Chicago Cubs Lineup (9/16/20): Happ Leadoff, Contreras Cleanup, Lester Starting

The Cubs have authored quite a plot twist following 17 moribund innings in Milwaukee to open last weekend. Three straight wins and a legitimate chance to run away and hide from the rest of the Central this week have them feeling like an entirely different team from the one that entered the 9th inning Saturday night. You know what would be nice? An easy win.

Ian Happ leads off in center, followed by Kris Bryant at third and Anthony Rizzo at first. Willson Contreras is catching, Kyle Schwarber is the DH, Javy Báez is at short, and Jason Heyward is in right. Cameron Maybin handles left and Nico Hoerner is at second.

Jon Lester is taking the mound coming off of one of his best performances of the season, one that was even more unexpected because he’d spoken after his previous start about lacking confidence. The lefty was more aggressive against the Brewers and hit his spots to keep them off-balance all night. That guy showing up again would mean a Cubs win.

Going for Cleveland is 25-year-old righty Aaron Civale, an elite strike-thrower who has walked only 10 batters in 58 innings this season. That’s not a fluke, either, since his BB/9 rate as a professional is well under 2.00 from his rise through the minors. Civale will throw a lot of first-pitch strikes and he works in the zone, but he’s got a repertoire kind of like Kyle Hendricks and doesn’t miss a ton of bats.

Working mainly with a sinker/cutter/curve mix, the sophomore starter tops out at around 93-94 and sits 92 with his hard stuff. He’ll bring a slider and change every once in a while, but those first three pitches make up about 80% of his offerings and generate a lot of weak contact.

Because he doesn’t walk many batters, Civale usually works efficiently and has gone at least six innings in all nine of his starts this season. He’s been roughed up a little bit recently, however, and has lost his last three decisions. Knowing he’s likely to be in the zone early should give Cubs hitters confidence to jump on strikes and put him on his heels right out of the gate.

Righties should be particularly aggressive because Civale has given up an .881 OPS and .369 wOBA to them so far, including six of the seven homers he’s allowed. The big hits have skewed his splits, which were more standard last year, so it might not be a matter of the Cubs just going wild from the right side. Then again, Javy could start to heat up and make the platoon disparity even greater.

First pitch is at 7:15pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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