Chicago Cubs Lineup (4/24/24): Tauchman in CF, Mervis DH, Taillon Pitching

The Cubs cruised to a win in the series opener against their former NL Central opponents from Houston to set themselves up nicely for the second game. Another victory could move the Cubs into first place in the division depending on what happens between the Brewers and Pirates, though it’s still too early for the standings to matter much. Everything will work out if they keep scoring runs and avoiding big losing streaks.

It helps that Jameson Taillon is back and pitching like the guy the Cubs thought they’d signed prior to last season, even if we’re only going off of one start. He appears to have corrected the mechanical flaw that had him landing too open and pulling his pitches, so keep an eye on how sharp he looks tonight. A solid Taillon working in the middle of the rotation is even better once Justin Steele returns.

The lineup took another big hit with the announcement that Cody Bellinger is going on the IL with a fractured rib, so now would be a great time for some other guys to step up. Nico Hoerner will get things started at second base, followed by Mike Tauchman in center and Ian Happ in left. Michael Busch is at first, Christopher Morel in a at third, Dansby Swanson is the shortstop, and Matt Mervis handles the DH duties. Yan Gomes is behind the plate and Alexander Canario bats last in right.

Opposing them tonight is 24-year-old rookie Spencer Arrighetti, a sixth-round pick in 2021 who moved quickly through the organization. After a brief showing following his selection, Arrighetti split the ’22 season between high-A and Double-A, then split the ’23 season between Double-A and Triple-A. After just two outings in the minors this year, he was called up and is making his third big-league start.

Strikeouts have never been a problem for the righty as he blazed up the ladder with a mid-90s fastball that helped him K 335 batters in just over 254 minor-league innings. Walks, however, have mitigated a lot of the whiffs and have forced Arrighetti to work under more pressure than would otherwise be ideal. And though he’s done a very good job of keeping the ball in the yard, he tends to give up a lot of hits.

As we often see with big strikeout guys, Arrighetti is a relatively inefficient worker who struggles to get deep into games. He’s needed 166 pitches to complete seven total innings so far, and his mistakes have not gone unpunished. With 11 hits and five walks, it’s clear he’s having trouble putting guys away consistently.

While his 14.5% swinging-strike rate is very good and could be sustainable based on previous results, his 13.3% called-strike mark is 3.5 ticks below league average. Much of that comes from a sweeper that finishes way out of the zone to the glove side, too much so for MLB hitters who aren’t stuck in swing mode. The cutter has been a more effective pitch because it at least manages to clip the corner, but it’s also been very erratic.

Arrighetti’s 95 mph fastball is the type of pitch Patrick Wisdom sees in his nightmares, a riding pitch that stays up to the arm side. The four-seam (38.6%), cutter (26.5%), and sweeper (21.1%) make up most of his repertoire, the rest of which consists of a curve and change that early results indicate should be dialed back even further or scrapped altogether.

Based on what the Cubs have done so far in the young season, this sets up as a matchup they should be salivating over. Let’s hope they take advantage of it and give Taillon some cushion. First pitch is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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