Joc Pederson is in the leadoff spot and playing left as the Cubs go for a sweep of the Padres. Next up is Ian Happ in center, followed by Javy Báez at short and Anthony Rizzo at first. The white-hot Patrick Wisdom is at third, Rafael Ortega handles right, Eric Sogard is at second, and PJ Higgins is behind the plate. It’s a bit of a meatloaf lineup, but the Cubs have been winning behind efforts from just about everyone all season.
Adbert Alzolay hasn’t actually been getting better with each start, at least not in terms of his raw performance, but he does seem to be learning and his last two games have been his best of the season. He’ll face a stiff test this afternoon, though the Padres seem to be experiencing some of the same injury issues that have plagued the Cubs this season. You’d like to see Alzolay get back to the curveball he’s largely abandoned in order to maintain a little more variety and keep his opponents guessing.
Going for San Diego is 28-year-old righty Dinelson Lamet, a hard-throwing slider specialist who burst onto the scene last season after two decent campaigns to open his career. He’s had trouble staying healthy in that time and has only thrown 14 innings this season over four starts and two relief appearances over which he has yet to record an out in the 4th inning.
Lamet’s fastball sits around 95 mph, nearly two full ticks below last season, but his power slider is still exceeding 86 mph and getting plenty of bad swings. And he throws that slider about 52% of the time, so the potential is there for some really awkward at-bats if he’s on. But just as I mentioned with Alzolay, there’s not much variety here. Lamet throws the fastball the rest of the time, with only a rare changeup as his third option.
His strikeouts are down and his walks are up, which indicates a need for the Cubs to be patient. However, Lamet typically needs to get ahead in the count to make the slider more effective, so he’ll throw a high percentage of first-pitch strikes. As you’d expect, left-handed batters have fared much better against him and have an aggregate .721 OPS vs. an even .600 from their right-handed counterparts.
However, the only homer Lamet has surrendered this year was to a righty and the numbers indicate — just like with Chris Paddack and Ryan Weathers in the two previous games — that a little correction is due. Lamet is allowing a 15% barrel rate, nearly twice his career average, and batters are hitting it hard at a 50% rate, 10 points above last year’s mark. Either those numbers come down or the results he’s getting will balloon to match them.
We’ll find out when the game starts at 1:20pm 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.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 2, 2021