Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/20/23): Hoerner Leads Off, Morel Bats Ninth, Taillon Takes Mound

Wow, it felt good for the Cubs to get a win last night. That said, they still need to show they can win some close ones rather than just blowing teams out every now and again. Getting any kind of win would be big for Jameson Taillon, who has yet to earn a victory with the Cubs and who wears the mark of the beast as an ERA. He settled down nicely after a poor 1st inning in his last start, so maybe he can continue that.

Fresh off the IL, Nico Hoerner drove in four in Friday’s win to earn praise from David Ross as “our spark.” The second baseman is back tonight, followed by Dansby Swanson at short and Ian Happ in left. Seiya Suzuki misplayed a ball in right, which was perfect timing after I’d written about his improved jumps in the outfield, and he’s there again as the cleanup hitter.

Trey Mancini is the DH, Patrick Wisdom is at third, Matt Mervis is at first, and Yan Gomes is catching. Chris Morel is in center as the most dangerous nine-hole hitter in baseball.

They’ll be facing Aaron Nola, who has seen a drastic drop in his strikeout rate so far this season. After posting no lower than 26.9% K-rate or 9.49 K/9 since 2018, the 30-year-old righty is at just 19.2% and 6.95 through nine starts. That’s because his swinging-strike rate is at just 9.6%, which isn’t ecin at all relative to the rest of his career.

Nola used to be among the league leaders in first-pitch strikes, but those are down to the lowest point of his career as well. Failure to get ahead of batters early may be robbing some of the effectiveness from his curve, which has been his best pitch in the past. His fastball has been hit or miss in terms of getting outs, and he’s trending more toward miss right now.

That doesn’t mean he’s missing the zone, however, as he remains a premier strike-thrower and doesn’t typically walk many batters. The issue is that his stuff hasn’t been good enough to miss bats with adequate frequency. Nola is very efficient and can usually be counted on for at least six innings, but the Cubs should be able to put runners on against him and make him work.

I like this matchup, especially coming off of the momentum from last night. First pitch is at 3:05pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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