The Cubs start the second half of the season, which is not really a half because it’s just 70 games, in Philly to face a team that is holding onto a Wild Card spot despite playing so poorly in the early going that they fired Joe Girardi. That makes one less familiar face for a team that is chock full o’ former Cubs and players many fans pined for.
Justin Steele is going to need to be on his game tonight because the Phillies can mash. Their 120 home runs and .417 slugging percentage both rank third in the NL, and they hit lefties better than righties. Steele had a little trouble finding his footing in his first start back following the birth of his first child, Beau, but the break may have given him a chance to settle into more of a routine that will allow his big dad energy to shine through.
Steele will get support from Rafael Ortega leading off in center, then it’s Willson Contreras behind the plate and Seiya Suzuki in right. Ian Happ is in left, Nico Hoerner is the shortstop, Patrick Wisdom is at third, and Frank Schwindel is the DH. Alfonso Rivas is the first baseman and Christopher Morel bats last at second.
Going for the Phils is 34-year-old righty Kyle Gibson, a longtime American Leaguer against whom this Cubs roster has very little experience. Of the 54 total at-bats taken against Gibson, 32 come from Yan Gomes. The catcher has a .406 average and 1.097 OPS in that time, so it’s a little weird that he’s not in the lineup. Wisdom and Rivas homered against Gibson when these squared off late last season, so there’s that.
Gibson has been a really solid starter throughout his career, using a diverse mix of pitches to maintain consistent performance. He doesn’t do anything particularly well, nor is he glaringly deficient in any facet. His 91-92 mph sinker gets a lot of grounders and he’s cut back on the walks this season to limit damage when his curveball backs up.
Though he gets swinging strikes at slightly above a league-average level, Gibson’s strikeout rate is actually a little below-average because he lacks a real put-away pitch. His slider is okay and his cutter is passing fair, but they aren’t the kind of wipeout weapons you see from some pitchers. He’s not prone to giving up homers, outside of the game where the Cards hit four against him, and he can work deep into games if he’s getting quick outs on the ground.
This has all the feeling of a frustrating matchup in which the Cubs keep putting men on base and failing to move them over, but I’ll gladly be wrong if they’re able to get to Gibson.
First pitch is at 6:05pm CT on 670 The Score and Apple TV+, so you’re going to need a subscription to watch. While I can’t say I’m a big fan of the broadcast crew, mainly because I always prefer a local team to national coverage, the picture quality of the Apple broadcast is worlds better than Marquee or any other RSN I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if that’s a function of their equipment or a matter of greater fidelity because it’s a direct streaming service, I just know I like it.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 22, 2022