The Cubs head into this game at 11-11 in July and need a win to avoid their second consecutive losing month (14-15 in June) for the first time since the opening months of the 2014 season. Playing sub-.500 baseball for any significant period of time is simply not acceptable, but that’s what the Cubs have done for the last two months.
They’ll do it with a new look that features Jason Heyward leading off in right against a righty (finally!), followed by Willson Contreras at catcher and Kris Bryant at third. Anthony Rizzo is at first, Javy Báez is at short, Ian Happ is in center, Kyle Schwarber is in left, and David Bote is at second.
Heyward may have expressed a little trepidation about hitting in the leadoff spot in the past, but he’s a good option there against righties. Now maybe we’ll see Contreras up there against lefties and the Cubs can take a little more advantage of some higher OBP.
They’ll be facing Miles Mikolas, who faced the Cubs twice in a row back in late May and early June. He did in both of those games what he has been wont to do during his time in St. Louis, mainly keeping the Cubs at bay by generating poor contact with pitcher’s strikes. The Cubs only struck out seven times while drawing four walks, but 55% of their contact was beaten into the ground.
Mikolas went a little heavier on the slider in the first outing, then threw more curves in the second, perhaps as a way to keep the Cubs off-balance. That’s been an effective strategy against them this season, but perhaps things turn around in this one against a guy who’s allowed at least three earned runs in four of his last five starts.
If the Cubs can jump on a mistake or two out of the gate, they can set the tone and finally get over on Mikolas.
Kyle Hendricks is coming off of an excellent start in which he was lifted early after shutting the Brewers out on two hits through five innings. The offense let him down in that one, just as we’ve seen with Jon Lester and Yu Darvish even more recently, so a little run support would be a nice touch in this one.
First pitch from St. Louis is at 7:15pm CT on WGN, ESPN, and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 31, 2019