Outfield changes for Cubs as they unveil starting lineup for NLDS Game 2 against Nationals


Outfield changes for Cubs as they unveil starting lineup for NLDS Game 2 against Nationals

Get your pencils and scorecards ready.

The Cubs announced Joe Maddon's lineup for Game 2 of the NLDS, and it looks a little different from the starting nine Maddon trotted out for Game 1 on Friday night in Washington.

Here's how the Cubs look for Saturday's game against starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals:

1. Albert Almora Jr., CF
2. Kris Bryant, 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Willson Contreras, C
5. Addison Russell, SS
6. Ben Zobrist, RF
7. Javy Baez, 2B
8. Ian Happ, LF
9. Jon Lester, P

Almora and Happ replace Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward in the outfield, with Almora the new leadoff hitter after Zobrist was 0-for-4 at the top of the order in Game 1. Zobrist, however, remains in right field. Almora's season-long numbers against left-handers are terrific: He's hitting .342 with a .411 on-base percenatge and a .486 slugging percentage. Many of Happ's offensive numbers have actually been worse against left-handed pitching than right-handed pitching this season, and he was 0-for-3 against Gonzalez when Gonzalez pitched against the Cubs earlier this season. Important to remember that none of the Cubs' starting outfielders got a hit in Game 1.

Meanwhile, the Nationals will send the exact same lineup against Lester that they sent against Kyle Hendricks in Game 1. With, of course, the new starting pitcher in Gonzalez.

1. Trea Turner, SS
2. Bryce Harper, RF
3. Anthony Rendon, 3B
4. Daniel Murphy, 2B
5. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
6. Jayson Werth, LF
7. Matt Wieters, C
8. Michael Taylor, CF
9. Gio Gonzalez, P

One guy to watch is Wieters, who's had great success in his career against Lester, with most of that coming when the two were playing in the American League East. Wieters is slashing .314/.357/.412 with four extra-base hits and nine RBIs in 56 career plate appearances against Lester. Murphy homered off Lester in the 2015 NLDS, when Murphy tore the Cubs up as a New York Met.

Lester gave up four runs in 12.2 innings in two starts against the Nationals during the regular season.

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

The MLB regular season is still 13 days away, but Willson Contreras is ready for the swings to count.

The Cubs catcher hit an absolute bomb of a homer Friday afternoon off White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, but it wasn't just a homer.

Contreras put an exclamation mark on the dinger (his third of the spring and the second this week) with an A+ bat flip:

I'm not sure what's more majestic: The 450-foot shot or the 45-foot bat-flip.

Either way, Contreras is ready for those 2018 NL MVP votes.

Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback


Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

San Francisco Giants

2017 record: 64-98, last place in NL West

Offseason additions: Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson, Gregor Blanco, Tony Watson, Julian Fernandez

Offseason departures: Michael Morse, Matt Cain, Matt Moore, Denard Span, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo

X-factor: Brandon Belt

The trades for Longoria and McCutchen are going to get all the attention, but the Giants are sort of acquiring Belt, too. 

Their sweet-swining lefty first baseman only appeared in 104 games in 2017, missing the last few weeks of the season with a bad concussion. When he was on the field, he led the team in both homers (18) and walks (66) despite just 451 plate appearances. 

Belt has turned into one of the most patient hitters in the game and if he is able to stay healthy for a full season, would slot in perfectly in the 2-hole ahead of McCutchen, Longoria and Buster Posey. 

Projected lineup

1. Joe Panik - 2B
2. Brandon Belt - 1B
3. Andrew McCutchen - RF
4. Buster Posey - C
5. Evan Longoria - 3B
6. Hunter Pence - LF
7. Brandon Crawford - SS
8. Austin Jackson - CF

Projected rotation

1. Madison Bumgarner
2. Johnny Cueto
3. Jeff Samardzija
4. Ty Blach
5. Chris Stratton


The Giants tied for the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2017, surprising many around the league. Absolutely nothing went right for the team, from a lack of power on the field (Belt missed a third of the season and still led the team in homers), injuries (Bumgarner only made 17 starts) and general ineffectiveness (Mark Melancon).

But the Giants are a team that excels in even years, though the Cubs may have broken that juju by knocking San Fran out of the NLDS in 2016.

Still, between the return to health of key players and some big moves that improved the lineup, this team is primed for a return to form.

Watson is a nice piece at the back end of the bullpen and bet on a rebound from Melancon, who was one of the best late-inning relievers in the game from 2013-16 (1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 147 saves).

Expect more out of the rotation with Bumgarner and Cueto a dynamic 1-2 punch. Cubs fans are familiar with what Samardzija can do if he gets on a role, too.

It seems crazy to pick the Giants to finish higher than the Diamondbacks, but they still have the same core of players from the championship years and have a much-improved roster.

Prediction: Second place in NL West, wild-card team

Complete opposition research

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Franciso Giants