Chicago Cubs Lineup (9/21/21): Happ RF, Hoerner SS, Mills Starting

Update: The Cubs have placed Alfonso Rivas on the IL with a right middle finger tendon injury and have recalled Nick Martini from Iowa. He had originally been slated to play left and bat sixth tonight against the Twins, but the lineup has shifted around and Trayce Thompson will play right and bat seventh as part of the shuffling.

Rafael Ortega leads off in center, followed by Frank Schwindel at first and Ian Happ in right left. Willson Contreras is behind the plate, Patrick Wisdom is at third, Alfonso Rivas is in left, Matt Duffy is at second and Thompson is in right. Nico Hoerner is at short batting eighth.

Alec Mills has been trading good starts for bad over the last several weeks, which is good because he didn’t look great against the Phillies last week. His stuff should play against a weak Twins lineup, though he’s got to avoid mistakes because his opponents can still slug.

On the mound for the visitors is 26-year-old rookie Griffin Jax, who has appeared 15 times with 11 starts for the Twins so far. The results haven’t been great, as evidenced by a 6.65 ERA and 6.35 FIP that come from the righty making good on his last name. He’s given up jacks in all but two games so far, surrendering 19 in all over 69 innings.

That’s not very nice, but what do you expect when the slider keeps backing up and the change doesn’t fool many hitters? Jax throws the slide-piece about 31% of the time and it’s been worth -9 runs, worse than all but two pitchers who’ve thrown at least as many innings. His changeup is at -5.6 runs and makes up another 15% of his offerings, so he’s really got to be sharp with that 93 mph fastball to have any success at all.

Jax doesn’t work in the zone very frequently and doesn’t throw many first-pitch strikes, but his secondaries aren’t sharp enough to get whiffs. That means he’s often forced to pump fastballs down the middle to avoid walks. When hitters are either waiting on a cement mixer or sitting dead red, the results typically aren’t great for the pitcher.

Despite all that, Jax has done well against left-handed hitters on the road, limiting them to a .208 average with a .434 slugging percentage that is almost 180 lower than they tag him for in Minnesota. Right-handed batters are raking, though, so maybe the Cubs can add to those home run totals.

First pitch is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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