Chicago Cubs Lineup: Rizzo Bats Second, Javy Cleans Up as Hamels Faces deGrom

Daniel Murphy leads off, Anthony Rizzo bats second, and Jason Heyward bats third as Joe Maddon seeks to clump lefty bats out of the gate against Jacob deGrom. Javy Baez is batting cleanup, Victor Caratini is catching, Kyle Schwarber is in left, Albert Almora Jr. is in center, and David Bote is at third.

Cole Hamels has been the Cubs’ ace since joining the staff at the start of the month, and it’s not particularly close. He’s been nothing short of dominant and has set an example for even his veteran rotation-mates when it comes to making in-game adjustments and pitching around what’s not working on a given night.

Continuing in this same elite fashion is improbable, but the Mets don’t present much of an obstacle. As we saw last night, however, this hodgepodge team with nothing left to play for can still put up some runs when they need to. The Mets are terrible against lefties but they’re great on the road, and anything can happen with the wind blowing out.

The apple of trade-mongers’ eyes for a while in late July, de Grom is still in the Big Apple for now. And that’s a shame because a Cy Young-worthy performance is being wasted by an organization that thought they had the dynasty blueprint figured out only to discover they had terrible engineers and shoddy materials.

The Mets’ ace has been insanely good this year, striking out more than 11 batters per nine innings and walking just over two while allowing fewer home runs than any other qualified pitcher in baseball. He has only given up eight dingers all season, never more than one in any game, and hasn’t had one hit against him in his last four starts.

And deGrom isn’t an extreme groundball pitcher, he just prevents batters from squaring him up. Much like Noah Syndergaard last night, deGrom throws almost everything hard. His four-seam and sinker are both around 96 mph and his slider and change are both around 89-91 mph. Only the curve sits consistently in the 80’s.

As you might imagine, deGrom is confident in every pitch he throws and he’s able to get batters out with pretty much any of his offerings. Instead of having a go-to out pitch, he’s able to throw them all in every situation, thus preventing hitters from being able to sit on anything in particular. Syndergaard was similar in that regard, but deGrom is just uncanny.

Every one of his pitches is a plus offering and the results he gets in terms of strikes, strikeouts, OPS, grounders, etc. are all very similar. I don’t think there’s much to be gained from working deep counts, since that’ll probably play right into the 30-year-old righty’s hand. Because he throws more first-pitch strikes (66.8 percent) than all but a few qualified pitchers, it might be best for the Cubs to go hunting fastballs.

If there is a potential weakness in deGrom’s game, it’s that he’s given up at least four hits in all but two starts, though neither of those outings lasted more than four innings. And he’s given up five more hits in 16 of his 26 starts, so the Cubs might be able to string together some knocks against him. Lefties have been much more successful, relatively speaking, so perhaps Rizzo can keep his hot streak going.

This game has all the makings of a classic pitchers’ duel, which is why it’ll probably be a wild slugfest. I mean, I thought it was a joke when someone said the over/under for last night’s game was 10.5 runs. Glad I didn’t try to lay money on what I thought was an easy under.

First pitch from Wrigley is at 7:05pm CT and can be consumed via WGN and 670 The Score.

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