The Cubs dropped their first series of the year after being washed out early Wednesday night in their finale with the Rays. Now they get the Pirates for four games, which should offer an opportunity to get back above .500 as they head into what figures to be a tough stretch.
Mark Leiter Jr., who probably should have been starting on 4/20, will be going for the second time following an outing in Denver that went off the rails quickly after a promising start. Leiter’s changeup looked sharp out of the gate, but he got really shaky in the 3rd inning and got buried when he lost his command and gave up seven earned runs.
He’ll either have to be much better or David Ross will have to have a much quicker hook. The only bright spot to Wednesday’s lopsided loss is that the early stoppage means the bullpen got less work than usual and should be rested tonight if needed.
It would help if the offense could get going again on what figures to be the nicest evening of the young season at Wrigley. Hanging a few early runs would allow Ross to give his starter a little leeway and might also put the Pirates in a hole they can ill afford with three games left in the series.
That starts with Rafael Ortega, who is playing right and remains in the leadoff spot despite disappointing early production. Seiya Suzuki will bat second as the DH, followed by Willson Contreras behind the plate and Ian Happ in left. Frank Schwindel is the first baseman, Jonathan Villar is at second, Jason Heyward is in center, Patrick Wisdom is at third, and Nico Hoerner is the shortstop.
Y’all, it’s super strange to me that Wisdom remains so far down in the order. The whole lineup just feels funky though.
They’ll be facing 24-year-old righty Bryse Wilson, who pitched against the Cubs twice last season as a member of the Braves before being traded to the Pirates just before the deadline. Neither a strikeout nor groundball pitcher, Wilson has been hit pretty hard over the last few seasons and has a career 5.54 ERA that is right in line with his FIP (5.55) and xFIP (5.27).
He uses his 92 mph four- and two-seam fastballs almost evenly, then he’s got a curve, slider, and change that have been hit or miss. The two breaking balls have actually been pretty good for him, relatively speaking, it’s just a matter of being able to use them effectively. Wilson misses very few bats, so his whole thing is trying to get hitters looking or swinging at fringe offerings that don’t result in solid contact.
This feels like the kind of matchup the Cubs should relish, since they’re patient and aren’t prone to chasing pitchers’ pitches. Famous last words, huh?
First pitch is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 21, 2022