Chicago Cubs Lineup (6/13/24): Tauchman Leads Off, Hoerner at SS, Steele Seeking First W

The Cubs managed to pull out a win last night despite Héctor Neris giving up another late homer and putting two more men on base before wriggling free. There’s no such thing as a bad win, especially with the way the Cubs are playing, but this team rarely puts together enjoyable ballgames even when they do come out on top. Maybe they’ll give us something nice in their 69th contest of the season.

Justin Steele has yet to earn a win this season, though he’s been pitching much better lately and could finally be settled in after that Opening Day injury jacked him up. The lefty has allowed only two earned runs and has 20 strikeouts over 19 innings in his last three starts, so it looks like he’s got the slider and cut-ride fastball working again. The defense hasn’t exactly helped him out, as there have been six unearned runs over the last two games.

The Rays are better against southpaws, boasting a 104 wRC+ that puts them 13th in MLB, so this won’t be a pushover game by any stretch. Not that the Cubs are familiar with those anyway. Steele should be able to take advantage of Tampa’s 25.4% strikeout rate and their modest .130 ISO says homers probably won’t be an issue. As long as the defense holds, I like the Cubs’ chances in this one.

Oh, they might also want to try scoring more than four runs. Mike Tauchman is back in the leadoff spot and playing left, then it’s Christopher Morel at DH, Cody Bellinger at first, and Seiya Suzuki in right. Michael Busch is at second, Nico Hoerner is at short, Patrick Wisdom is at third, and Pete Crow-Armstrong is in center. Yan Gomes rounds things out as the catcher.

On the bump for the Rays is righty Taj Bradley, who is making the seventh start of his sophomore season. The 23-year-old has a big fastball that sits 96 mph, but he’s had trouble locating it well and often misses middle to the glove side. His firm splitter comes in around 90 mph and has been a serious weapon even though it doesn’t behave like you’d expect. He often throws it up in the zone for whiffs, making it an effective out pitch when he gets ahead.

Bradley’s cutter is good as well, though he tends to spray it all over the place, and his curveball heat map looks like an ink blot test. If he’s able to tighten some things up to get that paltry 12.2% called strike rate (league average 16.6%) up above his 13.9% swinging-strike rate (LA 10.9%), he could be very nasty. That’s been the case at home this season, as he’s held opponents to a .169 average and .239 wOBA with 30 strikeouts in 23 innings.

Home runs have been Bradley’s weakness and the Cubs appear to be picking up their power output, so maybe they’ll be able to leverage that again tonight. First pitch is at 5:50pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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