The Cubs wiped away some of their funk from the weekend with a win over Washington Monday night as Dansby Swanson picked up another homer and Cody Bellinger maintained his own hot hitting. They may have also lost Yan Gomes for a while after he was struck in the head by a backswing and had to leave the game for further evaluation. Now they look to build a baby winning streak as they face an old friend.
Nico Hoerner just keeps reaching base and he’s in his usual spot at second, followed by Swanson at short and Ian Happ in left. Bellinger cleans up in center, Seiya Suzuki is in right, and Edwin Rios is the DH. Eric Hosmer is at first, Patrick Wisdom is at third, and Tucker Barnhart is catching.
Hayden Wesneski has filed a trademark for WEZNASTY in an attempt to launch a clothing brand, so let’s hope his performance lives up to the name. The righty has been inconsistent following a standout spring performance, largely due to his trouble finding the feel for his sweeper. That has led to him striking out just 15 batters and allowing five home runs in 22.1 innings.
If Wesneski has his repertoire in order, the Cubs will win the game.
On the bump for the Nats is former Cub Trevor Williams, who may end up being best remembered by North Side faithful as other player involved in the Javier Báez/Pete Crow-Armstrong trade. I will forever think of him as the guy who’s signing with the Cubs I broke, following which I didn’t get even get so much as a nod of credit from Jesse Rogers. No, I’m not petty at all. Why do you ask?
Like Wesneski, Williams is experiencing a big dip in strikeout numbers and has just 17 in 26.1 innings. He’s currently putting up a career-low 7.5% swinging-strike rate, though it doesn’t appear to be tied to decreased fastball velocity. Williams sits a little below 91 mph with his four-seam and he’s not even at 89 on the sinker, but both have produced positive value for him.
His slider, which has never been positive, is getting worse results than in any season since his rookie year, and he’s not fooling many batters with his changeup or curve. That said, it might still be a good idea for the Cubs to try to jump on pitches in the zone early in the count. Of the 132 pitchers with at least 20 innings so far this year, only 17 throw first-pitch strikes more frequently than Williams (68.1%). Ah, but only 17 are in the zone less than Williams (38.4%).
It may be a matter of taking hacks at fastballs and then forcing Williams to throw strikes from that point. That’s particularly true for the left-handed hitters, against whom Williams has always had trouble. Those issues have been magnified in the early going, with lefties hitting a robust .309 with an .853 OPS and .363 wOBA so far. Too bad the Cubs don’t have a big lefty masher who’s from the D.C. area.
First pitch from Nationals Park is at 6:05pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
Here's our lineup for Game 2 in Washington!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 2, 2023