Chicago Cubs Lineup (4/26/21): Hoerner Leads Off, Happ Fifth, Davies Pitching

The Cubs have been saying for a while that they thought Nico Hoerner had the skillset to bat leadoff and he gets the chance to do that tonight in Atlanta. He’ll also be playing short as Javy Báez gets the night off. Willson Contreras bats second at catcher, followed by Anthony Rizzo at first and Kris Bryant once again handling left. Ian Happ slides back to fifth in center, David Bote is at third, Jason Heyward is in right, and Eric Sogard is at second.

Javy’s absence may be based on the matchup against a curveball artist (more on that below). While sliders get most of the hype as the free-swinging shortstop’s nemesis, his slugging and ISO are lower against curves.

Zach Davies looked better in his last outing, but he still didn’t work very efficiently and appeared at times to be aiming his pitches rather than trusting them. Let’s hope that improves as the weather warms up and he gets a better feel for his stuff because we’ve not yet seen the pitcher the Cubs thought they were getting.

Taking the hill for Atlanta is 37-year-old righty Charlie Morton, who reinvented himself back in 2016 with the Phillies. That season saw him bump his average fastball velocity up to 94+ mph, which is still his lowest reading of the last six seasons. Morton sits around 95 with the four-seam and sinker, though he doesn’t throw either as often as the curve.

The hook has easily been his best pitch over the course of his career and it’s actually his only offering that has generated positive value. He uses it as an out-pitch, starting batters off with the hard stuff early and then coming back to the curve for strikeouts. And as the saying goes: There are good curveball hitters, but no one hits a good curveball.

Morton has typically been much tougher on righties, though he actually strikes lefties out at a higher rate. He’s running hot/cold through four starts and is coming off of an excellent outing against the Yankees, so maybe he’s due for a clunker. Outside of Rizzo (23 PA’s), Morton hasn’t faced these Cubs hitters very often. However, he’s allowed a .345 average and .836 OPS in that time and could present a favorable matchup.

First pitch from Truist Park is set for 6:10pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.

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