Chicago Cubs Lineup (7/21/21): Ortega Leads Off, Happ in LF, Hendricks Pitching

What will the Cubs do for an encore after completing a wild comeback last night? Ideally, they’ll just hang a giant crooked number on the Cardinals right out of the gate. That might just start with Rafael Ortega, who is leading off and playing center in this one after displaying solid batsmanship over the last week and beyond.

Willson Contreras bats second and catches, Anthony Rizzo is at first, Javier Baez is the shortstop, and Ian Happ is in left. Patrick Wisdom plays third, Jason Heyward is in right, and Nico Hoerner handles the second base duties. Kris Bryant was probably going to get the day off even before leaving yesterday’s game early and sending the #HugWatch crowd into overdrive, so his omission from the lineup isn’t a surprise.

Kyle Hendricks has won 10 straight decisions, three of which have come against the Cardinals, and he’s gone at least six innings in each of his last 12 starts. More of the same should set the Cubs up for victory tonight, provided the offense offers a little support.

Standing in the way is Adam Freaking Wainwright, a man who seems able to flummox the Cubs at will despite his advanced age. He doesn’t average 90 mph on either the sinker or four-seam, but his curve remains one of the best in the game and he locates at an elite level with plenty of help from the men behind the plate. That could be a big factor in this one.

While Wainwright only works in the zone 41.2% of the time, 44th out of 60 qualified pitchers, his 22.5% called strike mark is easily the highest among that group. Rich Hill (21%) is the only other pitcher above 20% and there are only 14 others at 18% or higher. What I’m saying is be prepared for a lot of borderline calls going against the Cubs.

Working the fringes and hitting his spots also allows Wainwright to avoid being squared up, as evidenced by a 7.3% barrel rate that sits in the top half of that aforementioned sample. Prior to his last outing against the Giants that saw him give up two dingers, that barrel rate was only 6.6% and ranked among some of the best in the game. The home run ball can hurt Waino at times, but that was only his third multi-homer game this season.

He kept the Cubs from going deep back on May 23, going eight strong and holding the visitors to a single hit with seven strikeouts and one walk. The Cubs ended up winning that one in dramatic fashion when Javy hit a two-run homer in the top of the 10th to break a scoreless tie. With all due respect for dramatic wins, I’d just as soon see the Cubs romp.

First pitch is set for 7:15pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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