Chicago Cubs Lineup (6/19/24): Hoerner Leads Off, PCA Bats Last, Hendricks Starting

Between the Yan Gomes news and a number of other things, I will admit that I totally forgot today’s game was a matinee. As such, this is going to be a quick one. The Cubs have a chance to win their first three-game series since May 10-12 against the Pirates, but they’re going to have to do it behind a winless pitcher who’s got an 8.20 ERA.

Kyle Hendricks is back in the rotation for the first time in a little over a month after injuries to Ben Brown and Jordan Wicks depleted the club’s depth. He was better in the bullpen and may have regained a little of his familiar form, or so Craig Counsell hopes. Home runs have been a huge problem for Hendricks, who is also striking out fewer and walking more batters than at almost any point in his career.

Scoring a bunch of runs in support of the starter probably isn’t optional in this one, so second baseman Nico Hoerner needs to get things started as the leadoff batter. Seiya Suzuki is in right, Cody Bellinger is at first, Christopher Morel is at third, and Ian Happ is in left. Dansby Swanson is at short, Michael Busch is the DH, Miguel Amaya is catching, and Pete Crow-Armstrong is in center.

They’re up against big lefty Erik Miller, a 26-year-old rookie who is making his sixth start as the Giants’ opener tonight. A reliever by trade, Miller is on for the 36th time already this season and second in this series. Guess that makes it pretty easy for the Cubs to get into the bullpen. Righty Spencer Howard is expected to serve as the bulk man in what would be just his fifth appearance of the year.

Howard has posted a very low strikeout rate with a high walk rate and his career .326 BABIP says he gives up a fair bit of hard contact. Sure enough, opposing hitters put a lot of balls in the air against him. Howard’s mid-90s fastball often ends up middle-middle and his slider catches too much of the plate to be very effective, though his changeup works fairly well because it’s got a huge velo disparity.

At just 80 mph, it floats in with arm-side movement to keep hitters off-balance. There’s not much to draw from such limited experience this year, but the massive reverse splits are part of a general career trend. Righties have always hit Howard better and are slashing .327/.392/.568 against him over parts of five seasons.

This sets up very well for a Cubs team that might be coming around a little with the bats, but we’ll find out for sure at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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