Chicago Cubs Lineup: Zobrist Leads Off, Almora Second, Happ and Schwarber Rest
Ben Zobrist is back in the leadoff role, but Joe Maddon’s done a fair bit of shifting around after that. Frequently hitting near the bottom of the order when he starts, Albert Almora, Jr. is in a spot previously occupied by Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. That’s a big vote of confidence for a guy who has seen his playing time limited by the resurgence of Jon Jay and the hot-hitting Ian Happ.
The Bryzzo boys remain linked together and down a spot from what we’d grown used to, followed by Willson Contreras and Addison Russell. Contreras had himself a nice game Sunday and Russell is back up after hitting eighth for a game. He’s been struggling at the plate and we’ve seen him raise and lower his hands pre-swing a couple times now this season. It feels like a breakout is right around the corner, so why not tonight?
Jason Heyward is hitting seventh in his second game back from the DL and he showed no signs of rust when he came back yesterday. Javy Baez follows as he seeks to continue a May that has seen him post a .369 wOBA and 127 wRC+ that are slightly better than the .234 and 39 he put up in April.
John Lackey will be on the bump and batting ninth as the Cubs welcome the Giants to Wrigley, and he may be just the guy to open this series. He’s been stung by the longball a bit too frequently this season, but the Giants don’t possess much power. Lackey is posting bigger strikeout numbers than ever and is still avoiding free passes as he pushes through what could be his final year.
Opposing the Cubs will be lefty Ty Blach, he of 51.2 career innings and a K/9 mark that only looks good if you confuse it with ERA. Blach has struck out only 2.86 batters per 9 innings on the strength of an anemic 4.7 percent swinging-strike rate (MLB average is 10.3). Dude just doesn’t miss bats. He doesn’t fool many batters, either, as evidenced by a 22.6 percent O-swing rate (swings at pitches out of the zone).
As you may have guessed, this means hitters are getting a lot of contact against Blach. In fact, his 89.3 percent contact rate against is the highest in baseball among pitchers with at least 30 innings under their belt. So how is he even still in the league? Simple, the contact he gives up isn’t landing for hits. Blach’s .235 BABIP against is 14th lowest in MLB, so the Cubs are going to have to put some dents in that to get over on the Giants.
That shouldn’t be a problem as they go with a righty-heavy lineup. While he’s limited lefties to .143/.237/.206 slash, righties have posted a .265/.320/.453 with a .331 wOBA. Not great, but a point of leverage and a reason for Schwarber to be sitting out. Blach doesn’t walk many hitters, so the Cubs are going to need to be selectively aggressive and get to him early to give Lackey a nice cushion.
First pitch is 7:05 CT and game will be aired on WGN, with MLB Network carrying the national feed.
Here is tonight's #Cubs lineup for the opener against the #SFGiants.
Game preview: https://t.co/Ot5IGTlSxX pic.twitter.com/rpEhTzoYEU
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 22, 2017