Joc Pederson is leading off in left, followed by Kris Bryant in yet another position other than third base. The Cubs’ best hitter hasn’t been at the hot corner in two weeks now, this time spelling Anthony Rizzo at first. Javy Báez is at short, Willson Contreras is catching, and Jason Heyward is in right. David Bote handles second, Matt Duffy is at third, and Jake Marisnick is in center.
Adbert Alzolay is on the bump as he attempts to follow up on a masterful performance that saw him play stopper in Atlanta. The righty’s slider and two-seam have taken over as go-to pitches after being incorporated on the fly last year, so watch how he’s got them working tonight. That sinker is particularly nasty when he uses it to front-door lefty batters.
Dodgers starter Walker Buehler got Monday off due to inclement weather and is now the only thing standing between his team and a sweep. Contrary to his first name, Buehler has long displayed excellent control and he’s off to a tremendous start to the season with just two bases on balls in 31.1 innings. He loves to attack with first-pitch strikes and he works in the zone more than most pitchers.
Buehler’s fastball velocity still sits around 96 mph, but he’s throwing his hard stuff less than ever. That’s due almost exclusively to a drop in his sinker usage, with most of the surplus being allocated to his curveball. Whether that’s a direct correlation, perhaps something he or the Dodgers saw in his sequencing, I’m not sure.
After grading out as one of his worst pitches last season, the sinker is one of his best this year. The curve, however, remains a work in progress and hasn’t served as much of a weapon against left-handed batters. In fact, lefties are batting .294 with an .862 OPS and .371 wOBA so far this season. Righties are hitting just .194 with a .463 OPS and .200 wOBA, so they clearly aren’t seeing the ball well.
That should start to even out a bit soon because Buehler has historically pitched to almost even splits, so perhaps the Cubs can get over on him if they get this game in. This group of hitters has actually done really well against the Dodgers righty in the past, though most of that experience came two or more years ago. Given his propensity for throwing strikes, this could be a good matchup for Bryant and others to go up there hunting fastballs.
To wit, Buehler has given up a homer in four of five starts and has allowed at least four hits in each start. Weather permitting, first pitch is set for 6:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 5, 2021