Chicago Cubs Lineup (6/11/24): Tauchman Leads Off, Busch at 2B, Taillon Starting

The Cubs got out of Cincinnati with their only win in the series and now have a chance to build some momentum against a Rays team that has been unable to recapture the magic of last season. At 31-35, Tampa sits last in the division and doesn’t have much hope to recover. The offense is among the worst in baseball with 255 runs scored (26th), a .657 OPS (28th), and 50 homers (30th. The pitching hasn’t been much better with a 4.42 ERA (25th).

That might be just what Jameson Taillon needs to course-correct after four strong starts to open the season. Though his 3.47 ERA says he’s been pretty good, the story has been decidedly different over the last month or so. Taillon has surrendered 38 hits in his last 21.1 innings and has struck out only 19 batters with eight walks. The walks have been curbed lately, but he’s throwing way too many hittable pitches.

The saving grace has been a 5.5% barrel rate that is well below anything he managed in any of the three previous seasons. Facing a team that doesn’t hit for either power or average should work in Taillon’s favor tonight.

Mike Tauchman will get things started for the Cubs as the DH, then it’s Seiya Suzuki in right and Cody Bellinger at first. Christopher Morel is the third baseman, Ian Happ is in left, Dansby Swanson is at short, and Michael Busch is at second. Pete Crow-Armstrong is the center fielder and Miguel Amaya is behind the plate.

Nico Hoerner told 670 The Score that he will be available off the bench now that his hand feels “pretty good.”

They’re going up against Zach Eflin, who’s having a down season in several regards as he, like Taillon, has struggled to miss bats. Always an elite strike-thrower, Eflin has taken things to a new level with a 1.5% walk rate that is easily the lowest in MLB among pitchers who have logged at least 50 innings this season. That helps him to get more called strikes than most of his peers, but it also means fewer swings and misses. Even though he’s still right around his career average for whiff rate, he isn’t able to put batters away very often.

He likes to work his 91 mph sinker to the glove side, which is particularly interesting when contrasted to a cutter that ends up in about the same place at 88 mph. Those pitches make up nearly 60% of his repertoire, then he’s got a curve that fills up the bottom third of the zone at 79 mph and an odd 80 mph sweeper that often stays arm-side for front-door/back-door stuff. He also has a four-seam that makes up about 9% of what he throws.

Oddly enough, the only one of his pitches with positive run value per Statcast is the changeup he’s thrown 18 times this season. All of that has led Eflin to massive reverse splits this season after being pretty much platoon-neutral over the course of his career. Right-handed batters come into this game with a .303 average and .832 OPS, including seven of the eight homers he’s allowed. He’s been a little better at home, particularly against lefties, but righties should be able to get their hits tonight.

First pitch is at 5:50pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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