Joe Maddon has often said he likes to have struggling players in the leadoff spot, so he’s got Kris Bryant at the top of the order in this one. Bryant busted out in Friday night’s big win, but has looked a little lost at the plate over the last two games. He’s too good a hitter for this funk to last much longer.
Jason Heyward hits second, Ben Zobrist plays second, and Anthony Rizzo leads off. Ian Happ is right there in the heart of the order and playing center, neither of which would be ideal under normal circumstances. Wait, are these abnormal circumstances? Not really.
Kyle Schwarber is in left and manning his now-standard sixth spot, with Addison Russell at short and Chris Gimenez catching. At least we know that if the game is on the line late, there won’t be a question of why Bryant isn’t pinch-hitting for Gimenez.
Tyler Chatwood will be taking the bump in this one and I don’t think I need to tell you why that could be cause for concern. He only walked two in his last outing in Milwaukee, but the four earned runs and that clown show of a rundown washed away any of the good feels from the improved control.
If there’s one thing that has continued to be a strength for Chatwood, though, it’s been his ability to keep the ball in the yard. He has allowed only three home runs and induces a ton of grounders, so there’s still a sense that he could be really good if he just throws strikes that don’t cross through the heart of the plate.
I’ve got this inexplicable feeling that the bearded right puts it all together in this one. Wait, no, that was just gas.
Kenta Maeda is going for the Dodgers and he’s putting together a season that could well turn out to be his nicest as a Dodger. Not only does he have a career-low 3.02 FIP, but his career-high 10.83 K/9 mark comes from striking out 69 men over 57.1 innings. And that comes despite a .329 BABIP that says hitters are having good fortune against him.
Despite giving up a lot of contact in the air, very little of which is soft, Maeda has only allowed five home runs so far and has not allowed multiple homers in a game yet. Some of that may be coming from relying more heavily on his 92 mph fastball and getting away from the sinker for the most part.
Maeda also a cutter, slider, curve, and change, though the slidepiece has been his only true weapon this season. In fact, it’s even more effective on a per-100-pitch basis than in 2016, when it saved over 19 runs and ranked fourth among all MLB sliders. Coming off of a game in which they were baffled by Jack Flaherty’s breaking stuff, that’s not good news for the Cubs.
Then again, he rarely throws the sliders to lefties and has been much more susceptible to them as a result. Lefty batters are slashing .287/.354/.487 with a .356 wOBA against him, while righties are at .194/.269/.318 with a .261 wOBA. Those number even out somewhat on the road, though, and Maeda has been about 50 points better in terms of wOBA when pitching away from Chavez Ravine.
First pitch is at 7:05pm CT and can be experienced on NBC Sports Chicago and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 18, 2018