The Cubs are starting a new series tonight, and they still haven’t lost one since the beginning of April. Here’s their lineup against the Reds.
Chicago Cubs Lineup:
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Kris Bryant, 1B
- Javy Baez, SS
- Willson Contreras, C
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- David Bote, 3B
- Daniel Desclaso, 2B
- Albert Almora Jr., CF
- Kyle Hendricks, P
We’ll have more on Anthony Rizzo’s absence from the lineup in a second, but here’s the short-version: After a cold, 15-inning game on Saturday, Rizzo got the day off on Sunday because of a stiff back (something he deals with just about every season). With an off-day yesterday, I had hoped he’d be back in there tonight, but obviously he is not. Again, more on this in a bit. Stay tuned.
As for the rest of the lineup, there’s really just one thing that catches my eye: Jason Heyward back up top.
We all became used to seeing Heyward’s name penciled into the top of the lineup when there was no lefty on the mound (for Albert Almora Jr.) and both Daniel Descalso and Ben Zobrist were out, but Descalso has started a couple games now since his injury, without returning to the top of the order. And that’s pretty weird.
No, Descalso hasn’t exactly been a stud as the leadoff man with a 66 wRC+ in 12 games (51 PAs) there this season, but he does have a 17.6% walk rate from the top spot. Heyward, by contrast, has led off 5 games (22 PAs) with a 20 wRC+ and a 0.00% walk rate.
Maybe Joe Maddon likes Heyward there for consistency (he’s in the lineup more often than Descalso) or maybe he thinks he can avoid some double-play balls, given Heyward’s usually high ground ball rate. But none of that feels right. I can’t quite crack this trend – if that is, indeed, what it is. For now, we’ll just assume it’s a matter of circumstance, but I want to keep an eye on it to see if it continues.
As usual, we’ll have your full Pre-Gamin’ post closer to game time (5:40 CT).