Chicago Cubs Lineup (6/1/21): Contreras Leads Off, Rizzo Back, Hendricks Starting

Willson Contreras is leading off with a left on the mound, which I am just remembering is something I had suggested a couple years ago (and now can’t find the link for, so just trust me). Kris Bryant is batting second in right, Anthony Rizzo returns after several days resting a stiff back, and Javy Báez hit cleanup at short.

Ian Happ is in center, Patrick Wisdom handles the hot corner, Joc Pederson plays left, and Sergio Alcántara is at second.

Kyle Hendricks takes the bump coming off of three consecutive solid starts that have seen him notch 17 strikeouts to one walk over 21.2 innings. That latter number may be the best because it means he’s giving the bullpen a break each time out, something his fellow starters can’t frequently claim to be doing. His last effort included three solo shots against him, the third time he’s allowed at least that many this season, so avoiding the big fly is imperative here.

Going for the Padres is burly 21-year-old lefty Ryan Weathers, the son of former Reds righty David Weathers. The youngster debuted this season and has bounced between the rotation and the ‘pen, but this will already be his seventh start and 12th total appearance. He’s been on a relatively short leash in those starts, only once going more than four innings, so don’t anticipate a deep run in this one.

The short stints may be driving Weathers’ stellar 1.31 ERA because he’s not falling victim to the third-time-through-the-order penalty. In fact, he has only faced three batters for a third time this season. He’s never faced any of the current Cubs, at least not at the MLB level, so he could be able to use that lack of familiarity to his advantage.

Weathers has a very limited repertoire for a starter, throwing his 94 mph fastball about 62% of the time while going to the slider at around 30% frequency. The change, a firm offering at around 87 mph, makes up the other 8% and grades out as his worst pitch. The slide-piece, however, is one of the best of its kind in the game and has generated tremendous value for Weathers and the Padres in the early going.

Contrary to what you may be thinking, though, it’s not a big strikeout pitch. Like, at all. Among the 146 pitchers who’ve logged at least 30 innings in 2021, Weathers is tied for 129th with a measly 8.2% swinging-strike rate. Know who he’s tied with? Jake Arrieta.

The key for Weathers is getting bad contact on his pitches, which we see played out in a .191 BABIP against that feels ripe for correction. Same for the 1.31 ERA that looks far better than the 4.71 xERA and 4.25 xFIP say it should be. Hitters haven’t gotten the ball out of the yard often against Weathers, but the same was true for Chris Paddack before the Cubs shifted those results Monday afternoon.

First pitch from Wrigley is set for 7:05pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score. If you don’t have access to Marquee through your current provider, check out a free preview of fuboTV.

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