The Cubs have won two games in a row for the first time in way too long, but that’s being overshadowed by the return of Kyle Hendricks. He hasn’t pitched for the big club since the middle of last July after suffering a capsular tear in his right shoulder that required a very deliberate rehab program in lieu of surgery. Hendricks’ velocity is up and he’s looked sharp at Triple-A Iowa, though he’s three years removed from his last good season.
If the various changes to his throwing program and mechanics have him pitching like the old Professor, the Cubs can get a sweep of the Mets and make a little noise in the division. Even if we don’t see a vintage performance tonight, it’ll be cool just to have him out there again. He went six innings this past Saturday and is on regular rest, so there shouldn’t be a particularly short leash tonight.
That leash will get longer if the offense can put up some early runs, and that’s exactly what Nico Hoerner will try to do as the leadoff hitter. Dansby Swanson is at short and batting second again after a brief shakeup, Ian Happ is in left, and the hot-hitting Seiya Suzuki is in right. If it weren’t for the guy hitting two spots below him, more people would be taking note of Suzuki’s recent stretch.
Just as foolish comments about him being a bad signing started to gain volume, Suzuki — who many seem to forget missed the whole Cactus League slate — caught fire. Over his last 60 plate appearances, he’s batting .327 with a 206 wRC+ and .408 ISO behind five homers and five more doubles. Following him in the lineup will be Mike Tauchman in center and Christopher Morel as the DH.
Matt Mervis is at first, Patrick Wisdom is at third, and Yan Gomes is the catcher. It’s interesting that Morel has basically supplanted Trey Mancini as the DH while Mervis has assumed the everyday first base duties, and I love that the Cubs are letting the young guys run the show.
The Mets will counter with 36-year-old Carlos Carrasco, who hasn’t looked good through four starts this season. Carrasco has allowed at least five earned runs in three of those and has struck out 11 batters while walking 10 over 18.2 innings. His fastball has dipped all the way down to 92mph, though it still makes up a third of his pitches.
His changeup and curve remain solid offerings and they combine for another third of his repertoire, then he’s got a sinker and slider that make up the rest. Both of those latter pitches have been pretty rough so far, which could help to explain Carrasco’s ugly reverse splits. He’s limiting left-handed hitters to a .182 average with a .284 wOBA, but righties are batting .325 with a .442 wOBA.
We’ve seen the Cubs flounder against pitchers who seemed like pushovers and Carrasco has dominated the members of this roster he’s faced in the past, so we might want to temper expectations. Then again, it’s hard to see a guy pitching the way he has keeping the Cubs at a .593 OPS with no homers. Even if the longball isn’t their friend in this one, Carrasco should allow plenty of traffic on the bases.
First pitch of the potential sweep-sealer is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
Here is tonight's #Cubs starting lineup behind The Professor!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 25, 2023