Chicago Cubs Lineup (8/2/23): Hoerner Leads Off, Candelario at 3B, Smyly Starting

The Cubs evened the series last night with a monster offensive output that saw them put up 20 runs with seven homers against the Reds. They may not have that kind of explosion in them tonight, but scoring early and often would be a good idea with Drew Smyly on the mound. This will be the lefty’s first start in over two weeks after he was preceded by an opener in each of his last two outings, only one of which was good.

Smyly held the Cardinals to one run on a solo homer, striking out six and walking one with two total hits allowed over 4.1 innings. His previous effort, also against the Cards, saw him surrender five runs (four earned) on six hits with five strikeouts and a walk over 3.2 innings. Missing bats hasn’t been Smyly’s issue during his recent stretch of poor pitching, it’s that he’s missing the zone too much and then has been forced to throw cookies.

Over his last nine starts, Smyly is 3-6 with a 6.49 ERA that has been inflated by 12 homers allowed. He has struck out 46 during that time, but he’s also walked 25 and has given up a whopping 67 hits in 52.2 innings. That has got to be better tonight against a Reds team that has whacked him around in two previous starts this season despite being in the middle of the pack against lefties.

Cincy has put up 12 runs (11 earned) on 16 hits with just five strikeouts to four walks in 9.1 innings against Smyly so far. That means those Cubs bats had better stay hot, starting with Nico Hoerner at second base. Christopher Morel moves up to the two-hole as the DH, Cody Bellinger is in center, and Dansby Swanson is at short. Ian Happ is in left, Yan Gomes is the catcher, Seiya Suzuki is in right, Jeimer Candelario is at third, and Patrick Wisdom is at first.

They’re up against lanky rookie southpaw Brandon Williamson, who is making his second start at Wrigley this season. He got a no-decision back in late May in the third start of his career by giving up four runs on six hits with three walks and strikeouts apiece over 4.1 innings. He’s been decent in 13 starts, but nothing really stands out about his performance.

Williamson won’t strike out many batters and walks more than he should, so his 4.48 ERA actually looks nearly a run better than expected. His .268 BABIP allowed is really low for a guy who gives up a lot of barrels and doesn’t get many grounders, indicating a little correction is due. The Cubs can make that happen if they jump on his fastball and sweeper, both of which Williamson likes to run in on the hands of righties.

The four-seam makes up about 37% of his pitches and it sits around 93 mph with subpar spin, but what may really be hurting him is how hitters get a good look at it. Williamson is in just the 10th percentile for extension, so his perceived velocity isn’t getting a bump despite his long-limbed 6-foot-6 frame. His sweeper lands in the zone too often to be really effective, though his cutter has sharper movement and can fool hitters even over the middle of the plate.

The platoon splits are nearly identical for average and OBP, but righties slug much better with all 10 of the homers Williamson has allowed. Oddly enough, eight of those homers have come at Great American Ball Park in spite of his overall stronger performance there. When he’s the visitor, opposing batters have a .277/.367/.436 slash with a .351 wOBA, most of which comes from righties slashing .286/.382/.481 with a .374 wOBA.

This smells like a great matchup for the Cubs, so let’s hope they make good on that and gain another game on both teams ahead of them in the division after Milwaukee lost to Washington earlier. First pitch is at 7:05pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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