Chicago Cubs Lineup (7/25/22): Ortega Leads Off, Contreras Catching, Sampson Facing Pirates

The Cubs have won four games in a row after sweeping the Phillies in the City of Brotherly Love, which Philly sports fans prove time and again is an inaccurate nickname. Rather than traveling west in the Keystone State, the Cubs will host the Pirates for two games before heading out on a road trip that will take them through the trade deadline.

Pittsburgh was supposed to be one of the two teams in the Central making it somewhat easy for the Cubs to tread water, but the Pirates have gotten over on their rivals way too often this season. That was before they started trading some of their players away, so maybe they won’t have quite as much gas in the tank for these two games.

That would be good news for Adrian Sampson, who is getting his sixth start of the season for the Cubs as he seeks his first win. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop for the 30-year-old righty, but he keeps chugging along with really consistent numbers. What really concerns me is that he doesn’t really put batters away and he’s also been avoiding homers to a much greater extent than ever before.

For a little more context on that, Sampson’s 10% swinging-strike rate is just one point off the MLB average, though his 17% overall K rate is 5.3 percentage points below his peers. Conversely, his 0.84 HR/9 is well below a career mark of more than 2.0 prior to this season and his 6.8% HR/FB mark is around one-third of what he’d given up previously. Maybe that’s sustainable, I just worry that he’s due for a correction.

You may be thinking Wade Miley was traded to the Pirates and decided to start throwing righty, but that’s just JT Brubaker. The 28-year-old has had a pretty decent season that includes three starts against the Cubs in which he’s surrendered eight runs (five earned) over 14.2 innings. Six of those runs (four earned) came in one start back in May, but Brubaker managed to strike out 10 in the loss.

He held the Cubs scoreless and scattered five hits over six innings the last time he faced them, and he’s coming off of an outing in Miami in which he blanked the Marlins for seven frames. The sinker and slider make up almost three-quarters of Brubaker’s pitches, but his curve has actually been his best offering and he’s been throwing it a lot more lately.

Whether it’s a matchup thing or a way to keep them off-balance, he has varied his curveball usage quite a bit against the Cubs this season. Expect to see him throw a lot of breaking balls one way or the other, particularly if he’s able to get ahead in counts. The splits are almost even and there’s really nothing about Brubaker’s arsenal that says he should be able to end this little streak, so I’m thinking the Cubs could grab their fifth straight tonight.

Rafael Ortega will try to get things started in center, then it’s Willson Contreras behind the plate and Seiya Suzuki in right. Ian Happ cleans up in left, Nico Hoerner is the shortstop, Patrick Wisdom is at third, and Frank Schwindel is the DH. Alfonso Rivas handles first base and Christopher Morel bats ninth as the second baseman.

First pitch is at 7:05pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.

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