Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/16/24): Tauchman Leads Off, Happ in LF, Steele Starting

When deployed properly, bullying works. Just look at the way I fixed the Cubs offense by threatening not to type out the names in the lineup posts until they hung another crooked number. Just as I planned, they scored more runs on the first pitch of Wednesday’s game than they had in the two previous contests in Atlanta. One batter later, they’d doubled their number of extra-base hits from the first two games.

[pause until applause dies down]

As bad as the series started, getting out of town with a win provides a big boost of confidence heading into a seven-game homestand against the same two teams the Cubs just played. First up will be four games against the Pirates they should have swept in Pittsburgh.

Justin Steele got a no-decision last weekend as he squared off with rookie phenom Paul Skenes in a wild affair broken up by a long rain delay. The lefty had one of the worst starts of his career, allowing six earned runs on three homers and striking out three with two walks over four innings. The Pirates’ wild bullpen kept him from wearing a loss, but the Cubs’ relievers choked the lead right back up.

Steele should be much better tonight, and not just because he can’t be worse. He was off from the very beginning last time out and couldn’t seem to get a feel for anything, but I’d bet being back at Wrigley will help him settle in.

The offense was looking a little travel-weary in Atlanta before busting out for seven runs even with several regulars out of the lineup. That’s still the case with Dansby Swanson on the IL and Nico Hoerner nursing a tender hammy, but Ian Happ is back to battle through a case of OPSitis. Mike Tauchman leads off as the DH, Seiya Suzuki is in right, and Cody Bellinger is in center. Christopher Morel is the third baseman and Happ bats higher than he should while playing left.

Michael Busch is at first, Nick Madrigal is at second, Miles Mastrobuoni is at short, and Miguel Amaya is behind the plate. Okay, maybe Happ batting fifth is fine since his .634 OPS is at least 53 points higher than everyone in the bottom third. I’m normally Team #BuckFunting, but I’ll make an exception tonight.

They’re up against hard-throwing rookie righty Jared Jones, who just pitched against them six days ago. Aside from a 1st-inning homer by Bellinger, the Cubs weren’t able to capitalize on their seven hits against Jones and had to make things happen late against the bullpen. With a big fastball that sits 97 mph and a nasty slider that comes in at 89, this young man forms a scary duo with Skenes.

Jones gives up a lot of homers despite limiting hard contact, but he strands nearly 88% of baserunners he allows. Even if they don’t score in bunches on him, just forcing him to throw a lot of pitches and give way to the bullpen is a good strategy. We’ll see if the Cubs can execute it as well tonight as they did last Friday.

First pitch is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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