Chicago Cubs Lineup (8/17/22): McKinstry Leads Off, Ortega in CF, Smyly Starting

Even though the Cubs split the first two games of the series, this feels like one of Joe Maddon‘s Meatloaf lineups. I used to get a little salty about the former manager more or less punting on the final game of a set, but one of Manager David’s decisions this afternoon has me really scratching my head for a different reason.

It’s not Zach McKinstry starting at second, because he’s been pretty good after getting off to a slow start. Nico Hoerner has continued to hit very well and batting him second makes a ton of sense. The slumping Seiya Suzuki might not be an ideal third hitter, particularly in front of run producers like left fielder Ian Happ and Franmil Reyes at DH, but that’s a small gripe.

Where I get stuck is with Rafael Ortega being in the lineup at all after an egregious baserunning error last night that isn’t out of character for him. Though the outfielder conveniently surged after our Ryan Thomure put out a piece questioning his possession of a roster spot, his production since has not been nearly enough to paper over his frequent mistakes. His 85 wRC+ and poor baserunning shouldn’t be enough for a spot in the lineup even before you consider that it’s taking time away from Christopher Morel and Nelson Velázquez.

Beyond just the immediate implications, there’s the idea that Ortega will almost certainly be a casualty of the impending 40-man crunch this offseason. As the Cubs transition into growth mode from a competitive standpoint, there’s no logic behind giving more playing time to someone who won’t be part of the future.

Moving on, Ross has Patrick Wisdom at third with Yan Gomes behind the dish and P.J. Higgins at first.

Drew Smyly was awesome during the Field of Dreams game as he spun a curveball that carved up Reds hitters. He’ll have plenty of success against this Nats lineup if his breaking ball and change are working today, especially if he’s touching mid-90s with the fastball.

The Cubs are facing old friend Cory Abbott, who was designated for assignment and traded to the Giants in April after being named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2019. He was placed on waivers in May and claimed by the Nationals, for whom he’ll be making his fourth start and eighth total appearance.

Abbott has been plagued by poor control over the last few seasons and is walking nearly six batters for every nine innings pitched this season. He’s also given up five homers in just 16.2 innings pitched, which happens when you fall behind in counts and end up catching too much of the zone to avoid more walks. Four of those dingers did come in one outing, so that could be more aberration than trend.

Mainly a fastball/cutter guy, Abbott doesn’t have a lot of velo separation in his pitches. His four-seam sits around 92, the cutter is at 87, and his curve is a firm 85 to make it the only one of his pitches he’s actually throwing harder this year. None of those offerings has produced positive value thus far and the Cubs should be able to get over on Abbott if they remain patient at the plate.

First pitch is set for 12:05pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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