Anthony Rizzo, The Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All Time, is back after a surprise return last night that saw him hit a heroic home run. Nicholas Castellanos is batting second, followed by Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Willson Contreras. David Bote is batting sixth, with Jason Heyward and Nico Hoerner rounding out the order.
The Cubs are facing Michael Wacha, who’s closing out one of his worst season with numbers that look like a bad joke. His 4.76 ERA is nearly a full run lower than his 5.70 FIP, largely because he strikes out only twice as many batters as he walks while also giving up 26 homers over 121 innings.
Wacha hasn’t changed a great deal over the years and is still throwing with similar velocity to what he had early in his career, though it’s down from a couple years ago. His four-seam will touch mid-90’s and sit about 93, then he’s got a cutter and curve. Combined, those pitches have been worth -23.1 runs this season.
Ah, but the changeup is as good as ever and can still get swinging strikes and grounders almost at will. That’s why the big righty is pitching to strong reverse splits again this season. Always better against lefties, largely due to the change, Wacha is “limiting” them to a .789 OPS and .331 wOBA. If you’re thinking, “Wait, those aren’t very good,” consider that righties are at .904 and .374, respectively.
There’s no reason to beat around the bush with this one, so I’ll just say it: The Cubs absolutely must beat the hell out of Wacha this afternoon. Not literally, mind you, they just have to destroy his pitches early and often to gain back the ground they’ve lost over the past three days.
It’d also be a good idea to provide some early support for Alec Mills, who’s getting the spot start because Cole Hamels is being skipped due to shoulder fatigue he’s been battling for weeks. Remind me again why Hamels wasn’t temporarily shut down earlier if that was the case. Whatever, it’s long past time to bother with such things at this point.
Mills was solid in two previous starts this season and hasn’t walked a batter over his last six innings of relief, so that’s good. He’s only given up one run in that time, which is even better. Now he gets the chance to show out on a big stage in a must-win game, so good for him.
First pitch from Wrigley is set for 1:20pm CT on ABC 7 and MLB Network (out-of-market), with 670 The Score on the radio call.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 20, 2019