Chicago Cubs Lineup (4/1/24): Happ Leads Off, Suzuki DH, Imanaga Starting Home Opener

It’s going to be cool and cloudy at Wrigley this afternoon, but the forecast appears to show the rain holding off until later in the game. Even if it stays dry, it won’t be much fun to play or sit in the stands with a wind chill of 35 degrees. Then again, that’s pretty typical weather for early April in Chicago. The Cubs can make it more bearable if they put together another performance like the one they had to get a win in Texas yesterday.

Getting another strong effort from one of their southpaw starters would certainly help, as Shōta Imanaga makes his Wrigley Field debut. The former NPB standout showed the ability to miss bats against MLB hitters, though he’s going to give up a few fly balls here and there as well. The weather should help him avoid homers, but getting comfortable working up in the zone with his high-ride fastball is the real key.

Ian Happ looks comfortable in the leadoff role and he’s back there again playing left, followed by Seiya Suzuki at DH and Cody Bellinger in center. Christopher Morel is at third, Dansby Swanson plays short, Michael Busch is at first, and Nico Hoerner mans second. Mike Tauchman is in right and Yan Gomes handles the catching duties.

They’re facing longtime Cardinal Dakota Hudson, who looked like a potential top-of-the-rotation guy at the beginning of his career before elbow reconstruction cost him most of 2020 and ’21. A fastball that sat 96 mph as a rookie reliever was still around 94 as a full-time starter the following season, but it’s been below 92 for the last two years. Hudson failed to miss bats during that time, posting a 1.29 K/BB ratio that was the lowest in MLB (min. 200 IP).

Though Hudson’s 7.7% swinging-strike rate was better than 9 other pitchers in the last two years, including Adam Wainwright (6.1%) and Zack Greinke (7.2%), his 10.0% walk rate crushed him. When combined with 229 hits over 221 innings, his 95 free passes meant there was just too much traffic on the bases to overcome. He managed to get 13 strikeouts during spring training, but also gave up 16 hits with seven walks across only 15 innings in five starts.

Current Cubs have a career .350 average and .866 OPS against Hudson that includes just 10 strikeouts in 80 at-bats. No homers out of 28 hits, though, so maybe they can change that today. First pitch is set for 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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