Chicago Cubs Lineup (4/21/24): Hoerner Leads Off, Busch Batting Cleanup, Hendricks on Mound

The Cubs should probably be going for the sweep this afternoon, which is actually a more common occurrence than splitting a four-game series, but the early game yesterday concluded with yet another late loss. A lot of folks are making this a referendum on Craig Counsell vs. David Ross or on Jed Hoyer’s decision to stay away from big-money bullpen additions, and I suppose those are fine thought exercises if you don’t want to go outside and touch grass.

At the end of the day, scoring only two runs in any game against any opponent is going to put you in jeopardy of losing. Offense is naturally going to be hard to come by with Cody Bellinger, Seiya Suzuki, Ian Happ, and Michael Busch all out of the lineup, so I might suggest avoiding leaning so heavily into platoons. It also helps to have everyone healthy.

In any case, the Cubs have a chance to take three of four with a win in the finale. That’s not going to be easy because Kyle Hendricks has been nothing short of awful through his first four starts. He has to be better, much better, or the Cubs are going to have a very difficult decision when it comes to his role on the roster.

Nico Hoerner plays second and remains in the leadoff spot with Happ still on the bench due to a tight hammy, then it’s Bellinger in center and Christopher Morel at third. Busch bats cleanup and mans first, Dansby Swanson is at short, Garrett Cooper is the DH, and Mike Tauchman is in right. Miguel Amaya is the catcher and Alexander Canario bats ninth in left.

They’re up against Edward Cabrera, who is starting in place of the originally scheduled Ryan Weathers. That makes it a little difficult for me because I had prepped a report based on the probable pitchers from the start of the series. I also just got back from watching The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, which is an excellent movie that I highly advise you to check out at your leisure.

Cabrera is a big righty who has struggled through a series of injuries that have limited him to just 203.2 MLB innings since his debut in 2021. He’s capable of putting up big strikeout numbers, as evidenced by 10 Ks in six innings last week against the Giants, plus the entirety of his professional career. As we so often see with hard-throwing strikeout guys, however, Cabrera has also been prone to issuing more than a few walks.

His fastball sits just a skosh under 97 mph, but it sits third behind a very firm changeup and sharp curve in terms of usage. And though the numbers could be subject to change due to the small sample, Cabrera has favored the change in the past as well. It sits about 93 mph, so right about the same velo as a league-average heater, and tends to live much higher in the zone than you’d expect from an offspeed pitch.

The same is true for his curveball, which sits 84-85 and stays in the middle to the arm side with a little more depth at times. Given the way he throws those two “secondaries,” you’d expect him to live up in the zone with the four-seamer as well. You’d be wrong. The fastball works middle-down, though he’s prone to spraying it around more than he should.

Cabrera also has a slider at around 89 mph and it’s been effective in limited usage. The changeup has made him very dangerous against lefties, so we’re back to that platoon thing to an extent. I do like having Cooper in there at DH for that very reason, so perhaps Counsell isn’t tied to handedness.

First pitch is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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