Rafael Ortega resumes his unlikely role as the Cubs’ everyday leadoff man and centerfielder as the team tries to stave off a four-game sweep Thursday afternoon. Matt Duffy bats second at third, Patrick Wisdom is at first, and left fielder Ian Happ has finally been moved down in the order…to the cleanup spot. David Bote is at second, Andrew Romine is at short, Robinson Chirinos calls pitches behind the plate, and Greg Deichmann will be in right.
Listen, I get that Happ isn’t trying to suck and the Cubs are benefiting in some perverse way from having a bad hitter in a run-producing spot, but I don’t see how this helps. If they want to get him going, surely hitting at the bottom of the order would be a better option. Happ is 1-for-13 with seven strikeouts over his last four games and has 107 strikeouts with 96 total bases on the season.
Kyle Hendricks is going to have a very tough time avoiding his first loss since May 9, a run stretching back 16 starts. He is 1-0 in three starts against the Brewers this season and has allowed six earned runs with 16 strikeouts and just four walks over 18 innings.
Brandon Woodruff is going for the visitors, which is unfair after the Cubs have already faced Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes in two of the three previous games. Woodruff has already opposed the Cubs four times this season, going 2-0 with two earned runs allowed and 30 strikeouts against six walks over 25 innings.
He’s similar to Burnes in that he throws really hard, averaging around 97 mph on his fastball, but Woodruff favors the four-seam and sinker and doesn’t throw a cutter. His curve is his best secondary by far, though his changeup is a solid pitch that can get whiffs and grounders. The hard stuff is really the key, as Woodruff can blow it by hitters while locating in the zone.
Only 12 qualified pitchers throw more than Woodruff’s 65.9% first-pitch strikes and only five throw more than 46.2% of their pitches in the zone like he does. The moral of the story is that you can’t just sit back and hope he’ll walk you, though the Cubs did draw three free passes when they last faced him on June 29. With only 10 total hits against him in four games, it’s not like swinging the bats will do a great deal of good.
None of those hits were homers, either, and Woodruff has surrendered only 11 longballs in 137.1 innings to this point, so a big blow probably isn’t in order this afternoon. This is one of those games where the Cubs are going to have to catch some big breaks while Hendricks pitches lights-out if they want to have any chance to win. Fun times.
First pitch is set for 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 12, 2021