Chicago Cubs Lineup (4/30/24): Wisdom 1B, Morel DH, Madrigal 3B, Assad Starting

Last night’s game looked like another disappointing performance…until it didn’t. After being no-hit for more than seven innings, the Cubs rallied back to win the game late and set a franchise record with 18 wins through April. Yes, that’s more than they had in 2016. And hey, they still have one more game left in the month.

Javier Assad gets the nod tonight for the sixth time and he’ll try to get that ERA under 2.00 after consecutive starts with just one run allowed. The righty’s only real weakness thus far has been inconsistency finding the zone, as evidenced by three walks in two games so far. He’s alternated those with three starts of just one free pass apiece, so he’ll want to break that cycle tonight.

We saw a lot of long fly balls die at the track last night, a common feature at Citi Field even with the fences moved in, and Assad will benefit if that remains the case. Nearly 64% of the contact he allows has been in the air, so you do worry about that at least a little with warmer weather on the horizon. Just in case, maybe the bats can spot him a few runs out of the gate.

Craig Counsell is leaning on his righty hitters tonight, starting with Nico Hoerner batting first at second and Patrick Wisdom batting second at first. Ian Happ remains in the three-hole and playing left, Christopher Morel cleans up as the DH, Dansby Swanson is at short, and Mike Tauchman is in center. Nick Madrigal handles third base, Miguel Amaya is behind the dish, and Alexander Canario is in right.

They’re up against Sean Manaea, who for some reason I always think of as kind of a smaller guy and a righty. Not sure why that is, because he’s 6-foot-5 and about 250 pounds of pure southpaw. Though he’s not a super hard thrower, Manaea gets great extension to make his fastball play up beyond its 93 mph average. He’s putting together what looks like it could be the best season of his career at 33 years old, though faults have been apparent.

Manaea’s 3.33 ERA is well below his norm and his 9.99 K/9 mark would be a career-best if he can maintain it, but his 13.1% walk rate is way high and has led to short outings. The saving grace has been a lack of homers allowed, which may be ripe for correction since his 27% grounder rate is about 15 points below his career mark. If Manaea pitches the way he has, the Cubs should have plenty of baserunners tonight.

The big lefty will throw hard stuff about half the time, leading with a sinker (33.8%) that works arm-side and then bringing a four-seam that typically ends up on the glove-side third of the plate. His sweeper has been dialed back to 78 mph or so and can heat up the lower glove-side corner of the zone, though he sprays it around a lot and it frequently backs up on him.

His firm changeup is even more spotty, coming in at 86 mph and dropping down to the middle or outer glove-side third. Manaea also has a cutter that has similar location to the four-seam, just a few ticks slower and with more horizontal movement. The early splits have been very ugly for left-handed batters, as in a .111 average with the same slugging and a .209 wOBA, but he’s only faced 11 of them due to significant career splits.

Righties have done better on the whole, but slugging hasn’t been there since Manaea has only allowed a double in addition to that homer. Something is bound to change with those numbers, so maybe the Cubs can serve as the jagged teeth of the regression monster tonight.

First pitch from Queens is at 6:10pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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