Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/15/21): Pederson Leads Off, Bryant in LF, Happ in CF, Williams Starting

The hot-hitting Joc Pederson is back in the leadoff spot as he looks to collect his fifth straight multi-hit game and sixth since returning from the IL less than two weeks ago. He’s in the DH spot, followed by Kris Bryant in left, Javy Báez at short, and Anthony Rizzo at first. Matt Duffy handles third, Ian Happ plays center after being activated from the IL, Jason Heyward is in right, and Eric Sogard is at second. Tony Wolters rounds things out behind the dish.

Trevor Williams would be having a pretty solid season if not for two total stinkers, but he’s still failed to record an out in the 6th inning since his Cubs debut. He’s also given up at least five hits and one homer in each of his last four starts, though he’s been able to miss bats with far greater frequency than ever before. Williams will go as far as his breaking balls take him, so it’s all about the curve and slider in this one.

Going for the Tigers is 29-year-old José Ureña, who most Cubs fans probably remember best as the Marlins starter who gave up a homer to Happ on the first pitch of the 2018 season. The righty never lived up to his potential as an Opening Day ace and has always had curiously low strikeout numbers for someone whose fastball sits around 96 mph.

To be fair, Ureña is a sinkerballer and will use his bowling ball for grounders rather than strikes, hence a 47.9% career groundball rate that is being pulled even higher by his 56.9% mark this season. That’s sixth in baseball among qualified pitchers and Ureña’s 0.45 HR/9 is tied with Jacob deGrom for eighth, so this could be a game in which the Cubs need to pound out hits without worrying about going yard.

Ureña has allowed at least three hits in each of his seven starts so far and he’s surrendered five or more in four of those, though he’s only allowed two runs in each of his last six outings. He’s also completed seven innings four times, so this doesn’t look like a game in which the Cubs can chase him early. The thing about groundball pitchers is that they’ve always got the threat of the double play to wipe hits and walks off the board.

The Cubs’ best bet in this one may be for their left-handed batters to continue what has been excellent production against Ureña, whose splits have always been pronounced. Lefties carry an .810 OPS against him as opposed to the .688 from righties and there’s even greater disparity this year. While that lefty OPS is down to .789, Ureña is allowing them to bat .325 with a .350 wOBA.

Righties do have both of the homers he’s allowed, however, and Bryant has drawn an uncanny seven walks from Ureña — more than the rest of his teammates combined — over the years. Still, that pales in comparison to Rizzo’s 1.468 OPS. Pederson and Heyward are both close to 1.100 in about half the plate appearances, so this could be a big game for them.

First pitch from Comerica Park is set for 3:10pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score. And as I always like to remind you, we’ve got a partnership with fuboTV — the only streaming service carrying Marquee right now — for a free trial if you want to test-drive it.

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