Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/9/23): Madrigal Leads Off, Morel at 2B, Taillon Seeking First W

Neither offense looked particularly sharp last night, but the Cubs were downright flat and became even more so when Nico Hoerner blew a tire while cruising into third. Nick Madrigal entered as a replacement and was promptly thrown out by about 15 feet while trying to tag up. The little fella is actually in the 69th percentile among MLB players in terms of sprint speed, but running into a lot of outs is less than nice.

In any case, the Cubs were limited to just one run for the fifth time this season and third time in seven games. They’ll need to do better if they want to get Jameson Taillon his first win with his new team, though he’ll have to last long enough to qualify. In his first start off the IL last week, the righty lasted just three innings in a loss to the Nationals.

Taillon was relatively efficient, though, throwing 42 pitches to 12 batters and striking out four with no walks. The big blemish was a three-run homer that followed a pair of singled to open the home half of the second inning, but those were the only hits Taillon allowed in the game. If he can remain sharp and get a little deeper, the Cubs will be in a good spot.

Madrigal is standing in for Hoerner at leadoff and will play third, followed by Dansby Swanson at short and Ian Happ in left. Cody Bellinger leads off in center, Seiya Suzuki is in right, and Eric Hosmer is the DH with Matt Mervis at first. Christopher Morel bats eighth at second base and Miguel Amaya is behind the plate.

Jack Flaherty would have been a really tough matchup a few years ago, but his health and performance have been spotty since a standout 2019 season that saw him make 33 starts. He’s only made 39 total in parts of four seasons since and his ERA has fluctuated over that time. That mark stands at 6.29 heading into tonight’s action, and his 5.41 FIP says it’s not just a matter of bad luck.

Flaherty’s biggest problem over the last two seasons has been too many bases on balls, as his 13.7% walk rate over the last two seasons is fourth-highest in MLB (min. 70 IP). Most of that is due to walking 13 men over 10 innings in his first two starts this year, but location hasn’t been a strong suit. After holding the Blue Jays hitless through five innings in his season debut, Flaherty has allowed 34 hits in subsequent 29.1 innings. Five of those hits have left the yard, one in each of his last five starts.

The big 27-year-old doesn’t have elite velocity, so opposing hitters can square up his fastball when he keeps it over the plate. He has done that quite often, usually putting in middle-in for lefties. His slider has been effective, though its heat map is bright red across most of the lower half of the zone and it can be punished if it backs up on him. Flaherty’s cutter is also good and it’ll run away from righties on the outside edge.

Those breaking pitches have allowed him to limit right-handed batters this year, though lefties are taking advantage of his lack of a changeup. Seeing that .364 aggregate average and .462 wOBA tells me Mervis may have an impact on this game.

It’ll probably come down to which of these two former phenom starters is more on his game, though the Cubs can’t just sit back and hope Taillon tosses a shutout. First pitch from Wrigley is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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