Chicago Cubs Lineup (4/5/24): Happ Leads Off, Morel DH, Hendricks Facing Dodgers

There will be no shortage of jokes this weekend as Shohei Ohtani makes his DraftKings Sportsbook at Wrigley Field debut. After being ensnarled in a gambling scandal that saw his longtime friend and interpreter fired over the alleged theft of several million dollars, Ohtani and the Dodgers are now in a kerfuffle over the reclamation of the slugger’s first home run ball with his new team.

I tend to believe Ohtani is a naive introvert who has placed too much trust in those around him to handle his affairs, though I know some think he’s fully complicit and is pulling all the strings. Either way, I put this firmly on the Dodgers. They guaranteed a notoriously reclusive player $700 million and then totally shit the bed when it comes to handling the PR.

But Ohtani is still in the lineup and as dangerous as ever even though he can’t pitch yet, so we just have to hope the Cubs don’t soil themselves against their most formidable foe of the season. And yes, I know they played the defending champs last week. The task of holding LA’s offense at bay in the first game of the series goes to Kyle Hendricks, who’s got zero room for error this afternoon.

Over the course of 61 total at-bats, members of the current Dodgers roster carry a .328 average and .920 OPS with three homers against Hendricks. Freddie Freeman‘s 1.159 OPS stands out, but he’s one of just two Dodgers with more than 10 matchups against The Professor. Ohtani has never faced Hendricks, so that’s something to watch.

No Cubs hitters have seen the opposing pitcher today, though I’m not sure who’s best served by that lack of familiarity. Ian Happ leads off in left, followed by Seiya Suzuki in right and Cody Bellinger in center. Christopher Morel is the designated hitter as he continues to alternate between there and third in what I could see being a way to ease him back into a more consistent DH role. Dansby Swanson is at short, Michael Busch plays first, Nico Hoerner is at short, and Nick Madrigal handles third. Yan Gomes is behind the plate batting ninth.

Going for the Dodgers is 25-year-old righty Bobby Miller, who is making his second start of the season after looking pretty good over 22 starts as a rookie last year. He racked up 11 strikeouts with just one walk and two hits allowed over six shutout innings against the Cardinals, and it wasn’t just good fortune. Miller comes into this one with a 0.09 FIP, which happens when you pitch like he did.

Miller has a huge fastball that sits over 99 mph and will routinely hit triple digits, like it did against the Cards when he registered the 43 hardest-thrown balls in the game. Forty of those clocked in at 98 mph or higher. His command of the zone is excellent as well, so expect him to work middle-up for whiffs. Miller also has a very good changeup that he’ll throw about 22% of the time at roughly 12 ticks slower than his heater; he can manipulate it for either arm-side run or big tumble.

He has two breaking pitches, a curveball that comes in around 81 mph with 1-7 action and a firm 92 mph slider that finishes out of the zone to the low glove-side corner. Miller’s sinker was very effective last year and he can really bust it in on righties, but he didn’t go to it as often in that first start. If he’s got his stuff working this afternoon, which is iffy because it’s still chilly in Chicago, this could be a very tough battle for Cubs hitters.

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

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