Dodgers @ Cubs April 20, 2023: 7-game road trip begins without Betts, Smith

Photo: Sarah Wexler

Set to play four games at Wrigley Field in Chicago just four days after hosting the Cubs (11-6) in Los Angeles, the Dodgers (9-10) will begin their seven-game road trip without Mookie Betts (paternity list) and Will Smith (concussion IL). Additionally, Miguel Rojas landed on the IL yesterday with a hamstring strain and Chris Taylor appeared as a pinch runner while dealing with his oblique injury. With Taylor not ready to field or hit, that leaves the Dodgers with both Luke Williams and Yonny Hernandez on the major league roster (for now) and handling shortstop for at least the immediate future.

Of course, only one NL West team, the Diamondbacks, is currently above .500 as they all deal with their variety of issues from injuries (Padres, Dodgers) to just not being very good (Rockies, also the Dodgers).

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4:40 PM Chicago
RF Outman (L) 2B Hoerner
1B Freeman (L) SS Swanson
DH Martinez LF Happ (S)
3B Muncy (L) RF Suzuki
CF Thompson CF Bellinger (L)
LF Peralta (L) 3B Wisdom
2B Vargas DH Hosmer (L)
SS Williams 1B Mancini
C Barnes C Barnhart (S)
P Grove (R) P Assad (R)

With the Dodgers and Cubs just playing earlier this week and neither having a day off since they went their separate ways on Sunday, we were supposed to have the same pitching matchup from Saturday’s 2-1 walk-off victory as Michael Grove and Jameson Taillon were set to be on the mound. However, the Cubs placed Taillon on the IL with a groin strain a little more than three hours from first pitch with Triple-A call-up Javier Assad now set to start.

The Dodgers have lost Betts (temporarily) and Rojas since that meeting, so today’s lineup looks a bit different than it did the last time the teams played. James Outman stays atop the order in right field, his first start out there in 2023 and just his second appearance at the position in the majors, with the expected trio immediately following. Jason Heyward is not in the starting lineup in his return to Wrigley, with Trayce Thompson getting the start in center against a right-handed starter.

The Dodgers’ experiment with Thompson facing lefties hasn’t gone as hoped (.118/.250/.294/.544, 55 wRC+) in his 20 PAs so far and is aided by his grand slam off of the newly DFA’d Madison Bumgarner, while his 16 PAs against right-handers includes three home runs and a .385/.500/.1.077/1.577 and 295 wRC+. Thompson has also struck out 45% of the time against lefties compared to 25% against righties, so even if it’s a small sample all of that is pretty consistent with what we saw last year.

David Peralta also gets the start a day after hitting a home run against the Mets with Miguel Vargas, Williams and Austin Barnes rounding out the order. That final trio went a combined 1-for-19 with two walks against the Mets.

For the Cubs, it is the exact same nine from the last game against Grove. Patrick Wisdom will look to continue torturing the Dodgers after hitting a home run in each of the games last weekend while Cody Bellinger is just a few days removed from his first career five-hit game.


I was really just going to skip this section since Taillon had faced the Dodgers in his last start, but the Cubs ruined that plan.

Assad is a 25-year-old right-hander who was signed by the Cubs back in 2015 and appeared in the World Baseball Classic for Mexico this spring. Landing at every level of the Cubs organization, starting in Rookie League in 2016, through three levels of Low-A, Single-A and High-A in three years to Double-A in 2021, Assad split time between Tennessee, Iowa and Chicago last year.

Starting eight games in the majors with nine appearance, Assad finished 2022 with a 3.11 ERA in 37 2/3 innings, striking out 30 to 20 walks. After opening 2023 in the majors, Assad was sent back to Iowa on April 10 after allowing three runs on three hits and one walk to the Rangers. His first outing of the season against the Brewers also led to three runs on two hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings. During the WBC, Assad 5 2/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts to one walk and two hits allowed. That included 3 innings against the United States, with Assad striking out Pete Alonso twice and only allowing a single to Mike Trout.

In 2022, Assad was 41.8% sinker to right-handed batters with the pitch averaging 92.3 mph. An 87.8 mph cutter and a 93.0 mph fastball followed at 19.8% and 17.5% respectively. An 81.2 mph slider followed at 16.0% while his curveball generated an 83.3 Whiff% on 12 pitches to righties. Lefties see the cutter more at 36.1%, followed by the fastball (26.2%), sinker (17.5%) and an 85.2 mph changeup (12.9%).

He only threw 73 pitches in the majors this season before being sent down, and allowed two runs in his 2 2/3 innings in his last appearance back on April 14 for Iowa. In his limited time in the majors so far, Assad has held right-handers to a .213/.282/.319/.601 line while going .296/.405/.465/.870 to lefties. Assad’s K% is actually slightly higher to the latter at 19.0% to 18.4%, but he walks lefties at nearly twice the rate (15.5%) compared to righties (8.7%). Feels like Max Muncy ends up walking in this game.


Grove bounced back well from his 3 1/3-inning, nine-run outing against the D-backs on April 9 with 5 2/3 innings against the Cubs on April 15. Allowing just one run on two hits and two walks, Grove struck out six with five coming via his slider.

Finishing with eight misses on 18 swings, the pitch recorded a 44 Whiff%. Both of the hits off Grove came against his fastball, with Wisdom sending it 415 feet to center field. Through his first three starts, Grove’s slider is responsible for 11 of his 14 strikeouts and a 55 Whiff%. Batters on both sides of the plate have struggled against the pitch so far with the xWOBA under .200 to both righties and lefties.

Meanwhile, right-handed batters have three hits in seven at-bats against the fastball, with at seven hits in 17 at-bats.


Betts will be back with the Dodgers very soon, possibly even tonight with Hernandez optioned back to Triple-A.

But Smith won’t be.

Tony Gonsolin had his first rehab start for Oklahoma City this morning:


First pitch is scheduled for 4:40 p.m. PT on SportsNet LA and MLB Network, though the weather isn’t going to be great tonight.

About Cody Bashore

Cody Bashore is a lifelong Dodger fan originally from Carpinteria, California (about 80 miles north of Dodger Stadium along the coast). He left California to attend Northern Arizona University in 2011, and has lived in Arizona full-time since he graduated in 2014 with a journalism degree.