The good news is that this off-brand version of the Cubs is playing pretty much the same as the premium version from prior to the deadline. That’s also the bad news, as the Cubs continue to prove themselves adept at losing in every conceivable way. From walk-offs to blowouts, they simply aren’t showing off good baseball. But hey, at least you can’t really get mad about it now.
Rafael Ortega should be able to hit at least three homers as the centerfielder in the leadoff spot, but Willson Contreras will be there to back him up if he doesn’t. Ian Happ is batting third in right, Patrick Wisdom is the third baseman, David Bote is at second, and Frank Schwindel is at first. Johneshwy Fargas is in left and Sergio Alcántara is at short to round things out.
Alec Mills is on the mound, which generally means there’ll be an inning in which the defense completely forgets how to field or throw the ball. It feels like Mills has been the victim of an inordinate amount of bad luck, but his 4.55 ERA is only slightly higher than his FIP and xFIP. His ability to keep the ball in the yard will be put to the test in this one.
Jon Gray has had an up-and-down career that sees his ERA dip below 4.00 for a season before spiking the next year, and this is one of his good years. Unless he tires, his 3.62 ERA would be a career-best and his 1.12 HR/9 would be his lowest since 2017. He’s not a big strikeout guy and the walks are more prevalent than he’d like, so there isn’t much margin for error in Gray’s game.
He has walked multiple batters in five of his last six starts and has given up four or more hits in four of those, so the Cubs should have plenty of baserunners. The wildness is due primarily to the slider, a pitch he throws 36.9% of the time as his only real weapon. His 95 mph fastball sees the most work at nearly 48%, but it’s really just a setup for the slide-piece.
Gray’s changeup and curve are there for balance with neither really standing out as anything more than pedestrian. It doesn’t matter if the slider is working, since Gray can bury it back foot to lefties to shut them down. Though he’s pitched to historically accurate splits, he’s held left-handed hitters to a .208 average with a .283 wOBA. Those marks are at .184 and .276 at home, where Gray has been much better.
Speaking of which, his overall numbers against right-handed hitters are skewed by poor performance on the road. When pitching at Coors, Gray has limited righties to a .149 average and .249 wOBA. Who knows, maybe the Cubs can reverse some of those trends tonight.
We’ll find out when the game starts at 7:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 4, 2021