The Cubs split their first two games in Milwaukee, both of which saw them hold what appeared to be pretty secure late leads. Both games ended up going to extras and only a pair of tremendous defensive plays salvaged Tuesday’s contest. It would be really great if Justin Steele performs like an ace and the offense continues to put up runs throughout the game so we don’t have to worry about another nail-biter.
Mike Tauchman will get things started as the DH, then it’s Nico Hoerner at second and Seiya Suzuki in right. Ian Happ is the left fielder, Dansby Swanson is at short, and Cody Bellinger is in center. Christopher Morel is at third, where he figures to spend most of his time in the field while Nick Madrigal is on the IL, Jared Young is at first, and Tucker Barnhart is the catcher.
An MRI revealed a moderate strain in Madrigal’s hamstring and the Cubs are saying they want to wait for it to heal fully before he resumes any baseball activities. A badly torn hammy shut him down in 2021 and various lower-body maladies hampered him last season, so they’re taking no chances this time around.
Stout righty Adrian Houser is on the mound for Milwaukee to make his ninth start and 11th overall appearance of the season. He missed the first several weeks with a groin strain and was moved to the bullpen for a little while in June before being inserted back into the rotation last week. Though he’s never been a big strikeout pitcher, Houser’s Ks are down to almost career-low levels this season.
At 5.83 K/9, he ranks 183rd out of 193 pitchers with at least 40 innings this season. That’s right between Wade Miley (5.55) and Julio Teheran (6.13), the two Brewers the Cubs have faced already in this series. Houser has improved his walk rate as well, which he’s had to because his propensity for throwing strikes has led to 56 hits in 46.1 innings.
He gets a lot of grounders and keeps the ball in the yard, but the Cubs should be able to stack up base hits tonight. It all depends on how well Houser’s fastballs are working because he throws them more than anyone else in the league. Between his four-seam (24%) and sinker (47%), Houser has very little room left for breaking and offspeed stuff.
Not that he should be throwing those secondaries very often given their poor performance. He likes to work his 94 mph four-seam up in the zone to his glove side while the two-seam is located primarily in the lower arm-side quarter. He works the corners with his slider, curve, and change as well, the result of which is getting some of the fewest called strikes in the game.
Houser ranks 190th in MLB when it comes to called-plus-swinging strike percentage, so the Cubs absolutely cannot afford to let him off the hook by trying to be super patient. They can’t just be super-aggressive, though, because Houser is still really good at avoiding barrels and they don’t want to hit a bunch of soft grounders. After being teed up nicely by the last two matchups, I think they’ll be fine in this one.
First pitch from AmFam Field is at 7:10pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score, with MLB.tv carrying the game for free since Bally Sports Wisconsin is about to go belly-up.
Here is tonight's #Cubs starting lineup in Milwaukee!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 5, 2023