Chicago Cubs Lineup: Rizzo Leads Off, Heyward Cleans Up, Bote Fifth, Hendricks Pitching

Anthony Rizzo leads off, Javy Baez is batting and playing second, Ben Zobrist is in right, and Jason Heyward is the cleanup hitter in center. Go figure. David Bote bats fifth and plays third, Kyle Schwarber is in left, Willson Contreras is catching, and Addison Russell is at short.

Kyle Hendricks has given up at least two earned runs in each of his last five games, but there are some encouraging results when it comes to his strikeout numbers. With 23 K’s over his last 17.2 innings (11.7 K/9), Hendricks is generating some serious whiffs over the last three starts. That’s not likely to continue against a Nationals team near the bottom of the league in strikeouts (20.9 percent), but you never know.

Jeremy Hellickson will be making his 17th start of what has quietly been a really solid season. Though overshadowed by Max Scherzer and hampered by an inability to pitch deep into games, Hellickson has pitched really well for the Nats.

His 1.49 walks per nine innings is among the four lowest such marks in baseball (min. 70 innings) and his 70.1 percent first-strike rate is third in that same group. The problem is, he has completed six innings only twice while failing to complete five innings on five other occasions.

Hellickson doesn’t give up many homers, but he is prone to allowing plenty of hits. How could he not when he throws so many strikes? The key to beating the 31-year-old righty is to jump on him early in the count. He’s basically going to throw either a fastball or change on that first pitch and, as we saw above, he’s usually going to throw it in the zone.

After that, things get a little less certain. Hellickson employs primarily a sinker/change/curve combo and he’s equally comfortable throwing the breaking and offspeed stuff to batters on either side of the plate. And even though righties have posted a better batting average against him this season, wOBA splits are only seven points apart.

I’m not saying the Cubs won’t get going against him right away, but this feels like one of those games with the potential to drive fans crazy. Hellickson is a mosquito of a pitcher who barely touches 90 and who’ll toss that first strike before buzzing just out of the zone after that. Prepare to be frustrated for a while as the Cubs feel him out, but know that Hellickson tires easily and becomes very hittable the second time through the order.

First pitch from Wrigley is at 1:20pm CT and can be seen on NBC Sports Chicago or MLB Network.

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