The Cubs exploded late on Friday to take an easy win, then sputtered offensively in Saturday’s loss to even things up. Now they have a chance to take their third straight series victory, but they’re going to have to beat one of the best pitchers in the game to do it. As disappointing as the walk-off loss felt in the moment, the Cubs keep proving that they’re capable of hanging with good teams.
They’ll need a strong effort from lefty Drew Smyly in this one to get over on the Dodgers, especially given his counterpart. Smyly bounced back well from a stinker his first time out, getting seven strikeouts with just one walk over five innings of one-run ball. He upped his cutter usage significantly from that first start, though it’s still well below his career norms.
Smyly really needs to have that third pitch working in addition to the sinker and curve to keep hitters honest, so look for how much he uses it tonight.
The first four spots in the order have been solidified with the return of Seiya Suzuki and I can’t get enough of the consistency. Trey Mancini moves up to fifth as the first baseman, something we may continue to see as the Cubs presumably look to ease into the Matt Mervis era. Patrick Wisdom is at third base and batting sixth as he looks to extend his home run streak to three games.
Cody Bellinger was booed about 24 hours after receiving a standing ovation that resulted in a pitch clock violation during his first at-bat Friday night, but it was all in good fun after he robbed Jason Heyward of a homer. Yan Gomes wasn’t robbed on either of the two hits he had Friday that cleared the wall and he’s back behind the plate. Luis Torrens rounds out the order as the DH.
On the mound for LA is Julio Urías, a southpaw who first came up as a 19-year-old with a ton of hype back in 2016. He’s really come into his own over the last few seasons and is now a legitimate ace. Urías boasts a 2.61 ERA with 426 strikeouts to 99 walks in 76 starts and one relief appearance since the start of the shortened 2020, and that ERA has gotten lower each season.
He’s 3-0 through three starts so far, going six innings in each and striking out at least six batters every time out. His two walks both came in his most recent start, though he allowed just one run on a solo homer in that one. Even though his fastball has dropped a little over two ticks from the 95 mph he averaged in 2019, he locates it very well and works aggressively up in the zone.
His best pitch is the slurve he throws about a third of the time, getting both depth and sweep to work from the upper-middle of the zone to down and in on righties’ feet. His cutter is actually more valuable on a per-pitch basis, though he only throws it about 8% of the time. It’s got tighter movement with less depth, typically finding the edge of the glove-side zone to get both called and swinging strikes.
While right-handed batters have traditionally carried a higher average against him, Urías allows more slugging and wOBA to lefties, This is largely a function of busting righties in on the hands and preventing them from getting the barrel out. His changeup is the only one of his pitches that works away to right-handed hitters and it’s not been a very consistent offering for him, so the potential is there for mistakes.
This may be one in which the Cubs need to wear down Urías in order to get to a bullpen that has been shaky this season in spite of its solid work last night. First pitch is mercifully earlier at 3:10pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score, with MLB Network carrying the game for out-of-market viewers.
Here is today’s starting lineup for the rubber match vs. LA!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 16, 2023