Suddenly the Royals have won four of their last five games and looked entirely competent after an awful series in St. Louis last weekend. Kris Bubic was the last starter in that St. Louis series and to give you an idea how awful his outing was he had a -4 Game Score v2 per FanGraphs. For context, every player starts with 50 points and gains or loses them based on how well or poorly they pitch; it’s extremely hard to get a negative number. However, seven runs in 1.1 innings will do it. Before that start, he had just snapped a streak of four straight quality starts by throwing 4.2 innings of one-run ball the previous weekend, also against St. Louis. He just turned 24 two days ago and he’s not even arbitration-eligible until the 2023 season so it’s not like he’s about to run out of chances but it would sure make us all feel better if he could avoid any truly terrible starts for the rest of 2021.
The Cubs, who have been only slightly better than the Royals this year, will counter with rookie right-hander Keegan Thompson. Thompson was just recalled from the minor leagues after stretching out to rejoin the rotation. It will be his second big league start but twenty-eighth appearance. He has a 2.21 ERA in 40.2 innings. He was considered the thirty-fourth-best prospect for the Cubs coming into the season according to FanGraphs. He throws a fastball, changeup, cutter, and curveball. Of those pitches, only the curve is considered above-average. Despite the low ERA, Thompson has struggled with his command this year, walking more than a batter per two innings pitched. Combined with a proclivity to allow more home runs than you’d like he has accrued a 4.99 FIP which leaves him with a -0.3 fWAR.
With a righty on the mound the Royals are giving Hunter Dozier the day off in order to ensure Ryan O’Hearn gets in the lineup. Salvador Perez was in the initial lineup despite leaving last night’s contest early with a headache but has been scratched with the same ailment. Hopefully, this is not a sign of a concussion or any more lasting damage and we’ll see him play again tomorrow afternoon. With Perez out, everyone else in the lineup is shifted up a spot so Gallagher can bat eighth.
As for the Cubs, you won’t recognize many names in their lineup. Tyler Duffy from the 2014 Giants is there. Jason Heyward is still around. And old friend Frank Schwindel gets the start at first base today. Schwindel is on his third major league team; he spent some time with the Oakland A’s earlier this season. Since joining the Cubs he has batted .365/.403/.683/1.086 with four dingers in only 18 games. He has been worth 0.8 fWAR. This is almost certainly unsustainable but it’s nice to see Frank the Tank getting some love on the North Side.
Salvador Perez has been scratched from today's lineup.— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) August 21, 2021
2B Whit Merrifield
SS Nicky Lopez
1B Carlos Santana
LF Andrew Benintendi
CF Michael A. Taylor
RF Ryan O'Hearn
3B Emmanuel Rivera
C Cam Gallagher
P Kris Bubic