The Cubs haven’t been great when it comes to closing out the final game of a series, nor have they played particularly well in this set. Though they’ve scored 22 runs in the first two games, 19 of those have come in the 6th inning or later and most were in what can effectively be called garbage time. Perhaps tonight is when they jump ahead right out of the gate and put the Nats away.
Kyle Hendricks is going to need to be much better than he has been the last two times out in order for that to happen. After allowing just two homers through his first eight starts, regression smacked him in the face to the tune of six dingers. He did have 10 strikeouts with no walks in those two games to bring his season K/BB mark to 3.70, just above his 3.67 career average.
The fastball and change have been the culprits lately, though that kinda goes without saying when those two pitches make up over 95% of what Hendricks throws. The four-seam is more of an issue than the sinker in most cases, but things really get sideways if the offspeed isn’t sharp. That’s why it’d be nice to see his curveball a little more frequently. He’s dialed it way back over the last three starts, however, and it might be a feel thing.
You know what might help that feel tonight? Getting a bunch of run support. Mike Tauchman is in the leadoff spot playing center, then it’s Nico Hoerner at short and Ian Happ in left. Cody Bellinger is at first, Seiya Suzuki is in right, Christopher Morel is at second, and Miles Mastrobuoni is at third. Trey Mancini is the DH and Tucker Barnhart does the catching.
This lefty-heavy lineup faces former Cub Trevor Williams, who shut his old team down back on May 2 as he scattered four hits over 5.1 innings. That was his first of two scoreless outings in 19 total starts, so it’s hard to see him keeping the Cubs off the board in this one. Williams has allowed 102 hits in 93.2 innings, and 19 of those knocks have left the yard.
He’s allowing lefties to bat .296 with an .830 OPS, though right-handed hitters slug better against him. The righty’s repertoire has changed only slightly from his time in Chicago, with the changeup taking on a little more prominence and breaking balls losing a little. Williams still throws the four-seam nearly half the time with the sinker at around 13%, but his velocity is barely at 90 mph these days.
As a result, his swinging strikes are down and barrels are up. There’s zero reason for the Cubs to have trouble scoring runs in this one, especially after seeing how hot they got last night. First pitch is set for 7:05pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
Here is tonight's #Cubs starting lineup at Wrigley Field!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 19, 2023