season and has always done a good job of keeping the ball in the yard, so the Cubs can’t expect to bang their way to victory in this one. Then again, Schwarber has three homers and a 1.370 OPS in 21 plate appearances against Castillo. Contreras (1.475 OPS) and Happ (1.245) have his number as well, while Heyward and Albert Almora Jr. are tied with Happ and Schwarber for the team lead with five hits against today’s starter.
Again, though, the Cubs will need to string together knocks and take advantage of Castillo’s tendency to get wild. He’s walked 14 batters on the season, 12 in the last four games, and has given up at least four hits in each start. As long as the Cubs don’t get too hyped for the heater and can sit back on the change, they’ll have a chance to make things happen.
First pitch is at 12:10pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 30, 2020