The Cubs have won five games in a row, though they’ve managed to create more than a little anxiety throughout the streak. Last night’s 1-0 squeaker felt way too close for comfort, and having Angel Hernandez behind the plate made it that much worse. It’d probably be a good idea for the bats to get going tonight.
Ian Happ is back in center and leading off after a scheduled rest day, followed by Kris Bryant at third and Anthony Rizzo at first. Willson Contreras catches and cleans up, Kyle Schwarber is in left, Javy Báez bats sixth, and Jason Heyward hits seventh in right. David Bote is the DH and Nico Hoerner bats last.
Alec Mills returns to the mound for the first time since his improbable no-hitter to face a team with which he’s entirely unfamiliar. That may actually play to his advantage because it means the Twins don’t know him, either. He’s capable of changing his repertoire around from game to game, or even within the game itself, so that bodes well for tonight’s matchup.
Facing the Cubs will be 31-year-old Michael Pineda, who’s making just his fourth start of the season after being on the IL with a right triceps strain early. An intimidating presence on the mound at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds, Pineda’s success is actually predicated more on deception than power. His fastball used to sit around 95, but it’s down around 93 these days, and he only throws two other pitches.
The changeup will keep hitters honest, but it’s the slider that does most of the damage. If Pineda can get ahead in the count, he’ll sweep that breaking ball across to eliminate righties with ease. He’s actually got almost identical splits over the course of his career, though he’s really been tough on right-handed hitters in limited action so far.
Pineda is a strike-thrower who doesn’t walk many batters, so he’s going to give up his fair share of hits just as surely as he’s going to tally a few strikeouts. He hasn’t given up a homer in 17.2 innings so far, a streak that’s going to have to end at some point here. Might as well be tonight.
First pitch from Wrigley is at 7:15pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 19, 2020