The Cubs haven’t won a series since opening the season against the Pirates, but they have a chance to turn that around against a Mets team that hasn’t scored many runs. That starts with Ian Happ in center, followed by Willson Contreras behind the plate, Anthony Rizzo at first, and Kris Bryant at third.
Joc Pederson is in left, Javy Báez is at short, Jason Heyward is in right, and Eric Sogard is at second. David Bote was originally in the lineup but was scratched due to an upset stomach, so Sogard gets another game with his .342 OPS.
Jake Arrieta took the loss in his last start despite another solid effort that was all for naught as the Cubs failed to provide him any support. The Mets are only scoring 3.36 runs per game through 11 games, slightly more anemic than the Cubs, so you have to think Arrieta will keep his team in it.
Taijuan Walker split last season between Seattle and Toronto, posting a career-best 2.70 ERA that may have been a little bit of a mirage. His 5.07 xERA, 4.56 FIP, and 4.82 xFIP were all more than twice as high and his .243 BABIP allowed was over 40 points lower than his career average going into last season.
That said, his early results show no indication that the more common numbers were lying. Walker has struck out 12 while allowing just three runs through 10.1 innings over two starts this season. He has also walked five, so a patient team like the Cubs might be able to take advantage when they’re not busy swinging and missing.
Walker’s fastball is up to 95 mph, harder than ever, but he’s throwing it less as he goes to the sinker far more often than in the past. His slider makes up nearly a quarter of his offerings and it’s his best in terms of per-pitch value. The splitter hasn’t been seen nearly as much through two starts, so it’s possible he could break that out as something of an offspeed pitch in this one.
An even-split pitcher for the most part, Walker has had decent success against these Cubs hitters in the past. While they hold a .315 average against him, they’re only reaching base at a .340 clip with a .697 OPS. Not exactly what you want to see from such a “homer-dependent” offense.
First pitch from Wrigley is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 20, 2021