Chicago Cubs Lineup (4/23/21): Contreras Leads Off, KB in LF, Hoerner at 2B, Hendricks Trying to Rebound

Well this is an interesting lineup. Willson Contreras leads off at catcher, followed by Kris Bryant in left, Anthony Rizzo at first, and Javy Báez cleaning up at short. David Bote is at third, Jason Heyward is in right, Jake Marisnick is in center, and Nico Hoerner makes his first start of the season at second.

Of note, this is Bryant’s third consecutive start in the outfield and fourth overall this season. And though I’m a day late in mentioning it, Hoerner being up to replace Joc Pederson on the roster is further evidence that his initial demotion was not service-time related. It’s also worth pointing out that Marisnick has looked really good and deserves more playing time, especially with Ian Happ scuffling.

Kyle Hendricks has not looked great this season, but his only good start out of three so far came against the Brewers a little over two weeks ago. He went six strong in that one, striking out six with one walk and shutting the Crew out on just four hits. It’s entirely conceivable he could do the same in this one, particularly as the visitors roll into town with a lineup depleted by injury.

Going for Milwaukee is old friend Brett Anderson, who has been stellar outside of his first start of the season against the Cubs. He was actually cruising along in that one until he allowed four runs on three homers in the 4th inning, so it really feels more like a fluke looking at it in the context of that game and his season so far.

Anderson loves his sinker and he’s throwing it more than ever to coax batters into beating balls on the ground. He’s also got a change, slider, cutter, and curve, with the slider aimed at getting a rare swing and miss. We’re talking just a 2.6% swinging-strike rate so far, the lowest in MLB among any non-position player with at least one inning pitched this season.

While the lefty doesn’t miss bats and doesn’t get many called strikes because he is working in the zone less than ever before, he doesn’t issue a lot of walks. That tends to happen when those batters expand their own zones thinking they can jump on pitches that top out in the low 90’s and don’t seem all that dangerous. This game will be a test of the Cubs’ approach because they could easily beat themselves if they allow Anderson to dictate the pace.

Being patiently aggressive can get them over in this series opener, it’s just a matter of forcing Anderson to work and throw strikes. Trying to ambush the first pitch probably won’t work too well if he continues to avoid the zone in those situations. If Cubs hitters pick a spot and remain disciplined, they can absolutely repeat and even better their earlier results against their old friend.

First pitch from Wrigley is set for 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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