Joc Pederson is leading off in left, followed by Willson Contreras behind the plate and Javier Baez at short. Anthony Rizzo is at first, Kris Bryant is in center, newly minted NL Rookie of the Month Patrick Wisdom is at third, Jason Heyward is in right, and Ian Happ is at second.
Alec Mills hasn’t been great in a relief role, but he’s 1-1 with a 3.63 ERA in four starts and he’s kept the Cubs competitive in each. What’s really hurt him so far this year is an unsightly .345 BABIP that tells you he’s giving up a little too much hard contact. Mills has avoided barrels for the most part, though, and he’ll be okay as long as he avoids the Reds’ mashers.
Taking the mound for Cincy is Sonny Gray, who is pitching for the first time since June 8 after being shelved with a groin issue. Gray had been pitching well, posting the same high strikeout rates he’s become known for since coming to the NL while limiting the walks a little more than before. The Yankees really stifled his production, but the freedom to do his thing with the Reds has helped Gray to get back to something like what he flashed in Oakland several years ago.
His fastball remains at a remarkably consistent 93 mph, though he only throws it about a quarter of the time. The sinker is thrown only slightly harder and with a little more frequency, then comes the curve at around 25% as well. Gray’s slider remains his best pitch and he’ll throw it about 16% of the time, rounding things with a changeup and other variations of the breaking balls that may be classified differently based on the service.
It’s really kind of like the way Yu Darvish manipulates his pitches, so a lot of it is going to come out in the wash in terms of classification. What matters is that Gray is capable of dominating when he’s on his game, especially if he’s facing a lineup with a lot of swing and miss. In seven games against the Cubs as a member of the Reds, Gray has struck out 52 with just 12 walks and generally limiting the bats from doing much.
After holding them to two runs on one hit with 11 strikeouts and one walk in his first appearance against the Cubs last year, Gray allowed five earned on six hits and three walks while striking out four the second time out. He was 3-1 in five against them in 2019, holding them to a .164 batting average. The Cubs managed to hit five homers, so perhaps they can tag him again in this one.
First pitch from Great American Ball Park is set for 7:10pm ET on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score. Those of you who’ve already cut the cord or are hoping to soon can try a free preview of fuboTV to see if it makes sense for you.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 2, 2021