The Cubs are back in action Friday night in Los Angeles to kick off a six-game trip against the Dodgers and Athletics. Oddly enough, the Cubs are then back home for four games with the Dodgers and three against the Padres. If it wasn’t for the A’s offering what seems like a break in there, this is the start of a pretty tough stretch.
Good thing the Cubs have Justin Steele on the mound to get things started. The lefty has allowed just one run in 12 innings to this point and he’s generating grounders at a high rate. Walks were an issue for him the last time out and we’ve seen his control get shaky in the past, so he’ll need to rein that in against a very strong lineup.
Nico Hoerner is at second, Dansby Swanson is back playing short, Ian Happ is in left, and Seiya Suzuki makes his season debut in right. Cody Bellinger is in center, Patrick Wisdom is at third, Eric Hosmer is at first, and Edwin Ríos is the DH. Yan Gomes will handle the catching duties.
They’ll be facing Noah Syndergaard, who has yet to walk a batter in two starts against Arizona. The Diamondbacks apparently figured something out after that first one, however, as they really tuned up on the ol’ god of thunder his last time out. Syndergaard lasted just four innings after allowing six earned runs on eight hits, two of which left the yard.
This isn’t the same pitcher who was dominant at times for the Mets, largely because his fastball velocity is now under 93 mph after sitting around 98 for the first several years of his career. He still throws the hard stuff a lot, going to the sinker about 30% of the time with the four-seam making up 21% of his offerings. The change and cutter make up almost all of the rest in nearly even portions, then he’s got a curve that has been dialed back big time in the early going.
That usage could shift as the season goes on, particularly if the change continues to get poor results while the curve does well. Syndergaard has traditionally gotten pretty standard splits, with left-handed hitters performing a little better against him all the way across the board, but hitters are better able to time him up now than they were in his heyday.
This is the first of two favorable matchups for the Cubs over the weekend, the next of which comes Saturday night, so they’ve got a good chance to win another series opener. Jumping on Syndergaard early and getting to a Dodgers bullpen that hasn’t been very good would allow Steele some leeway while also providing the Cubs with a little more leverage over the next two games.
First pitch is set for 9:10pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.