Whaddya know, it’s another wild lineup from Wacky Ol’ Joe. The manager has Anthony Rizzo leading off, which is normal, but then Javy Baez bats and plays second. Ben Zobrist is hitting third and playing left with Jason Heyward hitting cleanup, which…okay.
David Bote, Bote, Bote, Bote is rocking the fifth spot and playing third base, Kyle Schwarber is the DH, Ian Happ is in center, Addison Russell is at short, and Victor Caratini is catching. Somehow I doubt we’ll see him trying to turn singles into doubles.
Mike Montgomery has gotten mixed results over his last few starts, though he’s been consistent in terms of not walking or striking out many batters. The Royals are one of the worst teams in baseball when it comes to hitting lefties, so that should help him in this one.
Keep an eye on how long Joe Maddon sticks with his starter, which could be a recurring theme over the rest of Monty’s starts. He’s trending toward career highs in both innings and pitches, something the Cubs will likely seek to curb over the final two months of the season. But at least playing by AL rules means no head-scratching moments of batting for himself and then being pulled nine pitches into the following inning.
Going for the Royals will be 23-year-old rookie Brad Keller, a former Arizona prospect who was selected by the Reds in the Rule 5 draft and then trade to KC for cash. Like Monty, Keller started out in the ‘pen and transitioned to the rotation, where he’s acquitted himself fairly well.
The numbers aren’t spectacular by any stretch, but Keller keeps the ball on the ground and doesn’t allow the ball to leave the yard. He doesn’t strike out too many batters (6.15 K/9) and his 4.20 BB/9 is a little high, so the Cubs shouldn’t have any issues putting bat to ball and making their opponent work a little in this one.
Like Jake Junis last night, Keller is mainly a fastball/slider pitcher who works down in the zone with pretty much everything. His heavy sinker generates a lot of worm-burners and his four-seam and slider serve as his strikeout pitches. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of deception to the big righty’s game, but he manages to avoid giving up too much hard contact.
Lefties have fared better against Keller on the season, though his home/road splits tell decidedly different stories. He’s actually stifled lefty batters at Kauffman, holding them to a .172/.294/.224 slash. The jump in OBP from batting average bodes well for the Cubs, who will need to be patient in this one and wait for their chance to pound a fastball.
I’m interested to see how Javy does with this matchup after he looked incredibly bad against Junis’s sweeping slider last night. Keller has some of that same stuff and Javy needs to spit on those pitches if he sees them in this one. Something tells me Keller’s going to make a mistake with a heater, though.
First pitch is set for 7:15pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 7, 2018