The Cubs opened their series against the Phillies with a tight win highlighted by Marcus Stroman‘s pitching and a homer from Christopher Morel. They’re probably going to need to score more than two runs in this one if they want to get another W, because the Philly offense has some thunder and they’ve got their ace on the mound to keep the Cubs at bay.
Aaron Nola is having what may be the best season of his career so far, though his performance in ’18 might have something to say about that. The 29-year-old righty has spent his entire career in Philly and has been a consistent force at the top of the rotation for the better part of eight seasons now. Though he’s not a power guy, his 93 mph fastball has maintained its velo and he locates it incredibly well.
The same can be said for his sinker, which he throws only slightly slower and with about half the frequency of his four-seam. Nola has always been a big strike-thrower and that starts with the first pitch, which finds the zone at a 70% clip that leads MLB. His 3.8% walk rate is only to Corey Kluber (3.0%), though Nola has walked two or more in three of his last four starts.
It would probably be best for the Cubs to go up there looking to do damage right away, because Nola has a great curveball that he can unleash when he gets ahead. Not that he needs to be ahead, mind you, since he’s comfortable throwing it in any count. This is a man who can hit his spots with just about everything, leading to a 19.7% called-strike rate that is second only to Adam Wainwright (21.1%).
With nothing to lose and knowing Nola is going to be in the zone early and often, the Cubs need to be on the offensive right out of the gate in this one.
Zach McKinstry leads off at third, Esteban Quiroz is at second, and Willson Contreras is the DH again tonight. Ian Happ cleans up in left, Nico Hoerner is at short, Patrick Wisdom is at first, and Yan Gomes is the catcher. Alfonso Rivas is at first and Christopher Morel plays center to round out the lineup.
On the mound for the home team is rookie righty Hayden Wesneski, whose early performance has wowed Cubs fans. This will be his third start, the first two of which have gone more than six innings. Wesneski has struck out 24 with just four walks across his four total appearances so far, showcasing a nasty slider that makes batters look silly. He works quickly and has a great mound presence, so this should be a fun one to watch for that alone.
First pitch is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 28, 2022