Joc Pederson leads off in left as the Cubs open their weekend series in St. Louis, followed by Kris Bryant in right and Willson Contreras behind the plate. Anthony Rizzo is catching throws at first base, Javy Báez is at short, Ian Happ is in center, David Bote is at third, and Nico Hoerner is at second.
Kyle Hendricks is coming off of his best start this season, though we’ve seen him swing wildly from one appearance to the next all season. If he’s found a groove and is back to the ace of old, this should be a very fun game for Cubs fans to watch. The Cardinals don’t strike out very often as a team, relatively speaking, and they’re middle of the pack when it comest to drawing walks, so this will be all about Hendricks coaxing the kind of contact that leads to outs.
There was a time when Carlos Martinez was thought to be a potential ace, but injuries and age have seen to it that he’s now just another guy. He’s still a very passable pitcher and he’s only 29, it’s just that he’s not scary in the least due to decreased velocity and a general inability to miss bats.
The fastball that once sat 97-98 is now under 94, though he is at least locating it better to limit the walks that have dogged him over the past few seasons. Martinez really loves his breaking balls, though, and he’ll go to some combination of them for roughly half of his pitches. The classification varies depending on what you use, but he throws the slider and cutter a lot and may mix in the occasional curve.
That’s really a matter of grip and movement, so there will be a good deal of overlap between those pitches over the course of a game. Velocity will play a role as well, since Martinez throws the cutter much harder than the slider or curve. At 91 mph, the cutter is very close in speed to the sinker (92), while the slider comes in at 83 mph.
The issue this season is that only the hard stuff has produced positive value. If Martinez is only able to locate the fastball but can’t get the breaking pitches to move like he needs them to, he’s going to end up with a lot of baserunners. On the other hand, he has allowed only two homers on the season and hasn’t given one up in his last five starts.
Both of those homers were actually hit by righties, though Martinez has traditionally had much more trouble against left-handed hitters. Either way, this is a game in which the Cubs will really benefit if they can maintain the balanced, contact-based approach that has seen them clog the bases and advance runners without the longball.
First pitch from St. Louis is set for 7:15pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 21, 2021