The Cubs dropped a pretty ugly game on Saturday, but they’d won the previous three and ended up with a series win against the Rangers. Now they welcome the Mariners to town as the AL West tour of Chicago continues. The M’s are expected to battle for a postseason spot again this year and should provide a tough test for the Cubs to start the week.
Results aside, it’s been nice to see such continuity at the top of the lineup. Nico Hoerner leads off at second, Dansby Swanson is at short, and Ian Happ is in left just as they have been for every game so far. Cody Bellinger is in center, Trey Mancini is at first, Eric Hosmer is the DH, and Patrick Wisdom is at third. Yan Gomes is the catcher in this one and Miles Mastrobuoni is in right.
Nelson Velázquez has joined the team in Chicago as well, with Javier Assad being optioned to Triple-A Iowa to make room. That’s a pretty weird move with Seiya Suzuki so close to coming back, especially since the Cubs will be down a pitcher and don’t need to have Velázquez just getting bench time. Alas.
Drew Smyly had an inauspicious start to the season when he gave up six earned runs on nine hits over 4.2 innings at Cincy the other day. A lot of folks want to blame that on David Ross for leaving the lefty in too long, but there are times when you’ve got to trust a seasoned pitcher to get himself out of jams. Smyly had battled some mechanical issues this spring and may have been doing so again in that first game if his pitch mix is any indication.
He threw mainly sinkers and curves at a nearly even split with just a couple of cutters thrown in, so it was clear he wasn’t comfortable with something. The cutter made up 20% of his offerings last season and he really needs a third pitch as a starter. Pay attention to what he’s throwing tonight because that should tell us how he’s feeling pretty quickly.
The Mariners will work behind Luis Castillo, who is very familiar to Cubs fans from his time with the Reds. Castillo is already making his third start and he has yet to allow an earned run on the season, so the Cubs have a chance to spike his ERA tonight. With just three hits allowed to go along with 12 strikeouts and two walks, Castillo has been dominant over 11.2 innings against the Guardians and Angels.
His fastball is down nearly two ticks from last year, however, and he’s thrown his change and slider a lot less than usual. That could shift tonight because his offspeed stuff has been very good so far and might get more usage as the season goes on. Same goes for the slider.
The righty has pitched to mild platoon splits over the course of his career, though they’ve gotten to be almost neutral over the past two seasons and he has reversed them completely over his first two starts this year. That could change very quickly, of course, just something to consider as we think about that change being used as a weapon.
First pitch from Wrigley is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
Here is tonight's #Cubs starting lineup for the series opener against Seattle!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 10, 2023