Chicago Cubs Lineup (7/20/19): Almora Leads Off, Bryant in RF, Garcia in LF, Quintana Starting

If anyone else understands what Joe Maddon is doing, please feel free to let me know (except not really). Albert Almora Jr. is in the leadoff spot for the third straight game as Kyle Schwarber sits against another lefty starter. Perhaps Almora can break out of a funk that has seen him go 1-for-8 with four strikeouts in the previous two games while he’s posted a .235 OBP over the last month.

Javy Báez bats second at short, Kris Bryant is in right, and Anthony Rizzo mans first. Robel Garcia gets the start in left, where he’s played a total of 45 innings as a professional, with Victor Caratini behind the plate, Addison Russell at second, and David Bote at third.

The turn from 8-1 in the order could look a little rough if trends continue, since Bote has been absolutely staggered by high fastballs over the last month or more. I’m very much looking forward to being proven wrong, but I don’t like this lineup. At all.

On the mound for the Padres is Joey Lucchesi, who’ll try not to be fugazi as he faces the Cubs for the second time in his young career. The 26-year-old southpaw registered nine strikeouts against no walks on August 5 last year, getting a no-decision in the Padres’ 10-6 win. He’s been solid this season, though nothing about his performance really jumps out as scary.

A big-time sinker-baller, Lucchesi goes to the 91 mph two-seam about half the time and sets it off with an 80 mph change that makes up a third of his pitches. That offspeed pitch is straight filthy, generating 11 runs of value to rank sixth among all qualified pitchers. And he’s comfortable throwing it to lefties, using just as often as he does to righties. It’s also his primary out-pitch to all batters.

Lucchesi will throw the sinker early to get ahead, but he’s one of those pitcher’s-strike guys who will try to get swings on borderline offerings. He’s allowed less hard contact than last season, which goes against league trends, and is working the zone less often as well. And he’s only posting 2.50 BB/9, which means hitters are taking the bait.

We see that a lot with pitchers who don’t have elite velocity, since batters think they can jump on those pitches. Then they end up beating the ball into the ground or popping up weakly because they just missed. That was the case both times the Cubs faced Ivan Nova, who consistently fooled them into bad swings and never let them find a groove.

Lucchesi has nearly identical platoon splits, but he’s been much worse on the road and has had a lot more trouble with lefties when pitching away from Petco. Huh, we saw that with Friday starter Eric Lauer as well. Maybe there’s something to that, so keep an eye out for it.

Q stands for quality, and that’s what José Quintana has been over his last three starts. He hasn’t been dominant by any stretch, but he’s done enough to keep the Cubs in the game long enough for the bats to take over. That isn’t going to be easy on what figures to be a blistering afternoon, so he will need to be efficient and throw early strikes in this one.

First pitch is set for 1:20pm CT on ABC-7 and 670 The Score.

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