— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 9, 2018
The Cubs took the opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates by a score of 3-1 Friday afternoon, which means that they’ll have a chance to win their fifth straight series with a win Saturday.
Addison Russell returns to the lineup today after spraining his finger on June 3 in a game against the Mets. Kris Bryant, who went 3-for-4 in the leadoff spot yesterday, returns to the top of the lineup. Both Albert Almora and Javy Baez will start the day on the bench as Ian Happ slides over to play center field today and Kyle Schwarber returns to the lineup batting sixth and playing left field.
Jon Lester will take the hill today for the Cubs looking for his seventh win of the season. Lester is putting together yet another stellar season, coming into the game with a 6-2 record with a 2.44 ERA that ranks him number eight overall in the National League. He was dominant in his last outing against the Mets, tossing seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out seven in New York. Lester pitched against the Pirates last week at PNC Park, getting the win while allowing four runs over six innings of work in which he struck out six and walked none. He allowed solo home runs to Elias Diaz and Austin Meadows.
Something to watch for from Lester today is the rising usage of his changeup. He’s thrown his changeup 10.51% of the time this season, which would be the highest mark since 2013 with the Red Sox. If there’s anyone who can adapt his repertoire/sequencing as he gets older to have continued success, it’s Jon Lester.
As was the case when Lester faced the Pirates in Pittsburgh, he will be opposed by righty Nick Kingham. Kingham allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings with four strikeouts and two walks while getting a no-decision in the Cubs win on May 29. He was also involved in a brief “discussion” at second base when Javier Baez objected to his slide attempting to break up a double play.
This will be Kingham’s six start in 2018, and he comes into Saturday with a 2-2 record and a 4.03 ERA/3.46 FIP. Kingham has been tough on righties this season, holding them to a .177 batting average and a .246 wOBA. Three of the four home runs he’s allowed this season have come from right handed batters, but lefties have fared much better overall posting a .260 batting average and a .312 wOBA. Kingham’s fastball sits around 93 MPH, and he’ll mix in a sinker, changeup, curveball, and slider.