Ian Happ leads off in center, followed by Kris Bryant in left, Javy Báez at short, and Anthony Rizzo at first. Matt Duffy is at third, Jason Heyward is in right, Nico Hoerner is at second, and Tony Wolters is catching.
Trevor Williams was a tough-luck loser his last time out in Atlanta because the offense couldn’t help him out and he may have to deal with more of the same in this one. Willaims has been excellent so far in 2021, with his only blemish coming in a poor outing when he made his return to Pittsburgh. He’s on a career pace for strikeouts as he mixes the breaking stuff with his well-placed fastball, but he’s also doing a great job of generating grounders.
Opposing the Cubs is righty Tyler Mahle, the poster child for mediocre pitchers who’ve found the secret to getting over on what should otherwise be a decent lineup. Seriously, Mahle loves facing the Cubs. He has held this roster to an aggregate .467 OPS and has registered 30 strikeouts to just seven walks over the last four seasons. That’s just current players, mind you, so the results might look worse if we calculated his total performance
For instance, he registered 26 strikeouts to just four walks in three starts against the Cubs last season alone. That came as he went heavy on the slider, more so than against almost every other team, and made his divisional opponents look silly. Maybe we’ll see a reversal of fortunes this time because Mahle is dealing so far with only five earned runs allowed through as many starts.
His strikeout rate has jumped markedly every season and is sitting at a career-best 35.3% heading into this contest while his walks remain nearly the same. He’s also throwing harder, sitting 95 mph with the fastball and backing it up with an 88 mph cutter and equally hard splitter.
After pitching to modest splits in the past, Mahle has completely reversed course and is dominating left-handed batters in ’21. They have a mere .315 OPA and .169 wOBA against him so far, with only eight walks standing out as evidence that they’ve been able to get to him at all. You have to think something evens out there, but the Cubs don’t look like the team to spur that change just yet.
Then again, maybe that’s exactly why this is the game to change some trends. First pitch is set for 12:10pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 2, 2021