Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/2/24): Hoerner at SS, Madrigal 2B, Wisdom DH, Brown on Bump

The Cubs have scored just 10 runs in their last five games, with four scores coming in a loss to the Red Sox that already feels like it was seven years ago and three more in the opening win against the Mets. Sitting in second place with 19 wins feels like a minor miracle given how many injuries they’ve sustained, but there’s still a sense that they’re working harder than they need to. Depleted roster or no, it won’t be good enough to simply tread water with the Brewers coming to Chicago this weekend.

Speaking of being shorthanded, Milwaukee might be without Freddy Peralta following yet another benches-clearing brawl with the Rays on Tuesday. Whether it’s manager Pat Murphy injecting a little extra feistiness or just the innate douchebaggery of that franchise, you get the sense that things could get chippy when they face their former skipper. Peralta was that starter in that brawlgame and received a five-game suspension, but he has appealed and is still the scheduled starter for Sunday’s game at Wrigley.

Back to the present, which sees the Cubs with a chance to take three of four from a Mets team that is still reeling from being doubled up to end Wednesday’s contest. If only Pete Alonso had thought to actually touch the plate with his big ol’ paw. What’s really hilarious is that SNY’s Andy Martino completely whiffed when he tried to argue that Miguel Amaya was blocking the plate.

For what it’s worth, Andy, I think Adrián González agrees with you.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come down to a single play in this one, especially since the bullpen will likely be tasked with covering several innings this afternoon. Ben Brown has gone as many as six frames this season, but Craig Counsell probably isn’t banking on more than five after the swingman’s last outing went less than four. The silver lining is that Brown didn’t walk anyone, the dark cloud is that he gave up seven hits.

I love the idea of throwing your best stuff and beating hitters in the zone, but Brown has effectively become a two-pitch guy at this point. Great for shorter appearances, not so much for length once opponents have a book on you. Still, Brown just needs to hold the Mets at bay for a few innings. The good news is that he’s been much tougher on right-handed hitters, which could help to neutralize Alonso.

Not that it’ll matter much if the Cubs can’t hang a crooked number. That starts with Nico Hoerner at the top of the order playing short, followed by Mike Tauchman in right and Ian Happ in left. Christopher Morel is at third yet again, Michael Busch is across the diamond, Patrick Wisdom is the DH, and Nick Madrigal is at second, Pete Crow-Armstrong is in center and Yan Gomes is the catcher.

All that talk about the Brewers provided a nice setup for today’s opposing starter, Adrian Houser. Basically a discount version of Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, the burly Houser had some decent seasons in Milwaukee before joining the Mets this past winter as part of a trade that also sent Tyrone Taylor to New York in exchange for righty Coleman Crow.

To say that Houser has had a tough time with his new team would be an understatement, as he’s currently 0-3 with an 8.37 ERA and more walks (16) than strikeouts (14). He was never a big strikeout guy to begin with and now his velocity is down a couple ticks to 92-93 mph. A big sinkerballer, Houser used to generate grounders at well over a 50% clip. That’s down to under 42% this season because he’s leaving the ball up and over the plate too much.

Rather than busting right-handed batters in on the hands, he’s lighting up both the inner and outer thirds just below the middle of the zone. Not great. Even worse is that his slider, which he throws more than any other secondary at 19.2%, is creating a bright red dot in the middle of the strike zone rather than breaking down to the corner as it has in the past. The four-seam has been okay, if a bit erratic, but his split-change has generated -3.3 runs despite making up just 13% of his repertoire.

That has led to mild reverse splits, though left-handed hitters are still slashing .280/.379/.460 against him so far. The only saving grace for Houser is that he’s only allowed one homer over his five starts. Assuming that continues, the Cubs are going to need to take advantage of his spotty command and lack of a put-away pitch. There’s no excuse for failing to clog the bases, the only concern is whether those runners will be driven in.

First pitch is at 12:10pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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