Willson Contreras leads off and catches as the Cubs open their set in Detroit. Kris Bryant is back in center after one scare with sinus issues and another from a hit by pitch, followed by Anthony Rizzo at first and Javy Báez at short. David Bote is the DH, Joc Pederson is in left, Matt Duffy is at third, Nico Hoerner is back from the IL at second, and Jason Heyward is in right.
Jake Arrieta has been activated from the IL in order to take the bump against one of the worst offenses in the league. He was shelled his last time out in Cincinnati, throwing BP in part due to a thumb laceration that should be fully healed. The former Cy Young winner had been looking a little like his old pre-Phillies self and should be able to keep the Cubs in this one if he’s right.
Going for the Tigers is 24-year-old Tarik Skubal, a lefty who has been rocked repeatedly over seven total appearances this season. He’s made five starts, all of which have seen him give up at least two runs, and he has allowed 10 total homers so far. Skubal has 26 strikeouts in 27 innings, but he’s also allowed 27 hits and has walked 16, so the Cubs should get plenty of chances.
Then again, they were just 2-for-27 with RISP in that forgettable two-game set against Cleveland, so maybe fans are in for another frustrating effort. Or maybe this is a get-right game.
Skubal works heavily with a fastball that he can run up there in the mid-90’s, setting up a slider and splitter that have both been nothing short of awful to this point. He may be ditching that offspeed pitch for a more traditional changeup, perhaps because he developed the split this past winter and has gotten very inconsistent results. It’s either very bad or very good, no in-between.
The slider has backed up on him pretty frequently and he hasn’t located any of his pitches very well, hence the big walk and contact numbers. Skubal’s anemic 22.2% groundball rate is the lowest in MLB among pitchers with at least 25 innings and his 20.7% barrel rate is the highest in the majors. Only one other pitcher is above 14.7% and only six others are above 13.5% to this point.
If there’s one bright spot for the young southpaw, it’s that he’s done really well against left-handed hitters. The flip side is that righties have a 1.063 OPS with all 10 of those homers against him. This is a chance for the Cubs’ mashers to do what they do best and establish some momentum heading into the weekend.
First pitch is set for 6:10pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score. Those of you who’ve cut the cord and live in-market but can’t get Marquee on YouTubeTV or Hulu may want to check out a free trial of fuboTV to see if you like it.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 14, 2021