As if the powers that be weren’t sadistic enough for putting the Cubs on national television, they saw fit to line things up so that they’re facing a former farmhand. Two, actually, but one will be on the mound. It’s hard to blame you for choosing to watch something else at this point, whether it’s because you’re upset about recent developments or simply don’t want to bother with a team that will look very different next year.
Rafael Ortega is making a case for a spot on future rosters and he’ll lead off again in center, followed by Matt Duffy at third and Ian Happ in left. Happ is getting a chance to right the ship that has been listing hard to port all season long, though it’s not going to be easy. Willson Contreras cleans up and handles the catching, Patrick Wisdom is at first, David Bote is at second, and Greg Deichmann is in right. Sergio Alcántara rounds out the lineup at short.
The continued presence of Zach Davies in the rotation makes you wonder whether the Cubs think he could be a long-term piece. Either that or they simply flubbed at the deadline. He’s coming off of a very rough outing against the Rockies in which he surrendered seven earned runs on six hits with just one strikeout and two walks. Not ideal.
Going for the Sox is flamethrowing righty Dylan Cease, who we will surely hear about as part of the trade for José Quintana in 2017. Incidentally, that’s the only time anyone hears about Q these days…unless you’re a conspiracy threorist. In any case, Cease is figuring some things out after two shaky partial campaigns that saw him striking out too few batters while walking too many.
He’s doing it with much better command of his 96 mph fastball, locating it to decrease what had been an alarming 13.3% walk rate last season. The fastball still isn’t a great pitch for Cease overall, but keeping it in the zone more often sets up his secondaries much more effectively. His slider is the best of those and he throws it about 30% of the time to miss a lot of bats.
The curve and change are technically better on a per-pitch basis, but they only make up a combined 25% of his repertoire. You’d think that combination of speed and stuff, particularly with equally strong breaking and offspeed stuff, that Cease would dominate right-handed hitters or at least have even splits. Instead, he’s been much tougher on lefties.
That’s more a product of his performance at home, which has been pretty disparate. Cease has produced almost identical splits when pitchinng on the road, so it’ll be interesting to see whether it matters that it’s actually his home ballpark or just a matter of not having to travel. If it’s the latter, the Cubs could really be in trouble.
Cease does have a tendency to give up hits in bunches, so it’ll just be a matter of whether the Cubs can take advantage of that. Can they string base knocks together or do they scatter them and strike out with runners on? I know what the answer should be based on historical performance.
First pitch from Wrigley is at 6:09pm CT on ABC, 670 The Score, and ESPN 1000.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 8, 2021