Ben Zobrist is once again at the top of the order, but that’s pretty much where the familiarity with this lineup ends. Jon Jay is batting second and playing left, followed by Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras, who has become a fixture at cleanup.
Addison Russell moves up to fifth and Jason Heyward patrols right and hits sixth. These two have made big second-half improvements and could really make the bottom half of the order a legitimate force.
Albert Almora Jr., whose .318 average since the break leads the team, continues to force himself into the lineup. He’s generally been platooning against lefty starters, but gets a shot against a righty today. The big change comes in the eighth spot, where Victor Caratini gets the start at first base in place of Anthony Rizzo, who is resting a stiff back.
Hmmm…or could this be a precursor of a huge trade? Of course not, but I hope at least a couple of you freaked out there.
John Lackey will take the mound looking to continue a run that has seen him limiting opponents to a much greater extent than we saw earlier in the year. Even if some of his starts look way better on paper than in reality, Lackey has been getting the necessary results. Given the anemic offensive support the Cubs have provided thus far in Milwaukee, the crusty vet is going to need to be on his game this afternoon.
In Brent Suter and Junior Guerra, the Cubs have already faced a pair of pitchers whose stuff is less than scary. Even so, they’ve been able to muster next to nothing against either starter, not to mention the relievers they’ve given way to.
Zach Davies, a Kyle Hendricks lookalike who still needs to flash an ID to get into PG-13 movies without his teammates, is another such hurler. For whatever reason, I had this thought in my mind that Davies had really pitched well against the Cubs, though that’s not really the case. He has gotten a decision in each of the seven games he’s started against his division rivals, though, and his record in that time is 4-3.
That speaks less to how well Davies himself has pitched and more to what the Brewers have done to support him. A 4.62 ERA in 39 innings pitched against the Cubs is right in line with his overall 4.45 mark on the season. That’s down from where it was earlier this month, thanks to 14.2 scoreless innings over his last two starts.
Davies is a sinkerballer who works in the upper 80’s/low 90’s and mixes in a curve, cutter, and change to generate grounders. Something of a reverse-split pitcher, Davies allows a .306/.353/.453 slash with a .349 wOBA to righties. But despite a lower batting average, lefty batters carry a .339 wOBA.
The Brewers starter will work the sinker to the outside against hitters from both sides of the plate, though he does have a tendency to leave it up a little when facing lefties. Davies’ tumbling changeup, once his best pitch, will fall down and out of the zone and it will generally be center-cut. We’ve seen the Cubs fall victim to the changeup a few times, but they could really take advantage if they can let it go this afternoon.
In keeping with the trend, Davies will work the curve to either corner and will really bury it down and away to righties. It’s a little more spread across the zone to lefty hitters. The cutter is the only pitch that he’ll keep in the same location for all hitters, zipping it down and in to lefties or down and away to righties.
Given the way he works, you might think Davies is a guy opponents would want to wait out and get a feel for, but that hasn’t been the case thus far this season. He has allowed a .950 OPS the first time through the order and only a .686 mark the second time through. The Cubs will need to pounce on early mistakes and not allow him to establish a feel for the ancillaries.
That means Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras picking up where they left off against Davies. Bryant has an 1.187 OPS in 19 at-bats against Milwaukee’s starter, while Contreras has a 1.064 in 10 at-bats (yeah, small sample). In addition to Kyle Schwarber, these are the only hitters in today’s lineup to whom Davies has allowed homers.
First pitch from Miller Park is 1:10 CT and can be seen on CSN Chicago.
Here is today's #Cubs lineup for the rubber game in Milwaukee.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 30, 2017