Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/1/23): Bellinger Bats Third, Velázquez in LF, Smyly Starting

The Cubs come into DC reeling from a trio of one-run losses to the Marlins, but the Nationals may offer the same kind of salve as the Athletics a little while back. The lineup for the series opener is curiously devoid of Matt Mervis, so I guess I’ve got to take down all the red string connecting the evidence of his imminent promotion. Even with a full understanding of the circumstances involved, I still can’t come up with any good excuse for not calling Mervis up.

Alas, we’ll just have to wait a little longer for this.

David Ross did make a change to his traditional lineup as Ian Happ gets a rare day off. Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson are in their usual spots, then it’s Cody Bellinger sliding into Happ’s place in the order and occupying center field. Bellinger has homered in two straight games and his 1.4 fWAR leads the team as he looks like his old self again. Seiya Suzuki is in right, Trey Mancini is at first, and Patrick Wisdom is the DH.

Yan Gomes bats seventh behind the dish, Nelson Velázquez takes on the duties in left, and Nick Madrigal is at the hot corner. Drew Smyly is on the mound and will be unleashing his unicorn curveball with all the fury that can be mustered by a dude who looks like he wants to do your taxes or sell you can insurance. Hey, it worked for Greg Maddux.

Can’t wait for someone to take that Smyly/Maddux comp seriously.

This is another of what has seemed like a large number of lefty-lefty matchups through the first month of the season as 24-year-old MacKenzie Gore is on the mound for the Nats. A big part of the Juan Soto trade with the Padres last year, Gore has been one of a few bright spots this season for a team that is angling for another very high draft pick.

Only the Rockies (.310) and Cardinals (.345) have lower winning percentages than the Nats heading into Monday’s action, and Washington is the only team in the NL East with a losing record. Gore is 3-1, however, as he does everything he can to make the club interesting. That includes a 95 mph fastball he throws about 60% of the time with a curve and slider he throws around 20% apiece. He’ll slip in a changeup every now and again, but its usage is insignificant.

Gore loves to pound the zone with first-pitch strikes to set up his secondaries, so Cubs hitters may want to go up there attacking. Then again, that 14.4% walk rate says a little patience could be rewarded with free passes. With at least two walks in each of his five starts so far, Gore isn’t the most efficient worker out there. He generates a lot of grounders and strikeouts to limit the damage and hasn’t given up more than three earned runs in a game this year.

Interestingly enough, left-handed hitters have been much better against Gore so far. They’ve hit both of the homers he’s allowed and have walked eight times, the same as right-handed batters, despite having so few attempts. Bellinger has been seeing lefties really well this season, so maybe he’s got another homer in him tonight.

First pitch is at 6:05pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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