Cubs @ Dodgers April 14, 2023: Syndergaard Starts, Bellinger Returns

The Dodgers (7-6) are coming off a series win in San Francisco, taking two of three from the Giants (5-7), salvaging their road trip to a record of 3-4. They trail the Arizona Diamondbacks (8-5) by one game in the NL West. While a 7-6 record isn’t ideal, there are a few teams with October aspirations that are already quite a few games below .500 and trailing in their division, such as the Phillies (4-9) and the Cardinals (5-8). 7-6 isn’t fantastic, and with a likely tight division race this year, it’d be nice to be off to a better start, but it could always be worse.

The Cubs are 6-5, coming off a 74-88 season, and they don’t project to be a great team this year, but they have improved, adding Tucker Barnhart, shortstop Dansby Swanson, Eric Hosmer, and old friend … Cody Bellinger. They also added Jameson Taillon and recently extended Ian Happ. Noah Syndergaard will be on the hill for the Dodgers, up against the left-handed Justin Steele.

Image Image
7:10 PM Los Angeles
2B Hoerner RF Betts
SS Swanson 1B Freeman (L)
LF Happ (S) DH Martinez
RF Suzuki 3B Muncy (L)
CF Bellinger (L) CF Thompson
3B Wisdom 2B Vargas
1B Hosmer (L) SS Rojas
DH Rios (L) LF Taylor
C Gomes C Barnes
P Steele (L) P Syndergaard (R)

Miguel Rojas is back in the lineup after leaving Wednesday’s game with a hamstring cramp. Those are always no cause for concern. Right? This moves Chris Taylor back into left field. Steele is left-handed, so the Dodgers will go right-heavy in their lineup tonight. Freddie Freeman is one of the best hitters in baseball, and Max Muncy is on fire, so they’ll be the sole lefties in the lineup. David Peralta, James Outman, and Jason Heyward are all available off the bench. Austin Barnes will catch and look for his first hit of the season as Will Smith is out sick.


Here’s how the two teams matchup offensively.

The Cubs’ offense has been about middle of the pack, as they do a couple things quite well. They put the ball in play frequently as evidenced by their .280 batting average, and they limit their strikeouts quite well too. Their issue is the lack of slugging thus far, with just ten home runs on the year, the fourth lowest total in baseball. If they could up their power numbers, they’d have a legitimately strong offense, but until then, they’re just average. Swanson, the newest Cub has a 155 wRC+, Happ has been off to a great start with a 145 wRC+, while Patrick Wisdom (134) and Nico Hoerner (113) have been good as well. Bellinger has just a 14.9% strikeout rate, a career low, but is still just slashing .238/.298/.405, good for an 86 wRC+ and .703 OPS.


Syndergaard took the loss against Arizona last Saturday, allowing six runs on eight hits and no walks while striking out two in four innings. He looked good in his season debut, but his second start was much shakier. He gave up hard contact all game, allowing ten balls hit at over 95 MPH. He’ll try to get back on track tonight.

Steele has been excellent across two starts so far this season, allowing just the one run through 12 innings while striking out 11. The four walks in his last outing are a bit concerning, as the lefty struggled with control at times last year. He was quite good for the Cubs in 2022, with a 3.18 ERA, 3.20 FIP, and 1.35 WHIP with 126 strikeouts in 119 innings. He faced the Dodgers just once, allowing two earned runs in four innings on three hits and two walks. He was tough against left-handed batters last year, with a 2.73 FIP, and a 29.6% strikeout rate, compared to 23.2% against right-handed batters. Makes sense as to why Peralta, Outman, and Heyward are all out of the lineup.


The last two seasons have seen such a decline for Bellinger, it was sad to watch. In an ideal world, he’d still be his 2019 self, hitting in the heart of the lineup tonight for the Dodgers. Instead he’s in the away dugout still trying to find a semblance of his previous success.

Some quality Bellinger highlights.


Ah yes, Muncy expanding on his positional versatility.


First pitch is at 7:10 PM on SNLA.

About Allan Yamashige

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Just a guy living in Southern California, having a good time writing about baseball. Hated baseball practice as a kid, but writing about it rules. Thanks for reading!