Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/8/24): Hoerner at SS, Mastrobuoni 2B, Wesneski Starting

Last night’s game had taken on a decidedly here-we-go-again vibe before the Cubs rallied to win in dramatic fashion. Head groundskeeper Dan Kiermaier was looking things over as the rain was coming down and it looked as though a delay was imminent. Rather than waiting to see what Mother Nature had to say, Michael Busch deposited the first pitch he saw into the bleachers for a walk-off homer.

They could really use a little more of that momentum because it’s not fair to keep forcing the starters to do so much of the work. Even though Hayden Wesneski has been very much up to the task this season, posting a 0.54 ERA over 16.2 total innings, he may eventually allow more than two runs. He put up a tremendous effort last time out, going 6.1 shutout innings with just three hits and two walks against eight strikeouts.

More of that this afternoon, please.

Craig Counsell is sticking with Nico Hoerner at the leadoff spot, though he’ll slide over to short to give Dansby Swanson a rest. It’s a good thing Mike Tauchman didn’t get DFAd as at least one of our readers suggested, because he brings a .415 OBP and 154 wRC+ to the two-hole as the right fielder. Cody Bellinger is the DH, Christopher Morel is at third, Ian Happ is in left, and Busch is at first. Miles Mastrobuoni gets a shot at second, Yan Gomes is the catcher, and Pete Crow-Armstrong is in center.

They’re facing former Cubs farmhand Dylan Cease, who became part of the White Sox-to-Padres pipeline that seems to be very one-directional. He’s on pace for what could well be the best season of his career, offsetting slightly lower strikeout numbers with fewer walks just a wee bit less hard contact. Ah, but there may be serious room for regression.

Cease’s .186 BABIP against is bound to come up in a big way, especially when his 12.1% barrel rate is nearly twice as high as he’s allowed over the past two seasons. The 169th pick back in 2014 has always had a big fastball and it’s still sitting right at 97 mph, but he tends to leave it center cut without elevating enough. His slider and sweeper, however, are nasty offerings.

He’s also got a curve and a cutter, though the latter is thrown infrequently enough to be a classification error. The key for Cease is that he throws the curve and sweeper at about the same speed, in the 83-84 mph range, just with different movement profiles to different locations. His firm slider typically lands in the glove-side third of the zone from middle-up to down-and-out, helping him to get both swinging and called strikes.

The Cubs didn’t do much against Cease when they faced him nearly a month ago, settling for two unearned runs on two hits and as many walks. They’ll need to do better in this one in order to give the staff enough breathing room to pull off a series win before getting the day off ahead of a tilt in Pittsburgh.

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

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