Cubs toy with top of lineup ahead of tilt with Cardinals (Jun 03, 2017)
CHICAGO -- Rookie Ian Happ made his first appearance as a leadoff batter in Friday's opener of a three-game series between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.
Saturday's leadoff batter is anybody's guess.
For Cubs manager Joe Maddon, it all depends. He has mentioned Ben Zobrist and even Jason Heyward as potential candidates in favor of Kyle Schwarber, who led off in 35 games but has struggled at the plate.
"Versus lefties, (the lineup) could be different," Maddon said. "I'm just trying to toy with different ideas. ... It's always nice to have (a consistent leadoff hitter), I'm not going to deny that. Like it's always nice to have a closer, it's nice to have a table setter. But we'll work through all that."
Schwarber, who is batting .163, was moved out of the top spot to help him resolve a two-month stretch of hitting issues. He batted seventh on Friday and went 0-for-2 while striking out twice.
"Let him go down (in the order) a little bit, work on some things, kind of like we did last year with Jason (Heyward)," Maddon said.
On Saturday, right-hander Mike Leake (4-3, 2.93 ERA) gets the call for the Cardinals as he makes his 11th start.
Leake is coming off Monday's 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in which he allowed four runs and six hits in seven innings.
"He's had a tough pace to keep up with, with what he's been able to do this year," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told reporters. "He's been as good as anybody in the league."
Leake leads the league in ERA (2.24) and is near the top in other categories. He's 9-6 with a 3.50 ERA in 24 career starts against Chicago but has lost four of his last five starts (with one no-decision) after beating the Cubs in five straight starts.
He took the loss on May 12 against Chicago after giving up two solo homers to Willson Contreras.
Cubs left-hander Jon Lester (3-3, 3.86 ERA) will make his 12th start of the season and seventh at Wrigley Field. In his last start on Sunday at the Los Angeles Dodgers, he allowed a pair of three-run homers and was hit for a season-high six runs in Chicago's 9-4 loss.
"Nothing was really sharp," Lester told reporters after that game. "I didn't have command of the fastball on either side of the plate. I couldn't go to any particular pitch to bail me out of any trouble."
But Lester is 3-0 at Wrigley Field with a 1.80 ERA in six home starts. He has faced the Cardinals twice already this season, going 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA. For his career, Lester is 1-3 with a 2.70 ERA in five starts against St. Louis.
The series concludes Sunday with Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha (2-3, 3.99) against Cubs righty Kyle Hendricks (4-3, 3.75 ERA).