Chicago Cubs Lineup (8/7/21): Ortega Leads Off, Schwindel at 1B, Alzolay Pitching

Rafael Ortega will try to extend his hitting streak to nine games as he leads off in center, then it’s Willson Contreras behind the plate and David Bote at second. Patrick Wisdom turns left field into the new hot corner, Frank Schwindel is at first, Matt Duffy is at third, Ian Happ is in right, and Andrew Romine is the shortstop.

Adbert Alzolay came into the season under a plan to limit his innings in order to keep him sharp and avoid burnout. It looks like that ship may have sailed, though, as he’s now 0-7 with a 6.39 ERA over his last nine starts dating back to June 7. The real killer has been the home run ball, as he’s given up 14 dingers in that time, including six multi-homer games.

Left-handed hitters have absolutely destroyed Alzolay this season, hitting .284 with 19 of the 23 homers he has given up. He’s shown the ability to front-door lefties with his two-seam, but he’ll get into trouble if he leaves his fastball over the plate. And as good as his slider has been overall, getting too cute rather than burying it on lefties’ back feet is a recipe for disaster.

Speaking of burying a back-foot slider, that was the only thing separating Carlos Rodón from a perfect game earlier this season. Drafted one spot ahead of Kyle Schwarber in 2014, the big southpaw suffered a similar fate when he was non-tendered this past winter. He has also experienced a similar resurgence, at one point looking like the AL’s Cy Young frontrunner.

Rodón is posting career-best strikeout and walk numbers while also giving up fewer homers than in the past several years. He’s doing it behind a big fastball that he’s throwing more than ever at a higher velocity than ever, a huge development following an alarming dip that saw him at just 92 mph in 2019. Now fully healthy, his heater is sitting 96 to set up that nasty slider.

He’s also got a changeup that sees decent usage, but the four-seam and slide-piece make up 85% of his offerings. The fastball has generated 16.7 runs of value, fourth in MLB among pitchers who have logged at least 100 innings. Just behind him at 16.2 is Lance Lynn, who just faced the Cubs yesterday. Of the three above Rodón, two are pitching a wee bit north in Milwaukee.

That slider has generated 10.4 runs, 10th in MLB. When you’ve got two top-10 pitches, you really don’t need much else. What’s most surprising about those results is that Rodón has been much tougher on righties this season, which is even bigger when you see how teams try to stack right-handed bats against him.

If there’s a hope for the Cubs, it’s that Rodón is not as good away from the South Side, though whether Wrigley counts as an away game is yet to be seen. Left-handed hitters are batting a robust .288 against him when he’s a visitor, though their .304 wOBA indicates they don’t walk very frequently. The last two games have contributed to the road “struggles,” as Rodón has allowed two homers while pitching only four innings in each.

Maybe the Cubs’ crew of unknowns can keep that trend going when this one starts at 1:20pm CT on Marquee, NBC Sports Chicago, 670 The Score, and ESPN 1000.

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