You’re probably aware by now that the only series the Cubs have won all season came when they took two out of three from the Brewers at Wrigley to start the belated 2022 campaign. Most surprising was that they won the first two games against the top of Milwaukee’s rotation, which you might think makes this series easier. In point of fact, it’s probably the Brewers’ weak-sauce offense that makes this a winnable endeavor.
Kyle Hendricks carved his opponents up the last time he faced them, allowing just one run and striking out seven over 5.1 innings. He had the right-on-right changeup working as well in that one as we’ve ever seen from him, getting tons of swinging strikes. After a pair of forgettable starts, he spun a gem against the Pirates six days ago and should be dialed in tonight.
Going for the Brewers is 29-year-old righty Adrian Houser, who operates with a very different approach from guys like Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff. Though he can still push mid-90s with his fastball, Houser throws mainly sinkers and pitches to contact rather than racking up strikeouts. His control can be spotty and he’s prone to walks, which makes him close to an ideal opponent for this Cubs lineup.
Houser keeps the ball in the yard and has gotten more efficient with each start, though, so it’s possible he’ll present more of a challenge than the box score indicates. And if that sinker is working, he can be murder on right-handed hitters by getting them to beat otherwise enticing-looking pitches into the ground.
The flip side is that left-handed hitters carry a .364 wOBA against him this season, which is hardly better than the .356 average he’s allowed over his career. While it may not factor in this one, it’s also interesting that lefties have hit eight of the nine triples he’s allowed. That’s not a function of pitching at AmFam Field because five of those three-base hits have come on the road.
If Houser pitches to his norms, the Cubs should be able to get plenty of runners on base. The question then is whether they’ll be aggressive in trying to advance them to avoid adding to their MLB-high of 22 double plays, though their four stolen bases (29th in MLB) say passivity will remain the name of the game.
Manager David has proven to be stubborn when it comes to his team’s approach on the bases and carries over to a lineup that once again sees Rafael Ortega batting leadoff as the DH. I don’t care how soft Houser is on lefties, I’m not sure putting a guy with a .217 average and .308 OBP in either of those spots is a great idea. Jonathan Villar is batting second, Willson Contreras is the catcher, and Ian Happ is left. Hard to argue with those.
Seiya Suzuki is playing right and batting fifth, which is probably a better spot for him, Alfonso Rivas is batting five spots too low and playing first, Patrick Wisdom is at third, and Jason Heyward is in center. Nico Hoerner finishes the lineup at short.
First pitch from Milwaukee is at 7:10pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 29, 2022