The Cubs head into the second game against the Mets with a 1.5 game division lead and a whole lot of confidence. Kyle Schwarber remains at the top of the order in left, Kris Bryant is in the other corner outfield spot, Anthony Rizzo is at first, and Javy Báez cleans up at short.
Willson Contreras is catching, David Bote plays third, Albert Almora Jr. is in center, and Addison Russell is at second. Theo Epstein said yesterday that Russell’s bruised thumb might be the cause of his anemic offensive performance this month, so we’ll see whether he looks any better up there this afternoon.
WillCo has been on a torrid offensive pace all season, fueled by improved results against breaking and offspeed stuff. He’ll get a chance to boost those numbers against an opponent who’s going to provide a lot of those pitches.
Jason Vargas left his last start early with a calf cramp, but he appears to be good to go in this one. The lefty has been more than solid this season, largely because he’s been able to keep the ball in the yard. He isn’t going to strike too many batters out and his walks are up a little because he nibbles, but his soft-tossing approach keeps batters from squaring up too many pitches.
Vargas has an 85 mph four-seam and sinker, though he actually throws the changeup more than any other pitch. The offspeed is only about five ticks slower and he’s able to keep it down in the zone while throwing it to hitters from both sides of the plate. Righties will get a heavy dosage of the changeup in all counts, while lefties will see it primarily with two strikes.
He’s got a curveball as well, but it’s the change the Cubs will need to be ready to jump on. Opposing managers have stacked righties in their lineups so far despite the fact that Vargas isn’t producing any discernible platoon splits this season. So even though he’s only faced 58 lefty batters to 179 righties, that former group has actually hit him a little better.
There’s not a whole lot to break down here, to be honest. The Cubs are facing a 36-year-old southpaw with decent stuff and they just need to perform to their capabilities.
If they can do that, they’ll provide more than enough cushion for a pitcher who really seems to be coming back into his own. Yu Darvish has looked good over his last several starts and is coming off of a gem in LA. He hasn’t been quite as good at home over the course of his Cubs tenure, though, so perhaps he can take another step toward changing that this afternoon.
First pitch from Wrigley is at 1:20pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago and MLB Network (out-of-market), with 670 The Score on the radio call.
Here is today's #Cubs starting lineup.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 21, 2019
If you’re heading to the game today and you’re either the designated driver or just want to drink responsibly, O’Doul’s will be handing out free samples of their limited edition redesigned cans at kiosks in the ballpark.