Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/21/24): Tauchman DH, Starting Middle Infield Returns, Assad Pitching

The Cubs have lost five of their last seven, including a very troubling three of four to the Pirates over a long weekend, and now their reward is three more against the Braves. Though they’re well back in second due to the incredibly hot play of the Phillies, this Atlanta squad is clearly nothing to be trifled with. The Cubs should at least be closer to full strength for this one, with Dansby Swanson activated and Nico Hoerner back from an extended absence that didn’t require an IL stint.

I like that this is the first of three series between high school ball and travel ball, so my obligations are reduced for a few days. It’s nice to have a little more time in the day even if I’d love to be at the ballpark as often as possible. Maybe the Cubs can play well enough here to get all of us feeling like watching them is worthwhile.

Javier Assad has certainly been fun to watch so far as he sports a spotless 4-0 record with a 1.49 ERA that includes a victory with six shutout innings against the Braves last week. He allowed only four hits and one walk while striking out seven, making it his best outing of what is looking like an All-Star-caliber performance to this point. Based on the way the offense is playing, he may need to do that again.

I am at a loss to understand how it makes sense to promote Luis Vázquez, who is mired in a slump this month, and then stash him on the bench alongside Nick Madrigal. The improved defense from the prospect only matters if either Swanson or Hoerner have to sit, so perhaps the Cubs are planning to take it easy with both of them over the next week or so.

Mike Tauchman is the DH tonight, followed by Seiya Suzuki in right and Cody Bellinger in center. Christopher Morel is at third, Ian Happ is in left, Hoerner is at second, and Michael Busch is at first. Swanson is the shortstop and Miguel Amaya does the catching.

They’re up against the aging Charlie Morton, who served as Assad’s foil his last time out and put up the worst outing of his season in his first loss. The 40-year-old lasted just three innings after giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks. He managed to strike out four and his fastball was still sitting mid-90s, but it was super hittable.

But it’s all about the curveball for Morton, and that pitch just wasn’t getting it done. His change was actually pretty good, just not enough so to make up for a cutter that caught too much of the zone. Despite all that, or maybe even because of it, this is a guy who’s totally capable of turning things around and shutting an opponent down.

If Morton has the bender working tonight, it could be a long one for the Cubs. Then again, he could go out and make the same mistakes we saw last week. Here’s to hoping for the latter.

First pitch is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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