Chicago Cubs Lineup (6/12/24): Morel Leads Off, Busch Bats Second, Assad Starting

The Cubs found a way to blow yet another close game last night because the bullpen couldn’t their opponents from scoring more than two runs. That’s an indictment of both the relief corps and the offense, neither of which have done the starting rotation any favors. Remember how the Cubs would sprinkle in a few blowout wins here and there among their run-starved losses last year? Yeah, well, that isn’t the case in 2024.

Javier Assad is on the bump tonight in an attempt to even the series with a Rays team he has never faced before. The only experience he’s got against anyone on their roster is two at-bats from Ahmed Rosario, who struck out both times. Assad has struggled with his command over the last few starts, leading to an increase in walks and hits that puts him on the ropes more often than we saw early in the season.

It’s one thing to battle back from getting behind in counts or putting runners on base, but the pressure increases when a pitcher feels he has to be perfect to make up for the lack of run support. Getting out early with more than just a run or two would put the Cubs in a much better spot tonight, and Craig Counsell is hoping a shakeup to the order will do just that.

Christopher Morel leads off at third, then it’s Michael Busch at first and Cody Bellinger in right. Seiya Suzuki is the DH, Ian Happ is in left, Nico Hoerner returns to the lineup at second, and Dansby Swanson is at short. Pete Crow-Armstrong patrols center and Miguel Amaya kicks it behind the plate.

They’re facing righty Aaron Civale, who is struggling this season due to a sharp decrease in grounders along with an uptick in hard-hit percentage allowed. Civale is a cutter-first guy who throws that 88 mph pitch around 31% of the time with the ability to locate it on either edge of the plate. That’s always been a good pitch for him and remains so this year, giving him a little change of pace from his 92-93 mph fastballs and his 81 mph sweeper. The problem is that the hard stuff has been terrible this season.

Civale’s -7 fastball run value is in the seventh percentile in MLB, which seems a little odd based on heat maps that show him locating well up in the zone. It’s probably a little too high, though, as hitters are able to leave the bad ones and victimize the fat pitches he’s forced to throw for strikes. The curveball can end up hanging in very hittable locations as well, though he gets a good number of called strikes with that and his other pitches.

Civale has been better at home this year, holding batters to much lower average and OBP numbers, though the slugging against him is a lot higher. Despite allowing fewer hits and runs over more innings at the Trop, nine of the 13 home runs he’s given up have come there. Perhaps the Cubs can take advantage of that, preferably with a runner or two on.

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

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