Chicago Cubs Lineup (9/21/20): Happ Leads Off, Javy at Cleanup, Quintana Starts in Return
It sure feels better to be on the right side of a shutout, which the case for the Cubs in the series opener against the Pirates last night. More of the same in this one will lower that magic number and allow David Ross to plan his playoff rotation more carefully, though tonight may feature some interesting pitching decisions.
Ian Happ leads things off in center, followed by Willson Contreras behind the plate and Anthony Rizzo at first. Javy Báez is back in the cleanup spot after being relegated to the bottom third of the order for a whole game, then it’s Kyle Schwarber in left, David Bote at third, and Cam Maybin in right. José Martinez is still looking for his first Cubs hit as the DH, and Nico Hoerner rounds things out at second.
José Quintana is back again after another IL stint due to left lat inflammation and he’s taking the bump as the starter for the first time this season. He’ll be on a leash, according to Ross, though the two of them probably won’t be frolicking around in the empty ballpark after the game like Manager David and his dog, Maya. Unless Q is incredibly efficient, don’t expect more than three innings from him.
The lefty’s fastball and sinker were down a little in his two appearances, which is to be expected, and he was throwing them less than usual as well. He actually threw the curve just as often as the four-seam, a big departure from previous seasons and something to watch for tonight. Getting a few outs and setting the bullpen up for success is about all you can ask for here.
Facing the Cubs is Steven Brault, the heavily tattooed southpaw who shut them down earlier in the season. This will be his 10th start in 11 appearances over what has been a very odd season. The first eight of Brault’s outings resulted in him either shutting his opponents out (5) or allowing four runs (3), though he never struck out more than six in any of them. He’s coming off of a complete game victory over the Cardinals and looks like he’s figuring some things out, though that’s the only time he’s gone over five innings all year.
Brault’s fastball sits around 93 mph and he’s located it very well this season to set up the change and slider he throws with equal frequency. His sinker hasn’t been great, but he’s keeping the ball down well enough overall to get more groundball contact and generally avoid barrels. His strikeouts are up as a result, but he’s actually getting fewer swinging strikes.
All things considered, this could just be a frustrating game for a Cubs team that tends to flounder against pitchers of Brault’s ilk. But hey, maybe this is one of those games in which they exact revenge for that earlier effort and knock this dude around.
First pitch is set for 6:05pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
José Quintana returns tonight against the Pirates! pic.twitter.com/zGQCZyeqkR
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 22, 2020