Chicago Cubs Lineup (7/9/23): Tauchman Leads Off, Hendricks Starts Final Game of 1st Half

The Cubs have split the first two games with the Yankees in New York, with Friday’s victory marking the first time they’d ever won in Yankee Stadium. They need to double that total to end the schedule’s first half on a high note and close at five games under the .500 mark. It won’t be an easy task, but Kyle Hendricks has been pitching very well since coming back in late May.

Though a lot of people are talking about this being “vintage Professor,” that’s not really true when you look at how he’s getting things done. He’s always pitched to contact and that’s still the case, but his strikeout numbers are way down from previous seasons and he’s generating fewer grounders to boot. Hendricks isn’t giving up homers, however, and that was a huge problem for him over the last two seasons.

There’s a reasonable fear that regression is due based on a .224 BABIP allowed that is 55 points below his career average, but a lot of that comes from two starts in which he gave up a total of three hits. Opponents have collected five or more knocks in five of his eight outings, so it’s just a matter of limiting damage and avoiding walks. That should work well against a Yankees team that is very homer-dependent.

The Cubs are probably going to need to score more than the three runs they’ve managed in each of the first two games, and that starts with Mike Tauchman leading off at DH. Nico Hoerner is at short, Ian Happ is in left, Seiya Suzuki is in right, and Cody Bellinger is in center. Christopher Morel is at second, birthday boy Jared Young is at first, and Patrick Wisdom is at third. Tucker Barnhart rounds things out behind the plate.

On the bump for the Bronx Bombers is righty Domingo Germán, who is now two starts removed from his perfect game in Oakland. That gem came pretty much out of nowhere, as Germán had allowed 15 earned runs on as many hits over 5.1 innings in two previous efforts. He gave up nine hits to the Orioles his last time out, although he was at least able to hold them to three total runs because he didn’t walk anyone.

Apropos of nothing, every Yankees pitcher to throw a perfecto has a first name that starts with D. Anyone else find that interesting? Just me? Cool, moving on.

Germán isn’t an imposing figure on the mound and he doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, but his curve and change have been money so far. Contrary to common practice, his success comes from having a little less velocity differentiation than usual. While his 92-93 mph fastball is a little below league average, his 86 mph change is right at the average and his 83 mph curve is thrown harder than most.

The hook makes up about 41% of his pitches is thrown with above-average spin and typically has 1-7 movement to land low-middle or just off the lower glove-side corner of the zone. His fastball (27%) heatmap is bright red middle-middle and middle-up, while his change (21%) tends to stay arm-side with tumble that takes it just to the bottom edge of the zone. Germán also has a sinker that he’ll run in there to nearly the same location as the change.

If he’s sequencing and tunneling those offerings well, he gets a lot of chases and whiffs to help support a relatively low walk rate. Germán does a great job of avoiding barrels on the whole, though he’ll run into skids where he gets tagged for homers. Of the 15 homers he’s surrendered, 11 have come in just four games. He’s the same way with walks, as 23 of the 25 he’s issued have come in nine of his 16 starts.

What I’m saying here is that this game could come down to which version of Germán the Cubs see this afternoon. Making mistakes in the zone and/or being less than sharp with his breaking and offspeed stuff will allow David Ross‘s team to head into the break with a W.

First pitch is set for 12:35pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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