Daniel Descalso leads off with Kris Bryant batting second in right and Anthony Rizzo batting third at first. Javy Báez cleans up at short and David Bote is back with the team at third base after being bailed out late last night on charges that he murdered two baseballs. Initial reports are that he’ll plead to aggravated batslaughter and can travel with the team to Seattle.
On the mound for the Snakes is Luke Weaver, a familiar face from his days as a Cardinal. Traded away from the boredom of St. Louis as part of the return for Paul Goldschmidt, Weaver is starting to come into his own in Arizona.
More impressive than the 3.33 ERA he’s woven through five starts (27 IP), the 25-year-old righty has racked up 31 strikeouts against only six walks. Control is paramount to those stats, but Weaver’s evolving pitch mix has really elevated his game.
Previously a fastball/changeup pitcher with a show-me curve, Weaver worked this winter to improve his cutter/slider. He’s only using the new pitch about 12% of the time, but it’s created as much value as the change he throws twice as frequently. Even if you don’t get into the advanced peripheral stats, it’s evident that Weaver is getting more whiffs and strikeouts.
At the same time, he’s much more susceptible to hard contact because he works the zone so much. Weaver’s allowing hard contact on 45% of the batted balls against him, a big jump over previous seasons. And I’m not sure you’ve noticed, but the Cubs are beating the hell out of mistakes this season.
They’ve done the same against Weaver in six previous meetings, posting an aggregate 1.026 OPS with 11 extra-base hits (5 HRs). They’ve also struck out just 18 times with 12 walks over 25 innings, though they haven’t seen the revamped breaking ball yet.
Speaking of revamped, José Quintana is going for the Cubs. The lefty has been nails over his past three starts, the best such stretch of his entire career. He’s done it by attacking hitters and not simply dancing around the corners of the zone. Having confidence in the changeup regardless of batter handedness has been huge as well.
Is a fourth excellent start too much to ask? Not at all, so here’s to Q providing an answer.
First pitch is at 3:10pm CT and the game can be consumed via WGN or 670 The Score. Those of you who exist beyond the stifling blackout curtain can also watch for free on MLB.tv, as this is the Free Game of the Day.
Here is today's #Cubs starting lineup.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 28, 2019