Chicago Cubs Lineup (8/25/22): McKinstry Leads Off, Hoerner at Short, Stroman Going for Series Win

The Cubs and Cardinals have split the first two games of this five-gamer, with the two most recent contests ending in blowouts after the first two were very tight. Albert Pujols has featured prominently in the series, including a homer against Drew Smyly on Monday that gave “The Machine” 58 dingers against the Cubs. Imagine how many he’d have were it not for his time in Anaheim. Yeesh.

There will be a pregame ceremony prior to Thursday’s game to celebrate Pujols’ Hall of Fame career and also the Hall of Very Good performance of Yadier Molina. Provided the catcher doesn’t have to abscond to Puerto Rico to watch his basketball team yet again. The Cards might actually be better off if he did, what with his sterling .497 OPS.

Once the action gets underway, Marcus Stroman will try to win the series for the Cubs by getting his first W against the Cards this season. Stroman was rocked for nine earned runs on 10 hits back on June 3 and got a no-decision earlier this month despite giving up just three runs over 6.2 innings. He’s allowed 13 runs (nine earned) over his last four starts and needs to be sharper in this one.

It’ll help if his offense can give him a little more support, starting with Zach McKinstry in the leadoff spot again following a homer in yesterday’s game. Nico Hoerner is at short, Seiya Suzuki is in right, Ian Happ is in left, and Franmil Reyes is the DH. P.J. Higgins is catching, Patrick Wisdom is at first, Nelson Velázquez is in center, and Christopher Morel is at third.

Going for the Cardinals is 27-year-old righty Dakota Hudson, who is facing the Cubs for the first time this season in his 24th start. Never a big strikeout pitcher, Hudson has a shockingly low 5.20 K/9 mark that ranks 216th out of 221 MLB pitchers with at least 50 innings this year. His 7.0% swinging-strike rate is also 216th, so the Cubs should put plenty of balls in play.

They should also get some free baserunners, as Hudson’s 10.9% walk rate is the 21st-highest out of that same group of 221 pitchers. As you can probably guess, the only thing keeping his ERA at a pretty respectable 4.33 is a 53.1% groundball rate that is actually well below his career average. He keeps the ball on the ground and has surrendered only eight homers in 114.1 innings, so the damage is minimal.

Cubs hitters will see a lot of 92 mph sinkers and very firm 88 mph sliders that are often classified as cutters, then there’s a four-seam at 92, a curveball at around 81, and an occasional changeup at 87. Hudson’s repertoire is pretty unusual in that there’s so little velo difference between the hard stuff and the breaking/offspeed. You’d expect someone who throws the slider and change that hard to have a fastball approaching triple digits.

Interestingly enough, he did sit 97 with the fastball and around 86 with the slider when he first came up in 2018. Far be it for me to suggest a change, particularly if his 2020 Tommy John surgery has forced him to dial back, but I have to think Hudson would get much better results if that heater ticked back up. He’s certainly young enough that Father Time shouldn’t be hampering him yet.

Alas, I’d prefer to see any of those tweaks take place well after this game. First pitch is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.

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