The Cubs have scored three runs in their last 33 innings and just five in their last 37, never scoring more than one run in any of those innings. That’s not good. The whole team just seems to be in a mental funk right now, epitomized by Kyle Schwarber being benched last night for lackadaisical effort on a ball in the corner that ended up as a triple for Jake Cave.
There’s no better way to shake things up than with a get-right game, and the Cubs have four of them starting with tonight in Pittsburgh. You’ll probably hear a lot about Ian Happ being a Yinzer when he bats leadoff and plays center in his old hometown. Anthony Rizzo bats second at first, Willson Contreras is catching, and Schwarber is is left.
Kris Bryant bats fifth at third base, Jason Heyward is in right, Javy Báez plays short, Jason Kipnis is at second, and Victor Caratini is the DH. Raise your hand if you saw this lineup coming a couple months ago.
Jon Lester got a little choked up after his most recent start, which no one had realized at the time might have been his last at Wrigley as a Cub. The team may be open to a reunion, though the terms of such a deal haven’t been discussed and would have to come at a discounted rate. In any case, Lester has a chance to push his team closer to the postseason with a win over a Pirates squad that roughed him up at the start of the month.
Going for the Pirates is a JT Brubaker, a 26-year-old righty who has baffled the Cubs in two appearances this season. He has allowed just one earned run with eight strikeouts and three walks over eight innings, though he’s also given up eight hits. Other than a disastrous start against the White Sox that saw him surrender seven earned, Brubaker has been pretty solid.
He will run it up there around 95 mph in order to set up his breaking stuff and other secondaries, particularly the slider he throws 35% of the time. His sinker and four-seam haven’t been very effective, but the slider and change — which he only throws occasionally — have positive value.
Despite pretty big strikeout numbers (9.90 K/9), Brubaker doesn’t actually get a lot of swinging strikes. He likes to get ahead in the count with his hard stuff before using the slider to get whiffs, which means the Cubs should be able to get to him early if they’re sitting fastball. If they continue with their typical passive approach, this could end up being a long night.
Brubaker should give up plenty of contact, it’s just a matter of stringing hits together and actually pushing some runs across early. First pitch tonight is at 6:05pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
Jon Lester opens a four-game set in Pittsburgh! pic.twitter.com/AZaZ11GXwY
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 21, 2020