Chicago Cubs Lineup: Montgomery Faces Archer as Cubs Look to Clinch Playoff Spot

If it’s starting to feel like the Cubs are in must-win territory, you’re not all that far off. With only six games remaining in the Cubs’ season, the Brewers have closed the gap between them and the first place Cubs to a mere 1 1/2 games. The good news — if there is any — is that the Cubs are up two games in the loss column. Needless to say, a win against the Pirates this evening, while not necessarily a must-win, is certainly imperative.

With a win tonight and a Rockies loss, the Cubs will clinch a playoff spot. That’d be a wild card spot, if you’re keeping track, not the coveted NL Central title.

Leading off for the Cubs tonight is Daniel Murphy, he’s followed by Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez, playing short and batting cleanup. Kyle Schwarber is in left field batting fifth, followed by Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras.

Mike Montgomery has built back up after a DL stay and is looking as strong as he has all season. He’s pitched much more aggressively over his last few starts and is going for more strikeouts, which has really worked out well when his ancillary stuff is on. The changeup has been particularly effective at inducing swings and misses.

Opposing the Cubs would be former farmhand Chris Archer, a man for whom Cubs fans had pined for years after trading him away. But Archer isn’t a young pitcher any longer and his performance hasn’t been consistent over the last few seasons. While he’s still got lights-out stuff, he’s also got a tendency to give up runs in bunches.

Archer has given up six homers over his last five starts and his slider has been really spotty. That’s been his one really valuable weapon this season and he throws it more than his four-seam, so if it’s rolling up there and flattening out, he could be in for a long night.

The Cubs’ lefty batters are probably licking their chops knowing that Archer has allowed a .354 wOBA to their ilk this season, with most of the damage coming from slugging. The righty pitcher has given up 11 homers to 261 lefties as opposed to eight from 353 righties. Interestingly enough, 15 of those 19 total homers have come in the first two times through the order.

I guess that means the Cubs need to be aggressive yet again and go looking for early mistakes before Archer gets the chance to settle in. First pitch from Wrigley is at 7:05pm CT on WGN, MLB Network (out-of-market only) and 670 The Score.

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