Chicago Cubs Lineup (9/11/21): Ortega Leads Off, Scwindel at 1B, Davies Pitching

It’s funny that it took selling off most of the star players to create a more static lineup, yet here we are. Rafael Ortega leads off in center, Frank Schwindel is at first, and Ian Happ is in left for game two of this weekend set. Willson Contreras is the catcher, Patrick Wisdom is at third, Jason Heyward is in right, and Matt Duffy is at second. Then it’s Sergio Alcántara playing short and batting eighth.

Zach Davies had looked relatively good during starts against the Rockies and Twins, but he got mollywopped by the Pirates and lasted only four innings. He actually failed to complete the 5th in either of those two previous starts and averages just 4.8 frames per outing, so it’s probably foolish to count on him going deep this afternoon.

Kevin Gausman is earning every penny of the qualifying offer he signed last winter and he’s earning himself a much bigger payday as a free agent in the process. The 30-year-old righty had flashed lots of promise with Baltimore, which got him traded to Atlanta in 2018. But he struggled there the following season and was released, after which he pitched pretty well for the Reds.

Gausman was good for the Giants during the short season, earning the QO ahead of what will end up being the best campaign of his career to this point. Though his 2.58 ERA is perhaps a little lower than it really should be, thanks in part to a deflated .253 BABIP against, Gausman has made excellent use of his fastball/splitter combo.

The heat sits around 95 and the split is 84, so it serves as a changeup with big drop and makes it very difficult for hitters to deal with the change in velo. That deception is all he needs because those pitches make up about 90% of what he throws, with the occasional slider and straight change thrown in for good measure. It’s all about the splitter, though, as it’s Gausman’s best pitch and easily the best of its kind in MLB right now.

No other qualified pitcher gets as much per-pitch value from either a change or a splitter, and only sliders and cutters get more among other offerings. When it’s on, it is absolutely unhittable.

But the splitter isn’t always on, so there’s at least a moderate possibility that he’ll hang a few offspeed pitches that the Cubs can bang. Though Gausman doesn’t typically walk many batters, he tends to have games in which he’s way off. So he’ll go 10 games without walking more than two and then he’ll walk five. The Cubs may need one of those hiccups this afternoon.

First pitch from Wrigley is set for 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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