After another late rally fell short, the Cubs need to win today to split the series and keep from going under .500 in this early portion of the second half. Each game that passes chips away at the Pollyanna-esque claims that they can still win it because there are X number of games left.
Willson Contreras is leading off at catcher, followed by Anthony Rizzo at first base, Patrick Wisdom at third, and Javier Báez at short. Then it’s Jake Marisnick in center, Rafael Ortega in right, Nico Hoerner at second, and Ian Happ in left. Kris Bryant is out for the second game in a row with what David Ross called heavy legs, which isn’t a great sign with a lefty on the mound and after he didn’t pinch hit yesterday.
I know it’s just a figure of speech, but there’s no way in hell KB’s legs are heavier than Rizzo’s right now. The team captain just looks like he’s out of it in general, whether it was his baserunning gaffe Wednesday or all-around mediocre play, and you have to wonder whether the toll of all the rumors and the team’s lack of direction is affecting him.
Adbert Alzolay looked a lot better in his last start after struggling upon his return from the IL in late June, though he struck out a season-low two batters and issued two walks. He pitched well in his only other matchup against the Cardinals in St. Louis back on May 22, but he took the loss despite allowing only two runs. That would be unacceptable if it wasn’t such a common occurrence for this team.
Going for the Cards is 33-year-old southpaw Kwang Hyun Kim, who absolutely dominated the Cubs 12 days ago at Wrigley. He held the Cubs scoreless on five hits over six innings while striking out seven and walking one. He has only struck out that many one other time this season, so don’t expect a repeat performance. Then again, this is the Cubs we’re talking about.
Kim throws the slider about 35% of the time with great effectiveness and his 90 mph fastball played really well in 2020 but hasn’t been quite as effective this year. He also has a splitter/change and curve that he throws around 10-11% apiece, though he went with the split at about 16% against the Cubs while throwing the slider a little less than usual.
The southpaw has produced massive splits, with left-handed batters hitting just .153/.265/.208 with a .227 wOBA this year. Righties are at .258/.314/.378 and have hit all six of the homers Kim has allowed, though only one of those dingers has come in the last five games. Kim hasn’t allowed a run in his last three starts and has allowed just six total runs over his last six, with four of those coming in one game.
The key here isn’t just making contact, it’ll making good contact. While Kim doesn’t miss a lot of bats, he hits his spots and misses barrels. This might actually be a game in which the Cubs’ refusal to take walks plays in their favor. If, that is, they aren’t just up there flailing helplessly.
First pitch is at 6:15pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score, with MLB Network carrying the broadcast for you out-of-market viewers.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 22, 2021