The Cubs have dropped two of their first three games on this brief homestand and they could really use a W this afternoon against the Royals. Scoring more than four runs will help, as they are 2-6 over the last eight games in which they don’t reach five tallies. That has come over a stretch of 12 total games, and do you want to guess what their record is in those other four?
If you said 4-0, you win a prize. They’re actually 7-0 in those games if you go back to the start of the month.
Playing .500 ball moving forward probably isn’t going to be enough when they have three games to make up, so stacking up wins before the Brewers come to town to close the month is imperative. Justin Steele is the right man to have on the mound, though he’s allowed at least three runs in each of his last three starts.
Even if not all of them were earned, he’s allowed 22 hits and his groundball rate has been well below average over that span. It’s not a coincidence that he eclipsed his career-high for pitches in a game during the second of those and then set a new mark for innings his last time out. Having two days off this past week means Steele has had a week to rest up, so let’s hope that means he’s sharp rather than rusty.
Backing him up will be Mike Tauchman in center, Nico Hoerner at second, Ian Happ in left, and Cody Bellinger at first. Dansby Swanson is at short, Christopher Morel is the DH, Jeimer Candelario is at third, Seiya Suzuki is in right, and Yan Gomes is catching.
They’re up against 27-year-old righty Brady Singer, who was reportedly being targeted by the Reds ahead of the trade deadline. After breaking out last year, Singer has regressed a bit in terms of strikeouts, walks, and ERA for a Royals team that can ill afford it. He has done a good job of keeping the ball on the ground and in the park, so there’s that.
Mainly a sinker/slider pitcher, Singer has been stung by leaving his two-seam right in the heart of the zone too often. His slider is a great weapon if he can use it often enough in plus counts, as he typically locates it down and to off the glove-side corner. He’s also got a changeup, but it’s a show-me pitch that only appears every now and again.
Though he’s never gotten a ton of whiffs, Singer is at his best when he’s landing that slider in the zone for called strikes. That hasn’t been happening quite as often this season, hence the career-low 19.9% strikeout rate. After averaging over 21% called strikes in his first three seasons, roughly five percentage points better than his colleagues, he’s down to 18.8% this season. Not a huge difference, but that could mean the difference in at least one plate appearance per game.
Singer has pitched to reverse splits this season, with right-handed batters slashing .290/.320/.463 and posting a .333 wOBA against him. Lefties make up a lot of ground in OBP, reaching at a .323 clip despite their aggregate .244 average. That’s largely due to seeing the slider better and being able to spit on when it’s coming down and in on them.
That’s how his season looks on the whole, but he’s really been putting things together lately and is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA over his last five starts. He’s struck out 35 with just six walks and one homer allowed in that span thanks mainly to the slider being super nasty. The Cubs have their work cut out for them in this one and I can’t say I’m bullish on the matchup.
First pitch is once again at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
Here is today's #Cubs starting lineup at Wrigley Field!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 19, 2023