Chicago Cubs Lineup (9/25/20): Happ Leads Off, Javy Fifth, Darvish Starting

The Cubs have played like utter garbage for the better part of the last week and have gone through several other rough patches over the course of the season. Same goes for the White Sox, who return home fresh off a four-game sweep in Cleveland and losers of five in a row and seven of their last 10 games. More like Shite Sox, amirite?

Of course, the Sox have scored as many runs in their last three games as the Cubs have in their last six, so that’s something to consider. There’s also the fact that the Sox have several very dangerous hitters while the Cubs have…Jason Heyward. Both teams are playing for division titles and playoff seeding, so these games matter a lot more than Cubs fans were hoping they would.

Ian Happ leads off in center, Anthony Rizzo is at first, Willson Contreras is the DH, and Jason Heyward bats cleanup. Javy Báez is inexplicably batting fifth in spite of an extended slump that sees him as the worst hitter in baseball, Kyle Schwarber is sixth in left, and Victor Caratini catches. Jason Kipnis is at second and Nico Hoerner is at third.

Yu Darvish hasn’t been nearly as sharp over his last three starts, allowing more earned runs (9) than he had over his previous eight outings (8). He’s surrendered a season-high nine hits in each of his last two starts and his soft has been way down, not exactly harbingers of success in tonight’s game. Or perhaps those results do foretell a stronger effort, since it’s hard to imagine Darvish stumbling again.

He managed to shut the Sox down earlier this season when the Cubs really needed a strong performance, so is a repeat too much to ask for?

Going for the Sox is hard-throwing righty Dylan Cease, one half of the notorious trade that saw Sunday starter José Quintana head north. This is a rematch of that aforementioned game in which Cease wore the loss despite pitching a solid game. He has serious trouble with walks, though, and puts up puzzlingly low strikeout totals in spite of his power profile, so the Cubs could get to him early.

With a fastball that touches triple digits and sits 97-98 and a slider he throws nearly a third of the time, you’d think Cease would just ring hitters up left and right. But he’s only got 39 strikeouts in 53.2 innings this season, in part because he has such trouble with control. With at least five walks in four of his 11 starts, including seven to the 17 batters he faced his last time out against the Reds, Cease is prone to falling apart.

The question, then, is whether the Cubs’ overly passive approach pays off for them in walks or helps Cease to rack up more than his current season-high of five strikeouts. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t punch out more than five in this one, though I think the Cubs are going to have plenty of baserunners as well. Whether they can do anything with those runners is another story.

This matchup seems to favor the Cubs, though so did the last three in Pittsburgh. We’ll find out whether a return to Chicago has roused them from their funk when the first pitch is thrown at 7:10pm CT on Marquee, NBC Sports Chicago, ESPN2 (out-of-market only), 670 The Score, and WGN 720.

If you get fed up with the Antiques Roadshow segments, celebrations of Trevor Bauer, or talk of the ’27 Yankees on Marquee, Steve Stone and Jason Benetti make for a really fun experience.

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