Jason Heyward has embraced his role as the Cubs’ primary leadoff hitter and center fielder, giving the Cubs a “You go, we go” spark they haven’t had in a while. He’s followed in this one by Nicholas Castellanos in left and Kris Byrant, who is back after getting a little rest Sunday, at third.
Anthony Rizzo is at first, Javy Báez plays short, Kyle Schwarber is in left, Victor Caratini is catching, and Tony Kemp is at second. Caratini will be getting most of the starts for the next 4 weeks or so as Willson Contreras recovers from a hamstring injury, so how he handles that heavier workload will be key to the Cubs’ success.
On the mound for Oakland is 30-year-old righty Chris Bassitt, a former White Sox prospect who’s making his 19th start of 2019. This is Bassitt’s first season as a full-time starter and he’s taken to the role pretty well, posting a 3.84 ERA by limiting hard contact with a sinker-heavy pitch mix.
He works in the mid-90’s with both his sinker and four-seam, but the former makes up about 40% of his offerings and grades out as his best pitch. The hard stuff accounts for around 63% of his total pitches, with a slider, curve, and change rounding things out.
Hitters can expect a heavy dose of sinkers early in the count, with the curveball coming in late for swinging strikes. Bassitt throws the bender with equal frequency to all hitters, but lefties will get more changeups and righties more sinkers. Perhaps because of that change, which has been very good this year, Bassitt has posted pretty solid reverse splits.
Lefties are hitting just .187 with a .671 OPS and .286 wOBA while righties are at .251 with a .701 OPS and .304 wOBA. Those numbers see quite a change between home and road, however, so it appears as though Oakland’s ballpark impacts his performance in a big way.
To wit, lefties have an .870 OPS with a .361 wOBA when Bassitt faces them as a visitor. Whether that’s a fluke or some function of either his comfort level or ballpark dimensions, I don’t know. Whatever the case, Bassitt is giving up much harder contact and more fly balls on the road, which is something the Cubs can exploit.
Kyle Hendricks has looked better in his last two starts after taking a little time to find his way following a brief IL stint prior to the break. He issued no walks to the Cardinals last week, the first time he’d so limited free passes in seven starts. That was part of an active streak that has seen the Cubs go six straight starts without a walk, so Hendricks can extend it to seven tonight.
First pitch is at 7:05pm CT on WGN and ESPN (out-of-network), with 670 The Score on the radio coverage.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 5, 2019