Ben Zobrist leads in right field and Jason Heyward slides over to play center in this one. Javy Baez will again bat third and play second, Anthony Rizzo cleans up, and Ian Happ mans the hot corner. Kyle Schwarber is in left, Vic Caratini catches, and Addison Russell finishes things up at short.
The outfield configuration is interesting, but Joe Maddon’s goal in this one was to get as many lefties in the lineup as possible. Well, as many without removing either Baez or Russell. Six of the Cubs’ eight position players will bat from the left side, move that makes sense given the splits (see below).
Tyler Chatwood…yeah. I’ve given up on trying to predict what we’ll see from the bearded righty and have determined that the only reasonable solution is to strap in and somehow hope to enjoy the inevitable bumpy ride. He was able to stifle the Reds in his first start of the season, though that was under decidedly different weather conditions and he walked six men in the process.
Going for the Reds is Matt Harvey, who has seemingly rediscovered the form that made him one of the best pitchers in baseball over the first half of this decade. His velocity is up significantly since being traded out of New York, with his fastball sitting 94-95 these days.
As the Cubs saw two weeks ago, those extra ticks really help to set off his slider and change. That latter offering was something of a surprise since the pitch has been really finicky for Harvey this season. The slider has easily been his best pitch, though he doesn’t utilize it in the same manner we’re used to seeing with most pitchers.
Rather than lean on it as an out pitch, Harvey will throw it with almost identical frequency in any count. That’s particularly true when he’s facing righties, with lefties actually getting a few more sliders when they fall behind. Lefties also see far more curves and changes, righties get more of a fastball/slider mix.
The Cubs last faced Harvey in Cincinnati, where he’s pitched much better this season. His road numbers aren’t nearly as good, with opposing hitters slashing .295/.342/.497 with a .356 wOBA over nearly 36 innings. Lefties have done most of the damage, hitting .275/.339/.503 with a .359 wOBA overall against him and .330/.370/.598 with a .405 wOBA when he’s in a road uniform.
The 29-year-old isn’t nearly the strikeout artist he once was, but his 6.69 K/9 is nice enough to get the job done. It’s also three times higher than his walk number, so the Cubs can’t stand to be too patient in this one. Harvey will give up a lot of fly balls and hard contact, so getting a few of those through the wind could really spark an outburst.
First pitch is set for 1:20pm ET and can be consumed on NBC Sports Chicago or 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 7, 2018