Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/13/24): Tauchman Leads Off, Mastrobuoni at 2B, Imanaga Starting

The Cubs barely got out of Pittsburgh with a series win against a meh Pirates team and now they’re in Atlanta to face the Braves and their .649 winning percentage. This wouldn’t be an easy task under any circumstances, but the North Siders have to face a very strong trio of starters in what looks like a literal arms race.

Shota Imanaga brings a perfect record and 1.08 ERA that would be even lower had Jurickson Profar not snuck a homer over the wall last week. As injuries have ravaged the rotation over the last several weeks, Imanaga quickly emerged as the Cubs’ best and most consistent starter. He’s far exceeded even the highest expectations and has shown an ability to adjust quickly in MLB.

He’ll be put to the test in this one against a team that has an aggregate 120 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers this season. Imanaga has completed seven innings in each of his last two starts and Craig Counsell is surely hoping for more of the same given the way the bullpen has performed. The last thing the Cubs need against a strong opponent like this is to burn up more arms than necessary in the opener.

It’s gotten to the point where anything less than a five-run lead feels tenuous, so hanging several crooked numbers in the early innings would sure be nice. Mike Tauchman has been among the best in the league at working counts, so he’s back in the leadoff spot playing left. Seiya Suzuki is in right, Cody Bellinger is in center, Christopher Morel is at third, and Ian Happ is the DH. Nico Hoerner is at short, Michael Busch mans first, Miles Mastrobuoni is the second baseman, and Miguel Amaya does the catching.

They’re up against righty Reynaldo López, who is off to what might end up being the best season of his career now that he’s back in the rotation. After several years on the South Side, López was traded to the Angels along with Lucas Giolito. That’s the second time those two were packaged together, the first of which came when the Nationals sent them to Chicago with Dane Dunning in exchange for Adam Eaton.

López and Giolito were then both placed on waivers by the Angels and were scooped up by the Guardians. They finally went their separate ways in free agency and López has found new life in his return to the rotation with the Braves. His velocity is understandably down a couple ticks from the two previous seasons in which he worked almost exclusively out of the bullpen, but sitting 95-96 is still pretty good.

He leads with that four-seam, throwing it about 58% of the time and filling up the top of the zone to the arm side. He can get a little cut to it as well, locating more in the middle and slightly to the glove side. That sets up the wicked slider he unleashes nearly 30% of the time like a heat-seeking missile to the lower glove-side corner. Though his whiffs are down a little from the recent past, his called-strike numbers are up and he’s also getting more grounders.

López also throws his curveball roughly 10% of the time, keeping it up in the zone more than you’d expect. Whether it’s that pitch or just an overall improvement of all three, he’s gone from mild platoon splits in the past to completely dominating right-handed batters this season. Neither of the two homers he’s allowed and only two of his 14 walks have been issued to righties, leading to a .194/.219/.274 slash. Maybe the Cubs can change those numbers tonight.

First pitch from Atlanta is at 6:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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