Chicago Cubs Lineup (7/3/19): Javy Bats Second, Contreras in RF, Bote at 3B, Darvish Pitching

Let the shuffling commence. Kyle Schwarber is still leading off in left, but he’s followed by Javy Báez as Kris Bryant gets a day off. Anthony Rizzo bats third and Willson Contreras cleans up…in right field. Victor Caratini is catching, David Bote is at third, Addison Russell plays second, and Albert Almora Jr. is in center.

They’ll be going up against Chris Archer, whose tenure in Pittsburgh has brought sighs of relief from those Cubs fans who hoped so fervently for his return to his old organization. Through 24 starts with the Pirates, the 30-year-old righty is 6-9 with a 5.00 ERA (5.06 FIP) and 10.00 K/9 with 4.00 BB/9. It’s weird that his numbers are so clean, right?

Anyway, Archer’s numbers are worse across the board this season in a big way. He’s at a 5.50 ERA (5.80 FIP) with 9.77 K/9 and 4.64 BB/9 and 18 home runs allowed. Part of that comes from a game in which he was left in to give up a handful of dingers to the Braves about four weeks ago, but he’s had seasons of allowing 27 and 30 homers in the recent past.

The big problem with his performance over the past two seasons is that every pitch but the slider has been downright bad. Archer isn’t locating his fastball or sinker well and that has led to the increased walks and decreased effectiveness of his secondaries.

Even the slider has come waaaaay down from 2015-17, when it was one of the best pitches in the game. As such, his splits have leveled out more than in the past, even though Archer was never an extreme platoon pitcher to begin with. Righties actually hit for better average, but lefties slug better.

With at least two walks in each start and no more than eight strikeouts in any, Archer isn’t anything close to the feared pitcher the Rays extracted max value from before flipping. At the same time, this Cubs team has shown an ability to make even mediocre hurlers look like aces. Movable object, meet stoppable force.

Yu Darvish has been cast in the role of stopper, a serious break from typecast for a guy whose outings most frequently have to be gilded with silver linings. Maybe something changes tonight, even if it’s just because something has to.

First pitch from Pittsburgh is at 6:05pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago and 670 The Score, but the forecast is calling for evening thunderstorms in the area. If that’s the case, better to just call this one and rest up.

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