Daniel Murphy once again leads off at second base and his continued production forces Joe Maddon to continue moving the other pieces around the board. Javy Baez shifts over to third base, Anthony Rizzo holds down first, and Kris Bryant cleans up in right field again. That latter move is made possible by Jason Heyward’s absence, so it’ll be really interesting to see how things work later in the month.
Kyle Schwarber bats fifth in left, Addison Russell is back in there at short, and Victor Caratini is catching. Ian Happ bats last in center with the hope that he can break out of his funk and give the Cubs some pop at the bottom of the lineup.
Cole Hamels has a 0.69 ERA and has struck out over three times as many batters as he walked in six starts with the Cubs. He’s already got a 3-0 record against the NL Central as a member of his new team, but this will be his first start against either the Brewers or Cardinals since the trade. A win in this one would throw even more salt on the division lead.
Facing the Cubs will be Zach Davies, who’s making his first start since going on the DL May 29 with a shoulder injury. The slight righty had been having arguably the worst season of his career to that point, posting a 5.23 ERA and 5.29 FIP with 3.59 BB/9 and 1.47 HR/9 marks.
He wasn’t much better during his AAA rehab efforts, going 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA over five starts. And while those results are hardly what matters, Davies allowing 18 hits and walking 13 men over 17 innings isn’t indicative of solid performance. The Cubs would be quite happy if he maintained that kind of pitching this afternoon.
Though this is only Davies’ ninth MLB start this season, it’ll be his third against the Cubs. The first two of those saw him pitch pretty well, allowing a total of three earned runs on five hits and five walks with 11 strikeouts.
I’m interested to see how the 25-year-old is throwing early and what’s happening with his command. Much like Kyle Hendricks, he lacks elite velocity and relies on location to get his outs. But Davies isn’t as sharp as Hendricks and his only real weapon is the sinker. His curve, cutter, and change have all produced negative value this season and he’ll be in trouble is he’s not dotting the lower part of the zone.
Prior to his injury, Davies had been giving up more hard contact than ever before and had been terrorized equally by hitters from both sides of the plate. Righties have more homers against him, lefties have far more doubles and draw more walks. That bodes well for the Cubs, particularly Kris Bryant, who has a 1.126 OPS in 33 at-bats against Davies.
First pitch from Miller Park is at 1:10pm CT on WGN and 670 The Score.
Here is today's #Cubs Labor Day lineup in Milwaukee.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 3, 2018