Chicago Cubs Lineup (9/6/23): Morel Leads Off, Wisdom at 1B, Wicks Starting for Sweep

The Cubs won the first two games against the Giants, the most recent of which was a high-scoring affair in which the offense poured it on with two big innings. That allowed them to overcome a pretty consistent San Francisco attack that managed eight runs on 12 hits. You have to feel good about what they’ve done so far, but meatloaf isn’t an ideal dinner option.

We noted on Monday that the Giants have struggled against left-handed starters, something Justin Steele leveraged in shoving his way to the best start of his career. Those same trends bode well for Jordan Wicks, who is making his third MLB start in this one. The rookie wasn’t quite as sharp in his second outing, though he still earned a win by limiting the Reds to one run in five innings.

The Cubs haven’t had a save situation in the last three games and their starters have done really well, so Wicks doesn’t necessarily need to go deep. That said, it’d be great for the offense to spot the lefty a few runs and let him work with ease.

Christopher Morel hit a huge homer and had an even huger bat flip, so he’s getting a chance to spark the offense from the leadoff spot as the DH. Not sure I agree with that on a purely strategic level, but what the hell. Nico Hoerner is at second, Ian Happ is in left, and Cody Bellinger is in center. Dansby Swanson handles short, Seiya Suzuki is in right, Nick Madrigal is at third, Patrick Wisdom is at first, and Miguel Amaya is behind the plate.

For those who are wondering about Alexander Canario‘s only appearance in Chicago being on milk cartons, I’m pretty sure at this point that there was never really an intent to play him. Roster expansion is mandatory and he was already on the 40-man, so the procedural stuff was simple. The Cubs had previously announced that he’d be playing in the Arizona Fall League, so they may have planned to shut him down to some extent in September anyway.

Promoting him to Chicago rewards him with a much larger paycheck for the time he’s there, plus it clears an outfield spot in Iowa for Brennen Davis to get some reps here at the end of the season. And of course neither Ross nor Jed Hoyer can say anything about it because that removes the potential for Canario to serve as a decoy. It’s all starting to make much more sense to me.

Suzuki has a 202 wRC+ in 103 plate appearances and has easily been the Cubs’ best hitter since resuming a regular role on August 9, so maybe David Ross should consider letting Swanson sit. The shortstop is hitting just .194 with 0.2 fWAR in that same span. Mike Tauchman has struggled to a .176 average and has been worth -0.2 fWAR even with that four-hit game people kept reminding me about, but he’s out with a lefty on the mound.

This will be a battle of southpaws as the Giants send lefty Alex Wood to the mound for his first start since July 21. He hasn’t logged more than four innings in that time and will likely give way to former Region Rat Sean Manaea at some point since Gabe Kapler loves him a little non-traditional pitching usage. Yesterday saw them utilize opener Ryan Walker before turning to Jakob Junis as the bulk man.

Junis and Manaea worked in tandem back on August 31 with Wood tossing three innings the following day, so the bullpen will likely be in play early and often this afternoon. The 32-year-old Wood has maintained a very consistent repertoire over the course of his career, relying on a sinker/slider/change combo that hasn’t really shifted much over time.

He is actually throwing the changeup a little more than the slider, a deviation from his traditional usage, though some of that could be how he’s being deployed. The slider has also been much less effective on the whole this season and he really dialed it back in August as a result. Wood appears to have regained the feel for it lately, however, and he’s back to throwing it around 30% of the time over his last two appearances.

His platoon splits are more pronounced than usual this season, though that has come more from being much tougher on left-handed hitters when he’s pitching by the Bay. He’s been pitching really well lately and hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last five appearances, though we’re only talking about 9.1 total innings. With only five strikeouts and four walks in that time, Wood’s success comes from generating a ton of grounders.

The Cubs should be able to get to him if they remain patient and force him to make mistakes in the zone, something we’ve seen them do in the first two games of the series.

First pitch is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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