Kyle Hendricks, Stroman, and Steele to lead Cubs into second half against Red Sox

With the second half of the season almost underway, the Chicago Cubs have a reliable trio set to face the Boston Red Sox.
Chicago Cubs v New York Yankees
Chicago Cubs v New York Yankees / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages
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The second half of the season is just about underway in Chicago, and where the Chicago Cubs currently stand is murky, to say the least.

Being five games below .500 and seven games out of first place, it certainly isn't the most ideal of conditions for the Cubs, but in the midst of the uncertainty, there is one constant throughout this season–– Do not count on the NL Central, even as the Reds continue to make their run.

But if there's one thing the Cubs can depend on to help paint that clearer picture on where they stand coming out of the All-Star Break, they're sending them to the mound for the coming days.

Facing the Red Sox at Wrigley, this first series out of the break is huge to not only inch closer to that .500 mark but also set a positive tone for the second half of the season––And what better way to do it than with three of the positive notes from the first half?

With Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman, and Justin Steele set to be the starters across the three-game set with Boston, the Cubs have the necessary weapons on the mound. Let's take a look at just how they'll match up against the Red Sox this weekend:

Friday: Kyle Hendricks (3-3, 3.04 ERA) vs. Brayan Bello (6-5, 3.04 ERA)

The opening matchup for this series features two polar opposites: A seasoned vet versus a 24-year-old solidifying his name as the future of the Red Sox rotation.

Through 24 starts of his young career since debuting in July 2022, Brayan Bello has done just about everything asked of the Red Sox, especially in his 2023 campaign.

Across 14 starts and 80 innings this season, Bello's seen significant success with his changeup in his arsenal. Relying on it 22.1% of the time, Bello produces a 43.9% whiff rate as it has caused hitters to post a .173 average and .200 slugging on the pitch with a 7-run value.

Ranking up there in run value for Bello is his go-to sinker, also producing a 7 while relying on it 35.2% of the time. But, it's also hit considerably harder with a 45.3% hard-hit rat compared to the changeup's 25.5%.

Across all pitches, Bello has topped out at 97.5 MPH this season with his four-seamer, and that's where the next "polar opposite" case comes into play for this pitching matchup against someone who hasn't topped out at a pitch above 90 MPH since 2019.

The Cubs have been grateful to have Kyle Hendricks not only back after a shoulder injury sidelined him for half of 2022 and the beginning of this season, but they've been even more grateful that the 33-year-old has been able to still be the consistent veteran that this staff has needed.

If there were any doubts if Hendricks had anything left in him after a shoulder surgery and missing so much time, he's kept the doubters quiet as he's squeezed back into the rotation.

In nine starts and 53.1 innings pitched, Hendricks has produced a 1.03 WHIP for his lowest since the shortened 2020 season in which he started 12 games to produce a 2.88 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Interestingly enough, he's also ranked fourth across all of baseball with a 0.86 WHIP since June 1st with Bello following close behind at seventh on that list.

In that stretch, Hendricks has also ranked third in walk rate (2.9) and fifth in hard-hit rate (24.8%) while opponents have hit just .200 against him in that span.

Out of his arsenal this season, Hendricks has been using his changeup the most at 37.8%, the very same pitch that produced a career-best across all pitches with 16 run value. This year, it's caused opponents to bat just .151 against it while producing a 29.1% whiff rate.

In terms of a game one matchup, both teams seem to have the ideal guys on the mound. The Red Sox are riding into the second half of the season off the highs of a five-game win streak that they entered the break with, while the Cubs are looking for a spark to ignite a hot streak. Between Hendricks' ability to show out when the Cubs need him most and Bello's recent track record (that included both a no-hit bid against the Marlins and him holding the red-hot Rangers to just two runs), Chicago is in for a showing on the mound, one way or another.