Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/14/24): Hoerner Leads Off, Bellinger at 1B, Wisdom at 3B, Taillon Starting

The Cubs slept through most of last night’s game in Atlanta, barely putting up a fight over the course of a 2-0 loss that saw Shōta Imanaga lower his ERA to 0.96 after five scoreless innings. The laborious effort required the southpaw to work around seven hits and three walks, making it that much more impressive. His ability to adjust has been as impressive as the bullpen has been depressing.

Imanaga is far from alone in a rotation that has been incredibly impressive while dealing with several injuries. Four starters have been on the IL at one point or another, with Jameson Taillon‘s season-opening stint setting an unfortunate tone. He’s been far better than expected since returning, though he hasn’t pitched in 9 days after having his turn pushed back from last Friday in Pittsburgh. Provided his back is indeed good to go, Taillon should keep the Cubs in the game.

Not that it’ll matter if they can’t string hits together. Nico Hoerner is back in the leadoff spot given the matchup and he’s playing short, then it’s Seiya Suzuki in right and Cody Bellinger at first. Christopher Morel is in the lineup after leaving last night’s game when he fouled a ball hard off his toe, but he’ll DH tonight to limit the possibility of yet another scrape. Patrick Wisdom is at third, Mike Tauchman is in left, Nick Madrigal is at second, and Miguel Amaya is the catcher. Pete Crow-Armstrong rounds things out in center.

This is a very good night for Ian Happ to get a breather.

A day after being dominated by Reynaldo López, the Cubs get another former White Sox ace who’s back to carving up lineups like they’re uncomfortable throwback jerseys. Chris Sale‘s 2.95 ERA is higher than all the expected stats say it should be as he strikes out nearly 31% of batters faced while walking roughly one-sixth as many.

He limits homers and gets lots of grounders, plus his velocity is back above his career average. Sale’s fastball clocks in around 95 mph and he throws it almost 40% of the time, but it’s technically a secondary because he’s thrown his slider 46 more times. He’s got good reason for that increased volume, as his slider value is in the 99th percentile across MLB. The fastball, sinker, and changeup aren’t quite as dominant.

Still, you can see from all the red in his profile that he’s doing okay with that one nasty offering. That’s because he is getting swings and misses at a 15.5% rate, higher than in any previous season other than 2018 (15.8%).

Sale has always done better against left-handed hitters and that’s even more pronounced this season, though they have hit two of the four homers he’s surrendered. Oddly enough, those hitters have a higher wOBA at Truist Park than their right-handed counterparts. The bad news there is that we’re talking .220 vs. .211 with respective .136 and .197 batting averages.

Sale is nails at home, is what I’m saying. In the interest of angering the baseball gods, I’m going to say the only way the Cubs win this one is if the Braves’ bullpen completely implodes.

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

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