Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/3/24): Hoerner Leads Off, Mervis DH, Wesneski Starting

The Cubs are back home after a disappointing road trip that saw them barely squeak out a split in New York. Getting walked off isn’t a fun way to leave town, especially when your roster is still heavily depleted by injuries and your division-leading rivals are coming to see you. The NL Central won’t be won or lost this weekend, but the Cubs can make a statement one way or the other depending on how they play.

Hayden Wesneski gets the task of starting the series off well as he makes his second start of the season. He went four innings against the Red Sox, getting the no-decision in the first of two walk-off losses during the road trip. The outing was solid but unspectacular with two runs (one earned) allowed on five hits. He had three strikeouts to one walk as he continues to work in the zone with high frequency, though I’d like to see more whiffs.

You know Weneski is going to give up contact and probably won’t go deep in this one, so the offense really needs to do something early. That’s much easier said than done given all the missing regulars, but perhaps a little home cooking and a favorable matchup will help.

Nico Hoerner leads off at second base, then it’s Mike Tauchman in right and Ian Happ in left. Christopher Morel is at third, Michael Busch is across the diamond, Dansby Swanson is back at short, Matt Mervis is the DH, Miguel Amaya handles the catching duties, and Pete Crow-Armstrong is in center.

They’re facing Joe Ross, one of a number of Brewers pitchers who seem to find new life in Milwaukee after being written off. Ross hadn’t played in the big leagues since 2021 with the Nationals and only pitched 80 total innings between 2018-20. Interestingly enough, his first of only three starts in that ’18 season came against the Cubs. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries and the numbers aren’t great, but Ross feels like a guy who will sting you if you look past him.

Of note, his fastball and sinker are sitting right around 95 mph so far, harder than ever before in his career. His 91 mph changeup is likewise firmer, though he doesn’t throw it often and it hasn’t worked too well. The slider is thrown 86-87 mph and he goes to it as often as his sinker, which isn’t great because he’s not locating it well. Hitters should just spit on it when they see spin because the ball doesn’t find the zone often enough to be dangerous. Or at least that’s been the case.

Ross has pitched to traditional splits in the past but has some reverse action going on this year, perhaps because none of his secondaries are working well. He’s done a good job of missing bats, but doesn’t get many called strikes and can’t finish batters as well as he needs to in order to be more successful. Keeping the ball in the yard helps, so the Cubs may need to go station-to-station this afternoon.

First pitch of this Counsel vs. Ross battle is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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