Chicago Cubs Lineup (8/21/20): Happ Leads in LF, Pérez at 2B, Almora CF, Lester Faces Sox

It’s a battle of southpaws as the South Side squad travels to the Friendly Confines with a five-game winning streak in the works. They haven’t lost since being swept last Saturday in a doubleheader against the Cardinals, and the Sox have outscored their opponents 38-11 in that time. Granted, four of those were against the Tigers.

Jon Lester will try to but the brakes on that streak as he looks to rebound from his worst performance of the season so far. He was roughed up pretty badly by the Brewers, allowing nine of the 16 hits and five of the seven earned runs recorded against him this season. The lefty wasn’t hitting his spots as accurately as he had been, hence all the hard contact.

He’ll have his work cut out for him in this one, as the Sox come in boasting a 155 wRC+ and .394 wOBA against lefties, both the best marks in MLB by at least 10 points. That’s mainly a matter of Tim Anderson absolutely destroying southpaws to the tune of a 2.382 OPS, 517 wRC+, and .929 wOBA. He’s got a .650 average and 10 of his 13 hits have gone for extra bases, including five homers. While the Cubs won’t do it, this would be a good time to just walk Anderson every time up.

Speaking of which, remember when the Cubs walked Bryce Harper six times (three intentionally) back on Mother’s Day in 2016? You may have forgotten that little tidbit because it’s the game Javy ended with a walk-off homer, but Harper ended up reaching seven times without an at-bat (he was also hit by a pitch) and walked a total of 13 times in the four-game series.

It won’t matter if the lineup can do its job, starting with Ian Happ in left and Anthony Rizzo at first. Javy Báez is at short, Willson Contreras is catching, and Kyle Schwarber is the DH, and David Bote is at third. Jason Heyward is in right, Hernán Pérez is at second, and Albert Almora Jr. is in center.

Kris Bryant will undergo some treatment on his left wrist and will take swings for the first time since receiving an injection a couple days ago. He’s still a day-to-day decision and could be in the lineup this weekend. If he’s not ready by Sunday, an IL stint is possible.

They’ll be facing Dallas Keuchel, a guy who has a similar MO to Lester when it comes to getting outs via contact. Or maybe he’s like a mirror imagine of Kyle Hendricks in that he may not even touch 90 mph and loves to throw the changeup. Keuchel is pretty much a sinker/cutter/change pitcher, using each pitch almost equally, and he loves to keep the ball down.

His whole game is inducing contact out of the zone to get grounders, which he’s able to do at a nearly 60% clip. Rather than being aggressive early and then getting hitters to chase, Keuchel’s first-pitch strike percentage has dropped off dramatically this season. He’s only around 45% against a career average of 61%, but he’s throwing in the zone more overall. That could mean good things for a Cubs team that has shown the ability to be patient.

At the same time, the Cubs are striking out at an MLB-high 28.2% clip on the season. Even Keuchel and his paltry 4.91 K/9 might be able to take advantage of the high swing-and-miss potential. He’ll give up contact, though, so the key for the Cubs is to make sure they’re able to string some hits together and avoid the double plays that come from all those grounders Keuchel induces.

First pitch is set for 7:15pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score. Those of you who live out of market and don’t subscribe to can watch the game on ESPN because Friday’s Mets-Yankees game has been postponed due to positive COVID tests within the Mets organization.

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