Chicago Cubs Lineup: Gimenez Starts Behind Plate, Almora Hits Ninth, Monty Gets the Start

I was ready to be upset about Albert Almora Jr. not being in the lineup for this one, but it turns out Joe Maddon is up to antics. Ben Zobrist is leading off with Tommy La Stella batting and playing second and Kris Bryant hitting and playing third.

Anthony Rizzo is cleaning up, Javy Baez is at short, and Kyle Schwarber is manning left. Chris Gimenez gets the start behind the plate and Mike Montgomery bats eighth as Almora rounds things out at the bottom of the order as sort of a stacked leadoff option.

The Cubs arrived at their team hotel at 3:45am, so it’s a good thing they were traveling in those comfy track suits.

Montgomery will be making his first start of the season after the rotation was shuffled in the wake of Yu Darvish’s latest DL stint. The lefty has only gone as many as three full innings twice this season, so expect Joe Maddon to have a piggyback option waiting in the wings. By the time you read this, there will probably have been a move to add a fresh arm to the bullpen, especially after Tyler Chatwood’s abbreviated effort.

Ed. note: The Cubs indeed recalled Luke Farrell and optioned Justin Hancock to AAA Iowa. Don’t be surprised if there’s yet another move Tuesday as the Cubs look to bolster the rotation, perhaps with Adbert Alzolay. It’s entirely possible they don’t go that route, but the phenom prospect pitched Thursday for the I-Cubs and is slated to start for them Tuesday against New Orleans.

It’s possible Monty could get a longer leash if he’s efficient, but that hasn’t really been the case so far this season. His 5.33 K/9 is the lowest of his career, though his walks are closer to career norms and his grounder rate of 63 percent is better than he’s had at any point as a pro. He’s giving up 33.3 percent soft contact, too, which really makes you think he should have gotten better results.

The Pirates don’t have a dynamic offense but could offer a stern test for the Cubs’ southpaw in this one. Not only are they at the bottom of the league in terms of soft contact, which is to say they produce less than most, they also have a .353 wOBA and 124 wRC+ against lefties. Both marks are third in MLB, so they kinda like seeing folks who pitch with the wrong hand.

On the mound for Pittsburgh will be 25-year-old righty Chad Kuhl, a man whose consistent ERA numbers belie some shifting peripherals. Kuhl is giving up more hard contact and more balls in the air than before, which has resulted in nearly twice as many homers per nine innings (1.62) than in the past two seasons.

A lot of that comes from elevating his fastball, a pitch that makes up over 53 percent of his offerings. It’s classified as a sinker, but doesn’t get a great deal of movement and frequently stays up in the zone to get tagged. That could be fun for Kris Bryant, especially since that heater sits 95 and could make for some serious hard contact going back the other way.

Kuhl has a slider, curve, and change as well, with the bender serving as his lone scary pitch. That’s a relative term, but he can spin that thing really well and he’s been using it about twice as much as he did last season. If the Cubs can catch up to the hard stuff, they can keep Kuhl from getting to the curve very frequently.

Apologies if this particular lineup post is a little weaker sauce than usual, the Memorial Day weekend has really taken it out of me. Here’s to hoping you and yours have had a good few days and that you have plenty of time to take in the game this afternoon.

First pitch of this matinee is at 12:35pm CT and can be seen on ABC-7 or heard on 670 The Score.

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