Chicago Cubs Lineup (8/18/19): Heyward Leads Off, Kemp at 2B, Quintana Starts Little League Classic

The Cubs got a split in Pittsburgh, but they’ve still got one more game to go with the Pirates over in Williamsport, PA. Both teams will be wearing special jerseys for the Little League Classic, which will be played in front of thousands of young baseball players and their families.

Jason Heyward leads off in center with Nicholas Castellanos in right, Kris Bryant at third, and Anthony Rizzo at first. Javy Báez mans short, Kyle Schwarber is in left, Victor Caratini is catching, and Tony Kemp is at second.

The Pirates will send rookie Mitch Keller to the mound to make his fifth start in an attempt to lower an unsightly 7.94 ERA. The 23-year-old righty has looked a lot better in his two most recent outings after giving up six runs apiece in his first two, but his command has been spotty and he’s given up a lot of hits.

Keller has been tagged for just one home run despite a mere 31% groundball rate, though he’s gotten better at keeping the ball out the air with each start. Armed with a big fastball that sits 96 mph, Keller will try to fool hitters with a slider and curve. Righties see a lot of the former, lefties the latter, with a few changeups peppered in there early as well.

That fastball is going be thrown early and often, and very frequently in the zone, so the Cubs may want to be sitting dead red. Keller really doesn’t change his strategy against righties, who are only slightly more likely to get breaking pitches later in the count. Against lefties, however, Keller uses the curve as a strikeout pitch.

As a result, the young pitcher has pitched to pretty significant reverse splits so far. The batting averages against him are astronomical for all hitters, but righties have racked up a .979 OPS and .408 wOBA to this point. The Cubs should be able to beat the hell out of this guy and they are surely ready to get something going after a disappointing road trip.

One of the bigger shortcomings of the last nine games came when José Quintana’s teammates couldn’t make his career-high 14 strikeouts stand up. He isn’t likely to put up that kind of performance again, but Q is absolutely capable of shoving. If the Cubs perform as they should on offense, it shouldn’t even matter.

First pitch is at 6:10pm CT on ESPN and 670 The Score.

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