The Cubs are riding a streak of four straight series victories, most of which have come against contending teams, but now they’re facing a Dodgers juggernaut that doesn’t have many weaknesses. The four-game set in LA features three late starts, the first of which takes place tonight.
Mark Leiter Jr. has been better than expected for a team that has needed him in both the rotation and bullpen as injuries have forced the Cubs to shuffle the pitching staff repeatedly. This will be the righty’s fourth start of the year, though it’s his first since April 27 against the Braves. If you remove his Cubs debut, a forgettable effort that saw him allow seven earned runs in 3.1 innings, Leiter has been quite strong.
His greatest strength is probably keeping the ball in the yard, and he’ll need to do that tonight to keep the Dodgers at bay.
Rafael Ortega leads off as the DH, followed by Nico Hoerner at short and Ian Happ in left. Seiya Suzuki cleans up in right, then it’s Patrick Wisdom at third, Alfonso Rivas at first, and Yan Gomes behind the plate. Christopher Morel is in center and Andrelton Simmons bats ninth at second.
They’ll have their work cut out for them against 28-year-old Tony Gonsolin, who is 10-0 with a 1.54 ERA in 15 starts this year. The righty has always had issues staying healthy and his 81.2 innings this year are more than he’s thrown in any professional season since 2018, when he logged 128 frames between High-A and Double-A. His performance has always drawn strong reviews, it’s just a matter of staying on the mound.
That hasn’t been an issue this season as Gonsolin has been out there each turn through the rotation. He’s thrown at least five innings in each of his last 11 starts and has yet to allow more than two earned runs in a game all season. Five of those outings were scoreless and six more saw just one run cross the plate. Of note, Gonsolin has given up only one unearned run thus far.
Perhaps even more uncanny, seven of the 14 earned runs he’s allowed have come from seven solo homers. Though he doesn’t strike out an inordinate number of batters (8.49 K/9) and his walk rate is not elite (2.53 BB/9), Gonsolin does an incredible job of limiting damage. You could point to his .186 BABIP against as a sign that he’s been the beneficiary of more than his fair share of good luck, but he’s also created a lot of good fortune by hitting his spots with a nasty trio of secondaries
A 93mph fastball sets up a devastating splitter that Gonsolin throws nearly 30% of the time. His slider is almost as good and makes up nearly a quarter of his pitches, then he’s got a curveball he cuts loose about 12% of the time. The result is a very even platoon split that, unfortunately for the Cubs, looks far better at Chavez Ravine than anywhere else.
Gonsolin has surrendered a mere .124 average and .192 wOBA at home, with righties batting just .103 with a .378 OPS so far. But who knows, maybe the Cubs can get to him. Watch Simmons go yard or something.
First pitch is set for 9:10pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 7, 2022