Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/17/21): Contreras Leads Off, Bryant in LF, Alzolay on Mound Facing Lester

Willson Contreras leads off Monday night as the Nationals come to Wrigley with old friends in tow. Kris Bryant is in left, Anthony Rizzo is at first, Javy Báez is at short, and Matt Duffy is at third. Jason Heyward is in right, Nico Hoerner is at second, and Ian Happ handles center.

Adbert Alzolay has been excellent this season, but hasn’t gotten a great deal of run support during his starts. He’s striking out more than one per inning and has walked one or less in four of six outings so far, leaning on his wicked slider for swings and misses. He also loves to front-door that two-seam to lefties, so perhaps we’ll see one of those patented backwards K’s from Kyle Schwarber tonight.

Taking the mound at Wrigley for only the second time as a visitor and for the first time since he was with the Red Sox back in 2021 is venerable lefty Jon Lester. Arguably the best free-agent signing in Chicago sports history, and certainly the best for the Cubs, Lester ushered in a half-dozen years of unprecedented success on the North Side that culminated in a world title in 2016.

People forget that.

The 37-year-old was slowed by an offseason thyroid procedure and is making only his fourth start of the season, but he’s looked good so far. Lester has gone at least five innings in each start and hasn’t given up a homer, though he is almost certain to allow a lot of contact while issuing a walk or three. Those nibbling ways have gotten him in trouble in the past and could again here tonight if he’s not sharp.

You don’t need to hear about Lester’s repertoire or approach, unless it’s to understand that he’s throwing the cutter more than ever while reducing his curveball usage significantly and tossing a few more changeups. In the end, this may come down to which team is more emotionally prepared.

“You invest in a city — your heart, your mind, your soul,” Lester told Gordon Wittenmyer. “The hard part about this game is the business side, and you have to separate your heart and the business. Sometimes that can be difficult; sometimes it’s easy; sometimes your heart makes decisions for you.”

There will be tributes for Lester and Schwarber on the videoboards prior to game, which is particularly fitting for the latter, and you can bet the TV broadcast will have plenty of clips to share. Heck, Taylor McGregor may even have some sort of Antiques Roadshow segment featuring the lace from one of Lester’s old gloves or the beef ribs Schwarber hacked up in left field after accidentally swallowing his pre-game meal whole.

Any number of wacky hijinks could ensue, so be sure to tune in 6:40pm CT to find out what goes down. If you’re fed up with your cable carrier and want a way to stream Marquee without a cord, you can try a free preview of fuboTV. And if you’re just television-averse, the game will be on 670 The Score as always.

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