Chicago Cubs Lineup (6/17/23): Tauchman Leads Off, Mastrobuoni 3B, Steele Returns to Rotation

Justin Steele hasn’t pitched since May 31 against the Rays, when he left early with forearm tightness and subsequently landed on the IL. The issue ended up not being as dire as initially feared and he’s back in action against another AL East team Saturday afternoon. He was cruising against Tampa but had been alternating good and bad starts, so let’s hope the time off broke up that routine.

Mike Tauchman is back in the leadoff spot and playing center field, Nico Hoerner hits and plays second, Seiya Suzuki is in right, and Ian Happ is in left. Dansby Swanson handles short, Cody Bellinger is at first, Chris Morel is the DH, Yan Gomes is catching, and Miles Mastrobuoni is at third.

Going for Baltimore is 35-year-old righty Kyle Gibson, who is putting up very good results in his first season with the O’s. The longtime Twin has bounced around over the past few years and has struggled with consistency, but he’s made some tweaks to his pitch mix and perhaps his mechanics as well. The repertoire change is a matter of throwing the cutter more frequently, though that pitch has not been among his best this season.

What really seems to be making a big difference is making better use of his 6-foot-6 frame to improve his extension and let that 92 mph sinker play up a bit more. That pitch has been decent for him on occasion throughout his career, but it’s generating more per-pitch value this season than ever before. While his four-seam is still getting rocked up in the zone, the sinker lives middle-down and helps to limit big flies.

Gibson also has a very good slider that works more as a pitch to generate weak contact rather than whiffs, so Cubs hitters will see it most often on that glove-side corner. He can still get a lot of sweep on it when he needs to either fool a righty off the plate or back-foot a lefty, though that’s not his bread and butter. His changeup lives in much the same area as the sinker, only with a tendency to drop off a lot more.

Always a pretty traditional split guy, Gibson is seeing more pronounced results this year as lefties are really getting to him. They are currently batting .289 and slugging .470 with a .354 wOBA, numbers that skyrocket by 50-100 points when he pitches on the road. The lack of strikeouts — he got 11 in a game earlier this season but has gotten more than five in just one other start — means the Cubs should be able to put together some rallies if they maintain their recent strategy of playing station-to-station baseball.

First pitch is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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