Ian Happ is back in the leadoff spot this afternoon and he’ll try to capitalize on the momentum built from a big hit in Milwaukee and a homer late in last night’s blowout. Kris Bryant is at third and batting second, Ben Zobrist is at first, and Kyle Schwarber is cleaning up in left.
Addison Russell will man short, Victor Caratini is catching, and the hot-hitting Javy Baez is handling the duties at second base. Jason Heyward bats eighth and we’ll see if he can keep up the streak of hitting choppers with triple-digit exit velocities.
You pretty much know what you’re going to get when Kyle Hendricks is on mound, but he hasn’t necessarily been his insanely consistent self through his first two starts. Because two starts is an adequate sample, right? He’ll be looking to get better results against a Pirates lineup that has given him fits in the past. Josh Harrison carries a .389 average in 18 at-bats against Hendricks and Gregory Polanco is hitting .409 in 22 at-bats.
Righty Trevor Williams has won both of his starts this season on the strength of a 1.59 ERA, but early results may be misleading. His 3.57 FIP and 5.16 xFIP tell us that he should probably have yielded a few more runs and his 3.97 K/9 and 4.67 BB/9 paint a pretty grim picture for the long-term. Grim for Williams, that is. The Cubs should love it.
The 25-year-old has shown a noticeable drop in velocity so far, averaging about two ticks less on his low-90’s fastball than in the past two seasons. He’s a really fastball-heavy pitcher, too, using the four-seam and sinker for nearly three-quarters of his offerings. Williams also has a slider and change, the latter of which is his best pitch when weighted for usage.
Despite allowing nearly 86 percent medium (49) and hard (37) contact and over 54 percent line drives and flies through two games, Williams has yet to allow a home run. If the Cubs can repeat their performance from Wednesday, that’ll change really quickly on what promises to be a much nicer afternoon at Wrigley, weather-wise.
Perhaps that means it’ll actually be Grimm for Williams, which is to say that the Pirates starter will give up lots of home runs.
First pitch is at 1:20pm CT and can be seen on NBC Sports Chicago for those who have access to it. Fans outside the viewing area can catch the game on MLB Network and/or 670 The Score.
Here is today's #Cubs lineup for the rubber game!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 12, 2018