Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/1/19): Almora Leadoff, Bryant DH, Zobrist 2B, Lester Pitching

Albert Almora Jr. is batting leadoff and playing center, Kris Bryant continues to protect a tight wheel as the DH, and Anthony Rizzo is at first. Javy Báez is at short, Willson Contreras catches, Kyle Schwarber is in left, David Bote is at third, Jason Heyward is in right, and Ben Zobrist mans second.

The latter move is sort of like a backup plan for Almora, who had largely lost out to Daniel Descalso in his leadoff platoon. Bryant continues to look locked in after hitting four balls in excess of 105 mph last night, and Rizzo is really getting hot as well.

Taking the mound against the Cubs is 27-year-old lefty Marco Gonzalez, owner of a 5-0 record and 2.80 ERA. Like a mirror version of Kyle Hendricks, the soft-tossing Gonzalez works in the 80’s with a cutter/sinker/change/curve. He doesn’t get many whiffs and doesn’t generate a ton of grounders or soft contact, so the early success is a bit of a mystery.

The key for Gonzalez so far has been keeping the ball in the yard, which is a little easier when pitching in the heavy air of Seattle. Sure enough, all three of the homers he’s allowed have come in road starts. That could change, though, as we saw the Cubs jumping all over pitches last night.

Gonzalez has been virtually split-neutral this season, though he’s faced nearly four times as many right-handed hitters. Because he hasn’t given up many homers and has walked only nine of the 185 batters he’s faced, the Cubs may not want to think about working deep counts in this one. Then again, the lack of a real put-away pitch means they can be a little patient.

Though his four-seam gets very little overall usage, Gonzalez will throw it to lefties on the first pitch about a third of the time. Righties will see a heavy mix of sinker (30%), curve (26%), and change (25%) on the first pitch, with the cutter coming into play when Gonzalez gets ahead or has two strikes.

This game has the feel of one of those where the Cubs are going to struggle early as they get a feel for their opponent. None of the peripheral numbers are very good, but Gonzalez mixes pitches, locations, and speeds to keep hitters off balance. As we saw last night, however, the Cubs are perfectly capable of making loud noises.

Jon Lester is on the bump for the second time since coming off the IL to face a Mariners squad that ranks second in MLB in both wOBA (.378) and wRC+ (144) against lefties. Even if you don’t really know what that means, consider that league average in those metrics is .318 and 97. So, yeah, the M’s like southpaws.

Some of that may be inflated by their road performance, which we reviewed in yesterday’s lineup post. Overall, the Mariners have just a .314 wOBA and 105 wRC+ at home this season. If he can keep the ball down and limit the walks, those numbers against lefties should come down a bit.

First pitch is mercifully much earlier than last night, with a 5:40pm CT start time. WGN and 670 The Score will have the coverage for you.

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