The Cubs weren’t exactly world-beaters heading into September, but the absence of several regulars has this team looking like the traveling half of a split-squad spring game. They weren’t able to overcome the equally hapless Rockies at Wrigley over the weekend and now they open a series in Miami, where the crowd will probably look like a non-Sloan spring game.
Zach McKinstry continues to serve as the leadoff hitter and primary second baseman, roles necessitated by injuries and timing. McKinstry has been decent after going hitless in his first five games as a Cub and has a 97 wRC+ over his last 103 plate appearances. Ian Happ bats second in left, Yan Gomes is behind the dish, and Franmil Reyes is the DH. Gomes actually leads the team with a 132 wRC+ in the second half.
P.J. Higgins handles first base in this one, followed by David Bote at third, Nelson Velázquez in right, and Michael Hermosillo in center. Christopher Morel bats last as he tries to pull himself out of a funk that sees him with a 64 wRC+ in the second half. His production has been much worse since August 31 (42 PAs), with a .118 average, 42.9% Ks, and a 33 wRC+ buoyed by just one extra-base knock.
Wade Miley is on the mound for the seventh time and is on eight days of rest after having his scheduled Saturday start pushed back. He had been piggybacking with Hayden Wesneski, who made his starting debut on Saturday with seven strong innings, so the Cubs have to be hoping the additional days off will allow Miley to provide a little more length.
Though the 35-year-old lefty doesn’t rack up strikeouts or avoid walks at a very high clip, his 55% grounder rate erases lots of mistakes. More of that tonight against a weak Miami offense will certainly help.
Not that it’ll matter if the Cubs can’t score against 24-year-old righty Edward Cabrera, who has looked very good over 11 previous starts. His fastball sits 96 mph to set up an excellent curveball and a very firm 93 mph changeup that has baffled hitters. Cabrera actually throws the offspeed pitch more than anything else, going to it for roughly one-third of his offerings.
His curve is next at around 21%, the four-seam and sinker combine for 31%, and the slider is around 16% at this point. Cabrera misses bats, but he also misses the zone a lot and has walked at least two batters in each of his previous starts. He has also given up at least one homer in each of his last four and in six total starts, so he will often leave mistakes over the plate.
The most interesting stat to jump out at me is that Cabrera is allowing a paltry .199 BABIP this season, third lowest in MLB among pitchers with at least 60 innings. That’s part of why his 4.59 FIP is nearly two full runs higher than his ERA, since homers and walks aren’t in play. This is a game the Cubs could win with patience and some well-timed power, but I could also see them being dominated.
We’ll find out for sure at 5:40pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 19, 2022