Chicago Cubs Lineup (7/17/21): Contreras Leads Off, KB at 3B, Hoerner at 2B, Alzolay Starting

Willson Contreras will lead off Saturday afternoon against a righty for just the second time this season and third time in his career as the Cubs try to maintain MLB’s best second-half record. He’s followed by Anthony Rizzo at first, Javier Báez at short, and Kris Bryant at third. Jason Heyward is in right, Nico Hoerner is at second, Ian Happ is in left, and Rafael Ortega is in center.

Adbert Alzolay is on the mound for the first time in nine days as he attempts to break a string of five straight losses dating back to June 7. The righty has given up two homers in each of his last four starts and hasn’t looked sharp since returning from the IL, but he’ll be fully rested and should be ready to attack the second half like he did the early portion of the season.

Righty Zac Gallen is making his 10th start of the season and first since July 2, so he should have plenty of gas in the tank. He missed most of May and half of June with a hamstring issue and has struggled since, allowing a home run in each of his last four starts to boost a 6.28 ERA.

Gallen is a big strikeout pitcher who averages nearly 11 K/9, but he doesn’t do it with the kind of velo you’d expect from those numbers. The fastball sits around 94 and he throws it over 50% of the time with good enough location to get a lot of whiffs and grounders. His slider is also a solid pitch that tends to get a little sloppy if he throws it as a cutter, so the Cubs might be able to jump on a mistake or three in this one.

Those breaking balls make up about 20% of Gallen’s arsenel, with a very firm change (18%) and a meh curveball (12%) making up the rest. He’s baffled right-handed hitters so far, holding them to a .139 average and .528 OPS, but lefties are hitting .321 with an .894 OPS. Those splits are even more pronounced at home, with Gallen allowing an 1.115 OPS to lefties and just .487 to righties.

Seems like a good opportunity for Rizzo and Heyward to mash again like they did last night. First pitch is at 3:10pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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