Rafael Ortega leads off in center Friday night, followed by Frank Schwindel at first and Ian Happ in left. Willson Contreras works behind the plate as the cleanup hitter, Patrick Wisdom is at third, and Alfonso Rivas takes right. Matt Duffy is the second baseman and Sergio Alcántara is the shortstop.
Zach Davies has had a few nice stretches this season, but right now isn’t one of them. He’s given up 11 runs over just six innings in his last two starts and hasn’t finished five innings since August 20 in Miami, taxing the bullpen and putting the Cubs in early holes. He has faced his old team once this season and he allowed only two runs on two hits, but he lasted just four innings.
Facing the Cubs is 28-year-old righty Adrian Houser, who has not pitched against them this season. That’s probably because it seems as though the Cubs have seen the trio of Cy Young-ish starters at the top of the rotation every single time these teams meet. Houser isn’t nearly as dominant as some of his teammates, but he gets a ton of grounders and rarely surrenders home runs.
That’s because he’s a bowler, throwing the sinker nearly 50% of the time and rolling in lots of curves and changeups as well. His hard stuff sits around 94 mph and he’s gotten incredible results, sitting ninth in MLB with 16.9 runs of value on the combination of his fastball and sinker. But the thing is, his four-seam has actually produced negative value and his sinker might be the best in baseball right now.
None of Houser’s secondaries are that good — I should note here that he’s got a slider he’ll throw on occasion — and he’s prone to walking a fair number of batters, so the Cubs could have some opportunities tonight. Ah, but that 60% grounder rate can be a killer even if they do get runners on.
Houser has allowed just six earned runs in his last seven appearances, one of which came in relief, and five of those runs came in one game. He hasn’t allowed a homer in his last 10 appearances, so that could either mean he’s due for correction or that the Cubs need to find holes.
The sinker has made Houser much tougher on right-handed hitters on the whole, though the splits aren’t as pronounced when he’s pitching at home. He gives up just a .209/.306/.302 slash at AmFam Field and it’s interesting that righties have hit five of the six home runs he’s given up there while hit and reach base at higher clips. This isn’t a good matchup for the Cubs and they’re going to need to take advantage of every mistake Houser makes tonight.
First pitch from Milwaukee is at 7:10pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 17, 2021