Chicago Cubs Lineup (6/1/24): Tauchman Leads Off, PCA in Center, Steele Starting

Hoo, boy, the Cubs are mired in a stretch of poor play and bad luck that makes them absolutely no fun to watch or write about. That’s why I’m not going to write much about them here. They could really use a feel-good win tonight against the Reds because they’re 2-8 over their last 10 games and just can’t seem to do anything right.

Justin Steele had been somewhat flat since returning from the IL and was giving up all kinds of hard contact, but he was dialed in against the Brewers in his most recent start. His fastball was particularly effective after looking lifeless in three previous outings, and both the curve and change were very solid. That’s been the case as he works to expand his repertoire after being almost exclusively a fastball/slider guy the last two years.

If only he could get enough support that his performance on the mound was just gravy. Mike Tauchman will get things started as the DH, then it’s Seiya Suzuki in right and Cody Bellinger at first. Christopher Morel is at third, Ian Happ is in left, Nico Hoerner is at second, and Dansby Swanson is at short. Pete Crow-Armstrong patrols center and Miguel Amaya is the catcher.

They’re facing flame-throwing righty Hunter Greene, whose strikeout numbers are way down despite his 97th-percentile fastball run value. The heater is down a little from previous seasons but still sits 98 mph and works up in the zone. That’s a massive improvement over last year (seventh percentile) and 2022 (21st), mainly because his command has gotten much better. He’s pinpointing the upper-middle zone these days rather than just spraying it around.

His 87 mph slider is moving in the other direction, which explains the drop in strikeouts. Greene also has a splitter and a curve, but they’re almost irrelevant because they account for less than 8% of his pitches. Now watch him bust out like 20 curveballs tonight.

The big difference for Greene, who won’t turn 25 until August, is that he’s learning to be a pitcher rather than just a hard thrower. By limiting mistakes, he’s more than made up for the drop in Ks by drastically reducing the hard contact he allows. His 3.06 ERA is higher than his 2.56 xERA and 3.18 FIP indicate it should be and his .281 BABIP isn’t indicative of good fortune.

Greene pitches to relatively even splits and has pitched better on the road so far in ’24, so this sets up as a really tough matchup for the struggling Cubs. But hey, maybe this is just what they need to bust out. Weather permitting, first pitch is on ESPN and 670 The Score at 6:15pm CT.

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