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.

CubsTalk Podcast: The cost to get Chris Archer and how Brandon Morrow can fill an Andrew Miller-esque role


CubsTalk Podcast: The cost to get Chris Archer and how Brandon Morrow can fill an Andrew Miller-esque role

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Tony Andracki and Kelly Crull break down where Brandon Morrow and Drew Smyly fit in the Cubs' pitching plans while Kyle Schwarber craziness reaches new heights.

Peter Gammons and Bob Nightengale weigh Schwarber’s trade value and how likely it may be that the Cubs could secure a Chris Archer, Gerrit Cole or Michael Fulmer this winter. Nightengale also explains how Brandon Morrow could fill an Andrew Miller-esque role for the Cubs.

Plus, Cubs manager Joe Maddon stops by the CubsTalk Podcast to chat with Kelly about his offseason gameplan and why he’s still such a staunch believer in rest even when away from baseball.

Listen to the entire podcast here:

Where Brandon Morrow and Drew Smyly fit in Cubs pitching plans for 2018 and beyond

Where Brandon Morrow and Drew Smyly fit in Cubs pitching plans for 2018 and beyond

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Brandon Morrow is officially official as a member of the Cubs pitching staff (finally), and the team also added another intriguing arm Tuesday night at the Winter Meetings.

The Cubs announced a two-year deal for Morrow with a club/vesting option for 2020. They also signed left-handed pitcher Drew Smyly on a two-year deal worth a reported $10 million, though the 28-year-old pitcher had Tommy John in June and likely won't contribute much in 2018.

The Cubs are looking toward the future with Smyly as a possible 2019 rotation piece. If he's able to return at all in 2018, it will probably only be as a bullpen option.

"This is a move that’s focused on 2019," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said Tuesday night. "Really good high-quality starting pitcher, and we’re excited to get him on this deal, rehab him and hopefully get him back to exactly where he was.”

Smyly did not pitch at all in 2017 and was non-tendered by the Seattle Mariners on Dec. 1. He made 30 starts for the Tampa Bay Rays (and new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey) in 2016, going 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA. Joe Maddon also managed Smyly for a couple months at the end of the 2014 season.

“Both [Hickey and Maddon] liked him a lot," Hoyer said. "We talked to Jim about him, thinks really highly of him, says he’s exceptionally deceptive with how he pitches.

"Both his fastball and his curveball are really deceptive, good cutter and loves how he competes. So Jim was a big part of us wanting to do this.”

Smyly was one of the pieces that went from the Detroit Tigers to the Rays for David Price at the trade deadline in 2014. In his first 19 starts with the Rays between 2014 and 2015, Smyly went 8-3 with a 2.52 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 114.1 innings.

With Smyly not expected to impact 2018's rotation, the Cubs might still be in the market for another starting pitcher this winter, or they might choose to honor Mike Montgomery's wishes and insert him into the rotation full-time (and subsequently look for a potential swingman for the bullpen and rotation depth).

It'd be hard to just hand Smyly a spot in the 2019 Cubs rotation, but the Cubs committing somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million on a two-year deal indicates they're serious about his long-term potential. Plus, he won't turn 30 until June 2019.

The Cubs also have their other four starters — Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood — all signed through the 2020 season, so either they won't be in hard on long-term free-agent signings like Alex Cobb or would just stockpile pitching and sort out any possible six-man rotation issues a year from now.

As of right now, Morrow would serve as the Cubs' closer, but they're still in the market for impact relief pitching and are open to anything. Morrow is also a guy that could slot in as a setup man or high-leverage guy coming in at the most opportune time in the game, even if that means the fifth or sixth inning.

“Did an awesome job in the eighth inning last year for the Dodgers," Hoyer said. "We’re excited to have him. He’s going to pitch super high-leverage innings. If the season started tomorrow and we played a game, he’d be our closer.”