Update: Javier Báez tested out his thumb and it’s good to go, so he’s in the lineup batting cleanup and playing short. Wisdom and Rizzo have been swapped in the order and everyone else drops down a spot.
The All-Star break can’t get here soon enough, but the Cubs first have to tangle with the Cardinals to see which team heads into the second half in fourth place. Fun times. Willson Contreras is catching and leading off with a lefty on the mound, followed by Anthony Rizzo at first and Patrick Wisdom at third. Jake Marisnick is in center, Joc Pederson is in left, Nico Hoerner is at second, Jason Heyward is in right, and Sergio Alcántara is at short.
Kyle Hendricks is 2-0 with three earned runs allowed over 12.2 innings against the Cards this season and he’ll need to be at least that good to get a win in this one. With just one homer surrendered in his last four starts combined, Hendricks appears to have corrected his biggest issue from the first several weeks of the season, though he’s still had odd bouts of control issues from time to time.
Going for the Cards is 36-year-old lefty Wade LeBlanc, who’s starting his fourth game of the year and third for the Cards in just over three weeks with the team. This is LeBlanc’s fourth organization of the season and 13th overall since 2008, which seems like a pretty solid argument for forcing your child to throw left-handed. Dude has managed to knock around for well over a decade without a big fastball or good stuff.
LeBlanc’s heat sits right around 88 mph, though he favors the sinker he throws with the same velo. His 85 mph cutter is a decent pitch and he throws it more than anything else these days, then there’s the changeup that comes in around 80 mph. The offspeed used to be his go-to, but it’s only moderately effective and serves more to keep right-handed hitters honest.
Though he’s traditionally pitched to mild reverse splits, LeBlanc has been a little tougher on left-handed batters so far this season. He’s also been much better on the road, though we’re only talking about 12.1 innings of work as a visitor to this point.
The long and short of it is this: LeBlanc is not a very good pitcher and there’s absolutely no reason for the Cubs not to tee off this afternoon. He throws a lot of strikes because he doesn’t have the stuff to get hitters out with pitches off the plate, so it should be open season. Seriously, his 25.2% called-plus-swinging strike percentage is tied for 359th out of all MLB pitchers with at least 20 innings this season.
If the Cubs lose this one, I’d suggest you practice self-care and don’t bother with the rest of the weekend. First pitch is set for 1:20pm CT on Marquee Sports Network — which you can watch on fuboTV with a free trial — and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 9, 2021