Chicago Cubs Lineup (7/13/22): Ortega Leads Off, Morel Bats Last, Steele Makes First Start as Dad

The lowly Cubs fell to the mighty Orioles Tuesday night as Brandon Hyde‘s once-worthless squad racked up its ninth straight win to push every team in the AL East to .500 or better. This is just a two-game series, so the Cubs can earn a split while stopping both a streak and a skid with a Wednesday win. They’ll try to do so behind lefty Justin Steele, who is making his first start as a father.

Channeling some of that big dad energy into his outing could see the southpaw putting up an excellent performance, as he’s been pitching well lately. Steele has allowed just one earned run in four of his last six starts and he’s gone six or more innings in three of those. The Orioles are near the bottom of MLB when it comes to hitting lefties, so the matchup looks like a good one for the Cubs.

The same can’t be said for the home team’s hitters against 29-year-old righty Spenser Watkins. Though his numbers are far from spectacular over 11 starts this season, Watkins has been money over three starts since being called back up in late June. He’s allowed just two earned runs with 12 strikeouts and three walks over 17.2 innings, a distinct turnaround from his early results.

Watkins isn’t a big groundball or strikeout pitcher and I’m struggling to figure out he’s doing so well recently. His 92 mph fastball isn’t blowing anyone away and his cutter is decent but far from great. He gets the best results from the slider he throws less than 20% of the time, but his curve and change have generated negative value with a combined 18% usage. That fastball is around 40% and the cutter is about 24%, though he’s been throwing it a lot more over those three starts.

The answer might just be a combination of good location and better luck, with Watkins simply avoiding barrels and getting batters to hit it to the right spots. He hasn’t given up a homer in that time, though he’s allowed five on the season and might be due for one. All of those dingers have come from righties and he’s been a reverse-split guy throughout his career, so maybe the Cubs can catch a mistake or two.

Rafael Ortega will try to do just that as the leadoff man and designated hitter, then it’s Willson Contreras at catcher and Ian Happ in left. Seiya Suzuki is in right, Nico Hoerner is at short, Patrick Wisdom is at third, and Alfonso Rivas is at first. Nelson Velázquez gets the start in center and Christopher Morel is at second.

First pitch is set for 7:05pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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