Chicago Cubs Lineup (9/12/19): Rizzo Leads Off, Happ at 2B, Hoerner at SS, Darvish Playing Stopper

So, uh, this is fun. The Cubs have somehow continued to lose ground to the Brewers despite Christian Yelich going down with a broken kneecap. They’ve failed to gain ground on the Cardinals, who’ve lost two in a row to the Rockies, which means they’re four games back in the division and tied for the second Wild Card spot.

That tends to happen when you can’t keep your opponent from scoring nine runs one game and then you don’t score at all the next. Maybe today’s lineup can do better. It starts with Anthony Rizzo reprising his role as the Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All Time, followed by Nicholas Castellanos in right and Kyle Schwarber in left.

Kris Bryant is batting cleanup, Victor Caratini is behind the plate, Jason Heyward is in center, then Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner comprise the middle infield. As long as Happ doesn’t fire the ball into left field, it should be okay. If you’re worried about Willson Contreras being out, just remember that he normally catches Yu Darvish.

Watch for how Bryant handles high heat, something that has been a real issue for him this season. The inability to maintain proper balance due to pain in his right knee had really diminished his ability to catch up to those fastballs, but he’s looked much better in two games since receiving a cortisone injection.

They’ll be facing Dinelson Lamet, a 27-year-old righty who’s making just his 12th start of the season after missing all of 2018 due to elbow reconstruction. Some Cubs fans may recall Lamet’s name being mentioned in trade rumors involving Javy Báez, though just how serious any of that got we don’t really know.

While no one in Cubdom (well, maybe some of the folks on the fringe) is upset about that deal not coming to fruition, watching the Cubs against Lamet could get frustrating. He’s putting up 11.68 K/9 over 57 innings and can touch the high 90’s with a nasty wipeout slider to back it up, so get ready to see a lot of breaking balls.

The slider makes up roughly 44% of Lamet’s pitches, but that jumps to over 60% when he gets to two strikes. That can result in a lot of strikeouts and also a few cement mixers when he doesn’t get things right. The Cubs should be able to take their walks and they can run Lamet’s count up if they utilize a patient approach, now it’s just a matter of making it work.

Darvish has been the Cubs’ best pitcher in the second half and they need him to be that this afternoon. There really isn’t much more to say other than the Cubs can’t afford to keep losing games to teams they need to beat. Or, you know, any teams. And maybe Theo Epstein won’t have to be embarrassed about this lineup.

First pitch is at 2:40pm CT, a merciful and necessary departure from the three previous late-night affairs. You can catch the action on NBC Sports Chicago and 670 The Score.

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