Chicago Cubs Lineup (4/6/24): Happ Leads Off, Wicks on Bump

The Cubs started off their series against the Dodgers with quite a bang, actually a few of them, which was good because the LA contingent made several loud noises as well. It’s never bad to win the opener, especially against a hard-throwing birthday boy, but things won’t get any easier over these next two days.

Jordan Wicks will be tasked with taming a Dodgers lineup that features three potential Hall of Famers in the top spots and a collection of very good hitters in the next six. He wasn’t quite able to do that against the Rangers, in part because he may have been nibbling a little bit en route to three walks over just four innings. He did have six strikeouts, though giving the Dodgers free baserunners isn’t going to work.

Then again, the Cubs were able to overcome a start from Kyle Hendricks that was anything but sharp. Their incredibly patient overall plate approach led to six walks and just four strikeouts as compared to four and 12, respectively, from their counterparts. More of the same would be nice this afternoon.

Ian Happ leads off once again in left, Seiya Suzuki is in right, Cody Bellinger is in center, and Christopher Morel is the DH. Dansby Swanson is at short, Michael Busch is at first a day after hitting his first Cubs homer, and Nico Hoerner plays second. Nick Madrigal bats eighth at third and Yan Gomes is the catcher.

They’re facing the second-best Japanese import of the offseason in Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is making his third start of the season. A disastrous debut against the Padres in Seoul was followed by a much stronger outing against the Cardinals in which the righty allowed two hits while striking out five with no walks over five shutout innings. He’s got a similar repertoire to Shota Imanaga, who will start for the Cubs tomorrow, complete with some funk in his delivery.

Yamamoto has a hitch in his giddyup before delivering a mid-90s fastball that explodes from his slight frame. That pitch makes up about 38% of his mix, then he’ll throw the splitter and curve with nearly identical frequency at around 25% apiece. The cutter makes up the rest and may see an uptick in usage if he can’t find consistent feel for the splitter.

While it may have just been a matter of nerves or environment, Yamamoto’s offspeed pitch was crushed by the Padres because he left it up in the zone too often. When it falls off the table, however, it’s a serious weapon. He likes to work it arm-side, providing a sharp contrast to the curveball that stays middle with some glove-side action. Though both have good vertical break, the splitter comes in at 90 mph and the curve is about 12 ticks slower.

As obvious as this sounds, the game is going to come down to which team can make the best adjustments against unfamiliar opponents. Neither Wicks nor Yamamoto have faced anyone in either of these lineups, with the exception of the latter going up against Suzuki during their time in Japan. I’d normally put money on the Dodgers in this situation, and still might just to hamper them with my bad karmic influence, but something tells me Wicks has a gem in him.

First pitch from Wrigley is at 3:04pm CT on FS1, Marquee Sports Network, and 670 The Score.

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