The Cubs rode a pair of three-run homers to a win last night to open their four-game set against the Reds with a bang. The home team made some loud noises too, so a strong pitching performance might be needed in this one. Marcus Stroman is on the bump for the Cubs to make his second start off the COVID IL following a loss to the Diamondbacks last week.
Stroman pitched well in that one and really only made one mistake that got him in trouble, allowing a home run to the hot-hitting Daulton Varsho. But since the Cubs scored just one run the whole game, Stro needed to be nearly perfect to get a win. Pitchers don’t have to be perfect to beat the Reds, but a little run support sure would be nice.
Rafael Ortega has not been hitting well in general and isn’t beating up on right-handed pitching, but he remains in the leadoff spot and playing center as the Cubs await outfield reinforcements. Frank Schwindel has worked himself up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup, which is typically reserved for the best hitter on the team, then it’s Seiya Suzuki in right and Ian Happ in left.
Facing the Cubs is 27-year-old Tyler Mahle, who is having a rough start to the season after a pair of strong campaigns put him on the map. It’s a little surprising that the Reds didn’t move him along with everyone else this offseason, but maybe they’re just waiting for the trade deadline to drive up demand.
Mahle’s disappointing results seem to be tied to his slider, which he’s throwing a lot less because it hasn’t been nearly as effective as in the past. He may have tweaked something with his grip because tracking services find it hard to differentiate between his slider and cutter, with some flip-flopping them. Either way, the breaking ball isn’t fooling as many batters and it appears as though Mahle doesn’t trust it as much.
He’s throwing the splitter a lot more, likely because the slider is not doing what he wants, and the results have been good. Coming it at a firm 86 mph, there’s enough differentiation from his 94 mph fastball in terms of both velo and movement to keep hitters honest. Mahle does seem to be finding a little more consistency lately and has allowed just five runs in his last three starts combined, which isn’t a great sign for the Cubs.
Getting to him early and beating up on the bullpen would be ideal because Mahle sees to have the Cubs’ numbers and letting him find a rhythm would not be great. Maybe Wisdom can homer for the fifth straight game and Happ can keep up his heavy hitting with a dinger of his own.
First pitch from GABP is at 5:40pm CT on Marquee and MLB Network (out-of-market only), with 670 The Score carrying the radio broadcast.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 24, 2022