Joe Maddon is riding a hot hand at second and throwing the new guy right into the fire behind the plate tonight in Cincy. The top of the order is unchanged: Jason Heyward in right, Nicholas Castellanos in left, Kris Bryant at third, Anthony Rizzo at first, and Javy Báez at short. Then comes Albert Almora Jr. batting sixth in center.
Ian Happ gets his second straight start at second base, which Maddon indicated would be the case with the slugger returning to his old stomping grounds fresh off of stomping the A’s. Happ generated more WAR value on Wednesday than Almora has generated on the season, in case you were wondering.
Jonathan Lucroy is slotted into the eighth spot, where he’ll form a battery with Cole Hamels. The two worked together for 111 innings during their time with the Rangers, so there’s already a comfort level there. Lucroy is also familiar with his opponents and could experience a bounceback down the stretch.
They’ll be facing Alex Wood, one of the key pieces in this winter’s monster trade that also brought Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to Cincinnati. Wood is the only member of that trio still around, but he had been sidelined until late July with a bad back. Now making just his third start of the season, the 28-year-old lefty has looked really good so far.
With nine strikeouts to two walks, Wood has shown excellent control and an ability to miss a bat or two. That may come at an expense, though, since he’s given up three homers in just 11.1 innings. Always a sinker-baller, Wood has scaled down his repertoire and distributed his pitches a little more equitably over the last couple years.
That 90 mph sinker is still his go-to about 46% of his mix, but the slider (30.6%) and changeup (23.1%) get a lot of play. The offspeed stuff has really given him trouble and he’s pitching to some major reverse splits so far, but it’s really too early to tell whether that’s a legitimate trend. If it is, though, the Cubs should mash against him at Great American Ball Park.
Hamels showed no ill effects from an oblique strain that sidelined him for just over a month, striking out six with no walks his last time out. That injury actually occurred against the Reds near the end of June, the only time he’s faced them this season. So maybe he can have a repeat of his last start rather than his last start in Cincy.
First pitch is set for 6:10pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 8, 2019