Ian Happ will lead off in center, followed by Willson Contreras behind the plate as the Cubs face the Pirates for the fifth time on the young season. Anthony Rizzo bats third at first, Kris Bryant cleans up at third, Joc Pederson is in left, and Javy Báez is at short. Jason Heyward is in right and David Bote handles second base batting eighth.
Zach Davies is back on the mound for the second time and he’ll again face the team he limited to two runs over 5.2 innings the last time out. The slender righty faded hard at the end of his outing, giving up three consecutive hits — including a two-run homer — and walking a batter after retiring the first two men he faced in the 6th inning. However, he was strong overall and showed why the Cubs might want to keep him beyond this season.
Davies went to his sinker and change roughly as much as he did last season with the Padres, but he threw curveballs at a higher rate than in either of the last two years. He threw the cutter just as frequently but went to it much less than he has in the past, perhaps as a matter of feel or because of the matchup. Even if these numbers don’t tell the full story, they set up plot points to follow as the season unfolds.
As tends to be the case when you play a team twice in the early going, this is a repeat of the pitching matchup that saw Mitch Keller bounced after just three innings of work. The righty gave up four runs on just two hits, issuing four back-breaking walks and striking out four in the process. After handing free passes to two of the first three batters he faced, the Cubs opened up a 2-0 lead and played keep-away from there.
Keller leaned heavily on his slider in that first effort, throwing it nearly 38% of the time as he reduced his normal fastball and curve usage. That’s likely a product of scouting as he tried to get Cubs hitters to chase out of the zone, but the slider was easily his worst pitch that day. Those results could change dramatically if he’s able to get that 96 mph fastball in there for early strikes to set up better situations for the breaking stuff.
First pitch is set for the odd time of 5:35pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 10, 2021