Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/23/24): Tauchman Leads Off, Happ DH, Brown Leads Bullpen into Battle

The Cubs looked pretty good for a while last night…until they didn’t. Justin Steele simply couldn’t keep pace with his lefty counterpart and the home run ball bit him yet again before the bullpen made the game uncompetitive for the zillionth time this season. At least the game was over pretty quickly.

Porter Hodge stood out as a bright spot and Ian Happ had a good knock to break up Max Fried’s perfect game, so silver linings weren’t entirely absent. It just feels like the Cubs are stuck in a rut, which makes sense because they haven’t won two in a row since May 4-5 against the Brewers. They’re 9-11 on the month, though people have long been calling this an emergency, and they’ve now got one more with the Braves before the fun begins.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not super bullish on a bullpen game here, even if Ben Brown is the opener. Maybe the Cubs can surprise me. But as I’ve repeated far too often in these posts, the pitching matters little of the bats don’t work.

Mike Tauchman will try to get things started in left field, then it’s Seiya Suzuki in right and Cody Bellinger in center. Christopher Morel is at third, Happ is the DH, Nico Hoerner is at second, and Michael Busch is at first. Dansby Swanson is at short and Yan Gomes is catching.

They’re facing AJ Smith-Shawver a 21-year-old righty who is making his first MLB appearance of the season. He debuted with six appearances (five starts) last year and was fairly effective outside of a few homers. A huge strikeout guy in the minors, Smith-Shawver is also prone to walks and will hang plenty of mistakes in the zone. The key is to punish those mistakes, something the Cubs had been doing earlier in the season before inexplicably losing that ability.

If you’ll excuse the relatively scarce scouting section here, I’ve got several other obligations pulling me in different directions. The rookie has a 95 mph fastball that lights up the heart of the zone with enough ride to keep hitters from barreling it as often as they probably should. His 85 mph slider makes up about a quarter of his pitches, but he doesn’t really seem to know where it’s going.

His curveball is all over the map, same for his changeup, so the long and short on this kid is that he’s got really good stuff with very little polish at this point. Feels like one of those games where he either puts it all together and dominates or maintains that wildness and trades strikeouts for walks and homers. Sure would be nice for the Cubs to bang a few with runners on.

First pitch for this getaway-day affair is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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