The Cubs couldn’t keep up with the Padres after a late surge, so Thursday afternoon’s contest will decide the series. Starting pitching was strong for Chicago in the first two games and could be again today, but Hayden Wesneski is going to have to figure some things out in order to make that happen.
While he has only walked one batter in the last two games, he had just one strikeout in his last start and has managed just 12 Ks in 17.1 innings overall. Seven of those came against Oakland in what appeared at the time to be a get-right game. Wesneski has had problems with the feel for his sweeper, a pitch that has to be working in order for him to be successful. If it’s on, the Cubs have a good shot in this one.
As always, that starts with Nico Hoerner and his 21-game on-base streak leading things off at second base. Dansby Swanson is still in search of his first Cubs homer as he bats second at short, followed by Ian Happ in left and Seiya Suzuki in right. Trey Mancini is the DH, Eric Hosmer is at first, Nelson Velázquez is in center, Nick Madrigal is at third, and Tucker Barnhart is behind the plate.
Just throwing this out for no particular reason, but it continues to be apparent that the Cubs aren’t maximizing the DH/1B/bench spots on the roster. They don’t need a third catcher and Luis Torrens doesn’t make the lineup more dynamic; Edwin Ríos either isn’t producing or isn’t getting enough at-bats to find a groove; Hosmer doesn’t offer even replacement-level production.
It’s past time to bring Matt Mervis up, so perhaps the Cubs are just waiting on the trip to DC.
Seth Lugo will be on the mound for the visitors, which might seem like a better draw than getting Yu Darvish until you start looking at the numbers. Lugo has allowed just seven earned runs over four starts, and three of those tallies came against Milwaukee two starts ago. He had control issues in his second appearance but has been on the mark in every other game with just two walks over his other three starts.
He has only allowed one homer so far, though that .176 BABIP indicates he’s been the beneficiary of some very good luck. Lugo’s fastball and sinker both sit a little below 94 mph, down about a tick from last season, but he locates both very well and likes to get ahead early to set up his curve. That bender accounts for nearly 40% of his pitches and nets him a lot of called strikes.
Only five other pitchers generate more than Lugo’s 20.0% called-strike rate, though 98 of them get more than his 8.1% swinging-strike rate. That tells me the Cubs need to go up there hacking rather than letting Lugo fool them with his breaking ball. Given their relatively aggressive, contact-heavy lineup, that shouldn’t be a problem.
First pitch is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
Here is today's #Cubs starting lineup for the rubber match vs. San Diego.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 27, 2023