Chicago Cubs Lineup (6/26/19): Almora Leads Off, Bryant in LF, Darvish Seeks Rare Decision

Joe Maddon always says he likes to put struggling players in the leadoff spot to spark their production, which is exactly what he’s doing with Albert Almora Jr. Out of many possibilities among those Cubs in need of serious improvement at the plate, Almora has dropped off appreciably in June as his hard-contact rate has plummeted.

Kris Bryant bats second in left as Kyle Schwarber gets a break, Anthony Rizzo is at first base, and Javy Báez cleans up at short. Willson Contreras catches, Jason Heyward is in right, Addison Russell is at second, and David Bote takes over for Bryant at the hot corner.

Dallas Keuchel was rushed back to active duty, starting last week against the Nationals less than three weeks after signing with the Braves. The 31-year-old lefty didn’t look very sharp, which is to be expected, and he leaned more heavily on his sinker and cutter than usual. That meant fewer changeups and sliders, presumably because he hadn’t really established a feel for them.

However, the offspeed and breaking offerings actually scored out best for Keuchel in that start, so look for him to throw more of them against the Cubs. Keuchel actually made it through five innings and threw 99 pitches, though he’s not likely to go very deep in this game. Shoot, I just ruined it.

Even though he didn’t walk any Nats in that first start, the pitch count is evidence that he wasn’t very efficient. What’s more, a mere three strikeouts tells us he wasn’t putting batters away. Of course, his MO is more about getting grounders and soft contact, just like the prototypical crafty lefty.

Keuchel has traditionally been a pitch-to-contact guy who will try to throw early strikes and then live low and at the fringes. The Cubs will want to be looking for those fat pitches earlier in counts before shifting into patient mode to make Keuchel work. There’s really no reason they shouldn’t be able to get over on him, which is why the dude will probably throw a Maddux.

Yu Darvish has not earned a decision one way or the other since getting the win on April 27 in Arizona, a stretch of 10 starts. That includes four starts in which he’s allowed at least four earned runs and five in which he’s allowed two or fewer. How that has resulted in a no-decision each time is baffling.

Perhaps the righty will finally change that tonight, or maybe we’ll see him run his decisionless streak to a record 11 games. You know what we be really great? Seeing him shove while the offense scores a bunch of runs and the bullpen doesn’t give up the lead. Yeah, that would be neat.

First pitch from Wrigley is at 7:05pm CT on WGN, MLB Network (out-of-market) and 670 The Score.

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