Chicago Cubs Lineup (2/25/23): Hosmer at DH, Velázquez in CF, Steele Facing Padres

The Cubs had a rough weekend against the Dodgers as they only managed to capture one win in four games, but hey, at least that lone W was fun. Now they host the Padres for three just as San Diego is getting warm and also getting back to full strength with Fernando Tatis Jr. playing his fifth game of the season. What’s really wild is that the Diamondbacks are leading the NL West while the Pirates sit atop the Central.

Baseball is really weird sometimes.

Marcus Stroman had his worst start of the season so far to finish out the last series, so now it’s up to Justin Steele to provide a get-right effort. The lefty has been incredible through four starts on the strength of a great slider and a unique cut-ride fastball that he manipulates to make it work like two different pitches. Steele has won three straight starts and hasn’t allowed more than four hits or two runs yet.

Even so, it would be nice for his offense to provide enough support that he doesn’t need to be near-perfect. There are no changes in the top four in the lineup, with Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson, Ian Happ, and Seiya Suzuki reprising their roles. Patrick Wisdom bats fifth at third base, Eric Hosmer is the DH, Trey Mancini is the first baseman, and Yan Gomes is the catcher. Nelson Velázquez was recalled to cover for Cody Bellinger, who has been placed on the paternity list.

Going for San Diego is lefty Blake Snell, who wore a loss in his season debut despite striking out nine batters and walking just one over 4.1 innings. Even worse, the defeat came at the hands of the lowly Rockies. Snell has walked and struck out 12 batters apiece in his three subsequent starts and he’s allowed 21 hits so far, four of which have left the yard. His groundball rate is at a career-worst 34.6%, largely because his fastball has been awful.

He throws the four-seam nearly 60% of the time and hitters are teeing off on it, though all of his secondaries grade out well and there’s still potential to shut lineups down if things are working well. The issue appears to be an inability to get ahead early, as Snell is getting first-pitch strikes less than 49% of the time, down more than 10 points from his career average.

That’s forcing him to fall behind and throw the fastball more than he’d like, which also means throwing the slider and curve less. Getting into that same trouble tonight would be exactly what the Cubs hitters need to get rolling out of the gate, so let’s hope Snell keeps pitching the way he has been.

First pitch from Wrigley is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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