The Cubs had a rare Friday off following Thursday’s iconic Field of Dreams matchup with the Reds, but now they’re back at it in Cincy. Something tells me the vibe won’t be quite as strong, but there might be almost as many people in the stands.
Nick Madrigal has been swinging a hot bat with the benefit of a little good fortune and he’s atop the order tonight at second base. Willson Contreras is the catcher, Ian Happ is in left, and Seiya Suzuki is in right. Franmil Reyes is the DH, Nico Hoerner is at short, Patrick Wisdom is at first, and Nelson Velázquez is in center. Zach McKinstry rounds things out at third.
Adrian Sampson is on the mound for the Cubs, which means they’ll probably be in the game through at least five innings. The righty has been really good at limiting home runs, though that caught up to him in his last start and it’s something to watch for moving forward. Even though he’s made some tweaks to become a more effective pitcher, the reduction in homers has felt a little too good to be true.
Going for the Reds is 24-year-old rookie Graham Ashcraft, who is making his 15th career start and second against the Cubs this season. He got shelled back on June 30 at Wrigley, giving up seven runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out just one in 2.1 innings of work. That was easily his worst start of the season and he’s found a groove lately with just one earned run in his last 14 innings.
Ashcraft doesn’t miss many bats and both his 5.85 K/9 and 15.% K-rate rank 112th out of 116 pitchers with at least 80 innings this season. He gets a lot of grounders, though, and his 52.6% groundball rate is actually 18 points lower than he was getting in Triple-A.
That’s kind of a weird profile for a guy who sits 97 with both the sinker and the cutter, but it may be a matter of throwing too many strikes and not having enough deception to get swings and misses. While the sinker has been a good pitch for Ashcraft this season, the cutter he throws about half the time has gotten tagged. His slider isn’t much better and he goes to that for nearly 30% of his pitches.
Far be it for me to suggest he tweak his pitch mix, but it might be time to make changes if 80% of your repertoire has been worth -8 runs. The sinker and change, on the other hand, have saved 7 runs despite accounting for so few total pitches. As long as the Cubs can time him up, this should be a winnable game.
First pitch is at 5:40pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 13, 2022