The Cubs scored eight runs in the opening frame last night to run away with the game and set up the possibility of a third consecutive series win. They’ll have to take another game from the Pirates to make that happen, something they weren’t able to do in the series that saw them hang a 21-0 loss on the Bucs.
It should all come down to the offense, and I don’t mean rolling up snowmen to start the game. Nice as that is, the Cubs really just need to keep pounding out hits and getting just enough power to keep the line moving. Good things happen when the Cubs put the ball in play, and the Pirates aren’t a good enough team to keep overcoming their own deficiencies.
Rafael Ortega bats in the leadoff spot and handles center, followed by Willson Contreras behind the plate and Ian Happ in left. Seiya Suzuki is in right, Alfonso Rivas is at first, Frank Schwindel is the DH, and Patrick Wisdom is at third. Jonathan Villar bats eighth and plays second while Ildemaro Vargas completes the middle infield and the order.
It’s unfortunate that Christopher Morel isn’t in the lineup to make his debut after being called up, but perhaps we’ll see him later in the game. Making that absence even more questionable is a defensive alignment up the middle that is less than great. But hey, I’m just a blogger.
Keegan Thompson is making his second start of the season, the first of which was a pretty nondescript effort. He went only four innings, not surprising given his bullpen role, and struck out just one of the 18 batters he faced. The Padres collected five hits, the most Thompson has allowed in 2022, and the two earned runs he gave up were almost as many as he’d allowed across the previous seven outings.
As long as he can stay sharp and put batters away in this one, he should be fine.
JT Brubaker doesn’t have much experience and his overall numbers aren’t scary, but he’s been pitching pretty well lately and he stifled the Cubs when he faced them last month. He only lasted three innings in that one, though, and he walked two batters as a sign of his frequent control issues.
Brubaker’s go-to pitch is the 93 mph sinker he throws more for misses and mis-hits, though most of the contact he allows is in the air. He gets into trouble if that sinker isn’t working well because it’s his only dangerous pitch. His slider makes up over 30% of his repertoire and doesn’t get many whiffs, then he’s got a curve and change that are merely okay.
The 28-year-old righty has produced even platoon splits despite allowing right-handed hitters to post much better average and OBP numbers. Lefties slug better against him, lifting them to a .315 wOBA that is just one point higher than their righty counterparts. Perhaps due to the early returns, Brubaker has dominated right-handed hitters away from Pittsburgh.
That will need to change if the Cubs want to win this one, so it sure would be nice for Contreras to continue his hot-hitting ways. Maybe a pair of Suzuki doubles and a Wisdong can keep things rolling.
First pitch from Wrigley is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 17, 2022