Chicago Cubs Lineup (8/13/23): Taillon Tossing, Morel Leading Off, Bellinger Batting Cleanup as Cubs Look to Sweep Blue Jays

The Cubs secured a series victory with another one-run win, pulling them to 13-13 in those contests after starting 4-11. Not coincidentally, it also marked Adbert Alzolay’s 12th straight save conversion. This team is legit and there’s no debate to be made otherwise.

Raise your hand if you thought as recently as early July that Jameson Taillon would be one of the Cubs’ two best starters. Now anyone who raised their hands can put them down because you’re lying. Taillon went into his July 7 start against the Yankees sporting a 6.93 ERA and giving up nearly two homers ever nine innings, but he turned things around against his former team.

Over his last six starts, Taillon is 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA and has 30 strikeouts with 10 walks over 37.1 innings. By working with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and studying video analysis using a Kinetrax system, Taillon learned that his hip-shoulder separation was off slightly. His shoulders were flying open earlier, giving hitters a fraction of a second longer to pick up the ball and forcing him to miss arm-side more often.

Taillon also discovered that his finger was coming off the seam when throwing his curve, costing him spin and movement. He has adjusted his cutter usage as well, first dialing and back and then learning when to best deploy it situationally. In addition to physical changes, the righty has begun working with a mental performance coach and is journaling on a daily basis. It’s all been working really well so far and Sunday offers a chance to keep it rolling against a good team.

On the mound for Toronto is 36-year-old lefty Hyun Jin Ryu, who is making just his third start of the season and ninth in the last two years after being sidelined due to elbow reconstruction last June. He allowed four earned runs on nine hits and had three strikeouts with one walk over five innings in his 2023 debut, then turned things around in his next outing. Ryu faced just one more than the minimum over four hitless, scoreless innings at Cleveland, striking out two with one walk.

Never an elite strikeout guy, he’s dropped off over the past few seasons as his fastball has dipped below 90 mph. All of his pitches work well below the league average, with his 78 mph change, 71 mph curve, and 85 mph cutter filling out his repertoire. There’s not enough data from this season to tell much about what he’ll bring, though the curve has always been a good pitch and the change has been incredible at times in the past.

Having both of those pitches in his bag has kept his splits very even over the last decade, so there shouldn’t be any real platoon advantages here. Neither side has much of a book on the other either, as Cubs batters have a total of 14 plate appearances against Ryu. I don’t know what to make of this matchup and I don’t even have a gut feeling about it, though I do think the rust will eventually work in the Cubs’ favor.

First pitch is at 12:37pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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