If you thought yesterday’s lineup was a joke, you might be surprised to see what David Ross has put together on April 2 for the rubber game of this opening series against the Brewers. The Cubs won the first game on the strength of six singles, then held a tenuous lead Saturday with their only run coming on a solo homer. Now they go into a decisive matchup with two hitters at the bottom of the order that most folks probably didn’t think would be on the roster at all.
The top of the order remains unchanged, with Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson, and Ian Happ occupying their standard spots. Trey Mancini is at first base batting cleanup, Yan Gomes is the catcher, and center fielder Cody Bellinger slides down two spots after looking a bit overmatched in his first two games. Patrick Wisdom is in right and batting seventh, then things get a little interesting.
Luis Torrens, who boasts a .641 OPS across 778 career plate appearances, will serve as the designated hitter this afternoon while Nick Madrigal handles third base duties. This is Madrigal’s second start in a row at the hot corner, just in case you were still thinking all his time there in Mesa was just an experiment. As for Torrens, he does boast a 99 wRC+ against lefties like the one the Cubs are facing today.
We’ll get to that in a moment, but let’s first talk about Jameson Taillon‘s Cubs debut. The former Pirate and Yankee had his control dialed this spring, striking out 23 batters with no walks over 18.1 innings in five official Cactus League starts. He also pitched in a minor league game in mid-March and should be good to go for at least 80 pitches in this one.
The big righty developed a sweeper over the offseason to play better against the shape of his curve, so watch for how he has that working this afternoon. He’s gotten into trouble with the home run ball in recent seasons, which actually coincides with a drop in sinker usage, but Wrigley is playing pretty big right now and that shouldn’t be a problem.
Going for the Brewers is lefty Eric Lauer, who faced the Cubs four times last year and dominated for the most part through the first three of those. He allowed just four earned runs with 26 strikeouts and six walks over 17 innings in those contests, then gave up four runs with four strikeouts and as many walks in five innings during his fourth outing.
Lauer’s fastball velocity was up over 93 mph last season and he loves to use it like teammate Brandon Woodruff to get early strikes and set up his secondaries. Or maybe that should just be his slider, since none of his other pitches worked particularly well last year. The cutter, curve, and change have all been effective in the past, however, and Lauer can be very good if he’s got more than two pitches working.
He won’t get a ton of swinging strikes and doesn’t get many grounders, so the Cubs should be able to put the ball in play in this one. The key will be hitting it where the Brewers ain’t, which should be easier given the shift restrictions. They just need to play more like Thursday than Saturday and they can walk away with an early series victory.
First pitch from Wrigley is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
Here is today's #Cubs starting lineup for the series finale vs. the Brewers.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 2, 2023