The Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All Time returns to his rightful position atop the lineup as Anthony Rizzo starts things of for the Cubs. He’ll be followed by Willson Contreras at catcher and Matt Duffy batting third at third, then it’s Kris Bryant cleaning up in left after not starting due to a sore right bicep. Jason Heyward is in right, David Bote is at second, Jake Marisnick is in center, and Nico Hoerner is at short.
Javy Báez isn’t expected to head to the IL and was on the field this afternoon doing some supervised agility drills, so he could be back soon. Ian Happ is notably absent, but he’s been in an awful funk and this is a terrible matchup for him.
Kyle Hendricks has been less than stellar this season as he’s alternated between bad and good starts, so this would be a very good time to break that pattern. He was staked to a huge lead his last time out against Milwaukee and cruised through 5.1 innings before being touched up for a pair of solo shots that only hurt his final line.
The longball was a bit more of a concern in the previous game, when Hendricks allowed four of them to the Braves in the 1st inning. He also walked three in that game and his eight walks already equal last season’s total, which becomes an even bigger problem when added to the control struggles of Zach Davies. The Braves don’t really have the kind of lineup you can make many mistakes against, so let’s hope Hendricks is sharp.
Scratch that, he needs to be sharp. With all accommodation for small sample and slow starts, you can’t have this kind of performance from your ace.
Going for the Braves is 22-year-old Huascar Ynoa, who looked stellar through three appearances (two starts) this season prior to facing the Cubs. He had struck out 15 with just two walks and allowed only one run on six hits before the Cubs lit him up for six runs on seven hits, including three homers.
Ynoa can run the fastball up there in the high 90’s and sits 97 mph, setting up a nasty slider that has generated a lot of bad swings so far. Far more than an out-pitch, the breaking ball has accounted for 43% of Ynoa’s offerings so far. He also has a changeup that he goes to on occasion, a very firm upper-80’s pitch that has gotten very good results in limited usage.
You’d think that kind of repertoire would make him murder on righties, but Ynoa has actually stifled lefty batters this season. They’re hitting just .147 with a .400 OPS and the Cubs did most of their damage with right-handers as Contreras homered twice and Javy Báez went deep as well. It’s hard to imagine a repeat, but the Cubs have been inconsistent and may be due for a breakout after last night.
This would be a good night for an aggressive plate approach, as Ynoa throws a lot of first-pitch strikes and has not walked more than one in any start so far. That could be something of a mirage, though, as his minor league results don’t show anywhere near that kind of control Perhaps the Cubs can grind him down and force more mistakes.
First pitch is at 6:20pm CT on Marquee, FS1, and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 28, 2021