The Cubs have now managed to score a single run on just three hits in back-to-back games, with neither run coming as the result of a hit. Patrick Wisdom came home on a wild pitch last night and Alfonso Rivas scored Thursday when Nico Hoerner got picked off and remained hung up just long enough. In other words, the offense has been bad.
Not that it would have mattered much with Kyle Hendricks pitching as poorly as he did Friday, allowing six earned runs on seven hits (three of which left the yard). Joe Maddon would have told us how you just need to throw games like that in the trash, but no one has emptied the bin in a while and it’s overflowing at this point. The Cubs could really use a clean-up game tonight as they continue their series in Milwaukee.
Justin Steele is going to need to be better than he has been in his last two starts in order to make that happen. He’s gone just 5.2 combined innings in those starts in large part because he isn’t being efficient, walking seven batters to just three strikeouts. He’s not keeping the ball down in the zone to get grounders, so clogging the bases with walks makes even a few hits that much more dangerous.
The Brewers’ 11-run outburst may mean their offense will quiet down for a while, but Steele really needs to get his fastball dialed in to ensure cleaner innings.
It’s going to be an all-lefty matchup, one of several we’ve already seen this season, as 26-year-old Eric Lauer takes the mound for the Brewers. He’s gotten better over each of his three previous starts and is coming off of a 13-strikeout performance in Philly that saw him throw six shutout innings with just one walk.
Lauer isn’t a particularly hard thrower, but uses his 94 mph fastball well to set up a curve/slider/cutter mix that makes up about 60% of his pitches. He’ll also throw the occasional changeup and might eventually throw more of them because he’s only at about 2% with that pitch after throwing it more frequently in the past. Not that he really needs it, since he’s already limiting right-handed batters to a .251 wOBA.
He’s always had pronounced reverse splits, though opposing managers routinely stack lineups with righties because that’s what the book says to do. Left-handed batters come into this game hitting 43 points better (.291 vs. .248) and slugging 53 points better (.455 vs. .402), so it’s almost like traditional platoons are silly when this guy is on the mound. Lauer has only faced 12 left-handed hitters this season, but they’re crushing him.
Despite the big strikeout numbers in his last start, Lauer doesn’t typically miss many bats. He likes to locate up in the zone as well, so he doesn’t get many grounders and can be susceptible to homers. That sounds like a great matchup for the Cubs, which is the same thing I thought about last night’s pitcher. Maybe it’ll be different tonight.
As expected, the Cubs are still going righty-heavy in this one. Nick Madrigal is at second base, Willson Contreras is the DH, Wisdom is at third, and Seiya Suzuki bats cleanup as the right fielder. Frank Schwindel is the first baseman, Yan Gomes is the catcher, Ian Happ is in left, Michael Hermosillo is in center, and Hoerner is at short.
So, uh, all righties. Cool. Maybe it’ll work and I’ll look dumb. First pitch from Milwaukee is at 6:10pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 30, 2022