The Cubs lost by a wide margin last night, but tonight, they’ll try, try again.
Chicago Cubs Lineup:
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Albert Almora Jr., CF
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Javy Baez, 2B
- Ian Happ, 3B
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Addison Russell, SS
- Kyle Hendricks, P
- Victor Caratini, C
First and foremost, Kris Bryant is out of the lineup tonight – as we discussed on Twitter – to rest up his shoulder and Ian Happ is taking his place. Joe Maddon explained the decision on 670 The Score earlier today and didn’t sound particularly concerned, but obviously this is a bit of a bummer. Clearly, the shoulder is still bothering him and whether he plays most of the rest of the season or not, it sure seems like – at best – his power might still be sapped. The good news is that Ian Happ has been super hot lately (last 90 PAs): .347/.478/.542 (177 wRC+).
As for the rest of the order, there is a very notable change, but one with which Cubs fans should be familiar: batting the pitcher 8th. When Joe Maddon first came over to the Cubs, he experimented with batting the pitcher eighth, primarily, to get the pinch hitter job up a smidge earlier than usual. And with his starters being pulled earlier and earlier lately, that might’ve been part of the calculus here.
Of course, he also said recently that he wanted to bat the pitcher eighth to get a position player hitting “in front of” leadoff man Anthony Rizzo, who isn’t leaving his post anytime soon. Perhaps, the combination of these two forces made it an easy decision.
Tonight, the man batting ninth is Victor Caratini, which means Willson Contreras is getting another game off – his third since the All-Star break. To be fair, the first game off was the first game of the second half (a natural decision after not getting to rest during the break) and his second game off was just the second half of a double-header. With a day game tomorrow following a night game tonight, Contreras wasn’t going to play one of these games and Maddon simply chose tonight.
Given that tonight’s starter, Clay Buchholz, has been mostly split neutral for his career, but tomorrow’s starter, Robbie Ray, is getting killed by righties this season, it all adds up. Let the switch-hitting Caratini catch tonight and let the bats fly tomorrow.