Chicago Cubs Lineup (8/15/23): Tauchman Leads Off, Candelario 3B, Hendricks Pitching

The Cubs took two of three from the Blue Jays to come out even for the road trip, which is acceptable even if it wasn’t the most desirable outcome. They now open a stretch of 12 games against bad teams, starting with two against the White Sox. The South Siders weren’t very competitive on the whole when they last squared off with the Cubs, and they’ve traded away several key contributors since then.

Kyle Hendricks faced the Sox in that last set, going 6.1 innings with three earned runs allowed. Even though the runs came toward the end of his outing after the Cubs had built a five-run lead, it wasn’t great to see how quickly Hendricks faded in that one. He gave up three hits and a walk, and the only batter he retired in the 7th was Yoan Moncada on a sac fly.

That said, he’d only given up one hit and hadn’t walked a batter prior to that frame. Another performance like that should be enough for an offense that figures to put up some runs tonight. That starts with Mike Tauchman in center, followed by Nico Hoerner at second and Ian Happ in left. Cody Bellinger is at first, Dansby Swanson is the shortstop, Jeimer Candelario is at third, and Christopher Morel is the DH. Seiya Suzuki plays right and Yan Gomes is behind the plate.

They’re facing 27-year-old righty Touki Toussaint, who is making his eighth start and 12th total appearance on the season after beginning the year with Cleveland. He actually started out at Triple-A Columbus, where he got just one start out of 20 appearances. With three saves and two holds, Toussaint was mainly a high-leverage guy before being called up.

He was DFA’d on June 17 after just one start for the Guardians, then got picked up by the Sox and appeared as a long reliever four days later. His usage has varied since then, but he’s already up to 46.1 MLB innings on the season and can reach a career-high if he makes it through four tonight. That seems easy enough, but Toussaint has always had issues with walks and isn’t very efficient as a result.

He’s got 47 strikeouts and 32 bases on balls so far, though he has the kind of stuff that can shut opponents down if he finds a groove. His excellent extension increases the perceived velocity of his 94 mph fastball and helps to offset its below-average spin. That pitch typically works up in the zone while the sinker, curve, and splitter all light up the lower end.

That allows Toussaint to generate grounders at a 51% clip, plus he is deceptive enough location-wise to get more called strikes than most of his peers. However, he is in just the fifth percentile for chase rate and we already noted the walks. The result is that even though opponents are batting just a skosh over .200 against him on the season, he’s allowing around a .345 OBP. Right-handed batters have hit him harder but lefties see him better, so the wOBA split is almost identical.

This is kind of a weird matchup that I could honestly see going either way depending on whether Toussaint shows any control. It may not matter much since he’s probably only good for five innings and the Sox have a bad bullpen, but sometimes a guy just catches lightning in a bottle. That said, I could just as easily see the Cubs grinding Toussaint down with patient plate appearances.

We’ll find out which direction it goes at 7:05pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score. And if you’re one of those folks who’d like to watch the game virtually with a friend, I’ll be taking my maiden voyage with a livestream via the Pro Sports Fans app.

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