The Cubs have been playing poorly all month, leading even the most level-headed observers to question the fitness of team leadership from top to bottom. This bizarro version of the team is nothing like what we saw in April, when an infectious energy radiated from a group that was doing so many of the little things well. Now, however, the Cubs are baseball’s version of a manilla folder.
There have been times when I’d rather watch a documentary about Imelda Marcos and her massive shoe collection than suffer through another half-assed Cubs effort. Come to think of it, I’m probably going to end up watching movies instead of making myself upset about this team.
Hell, maybe they’ll win to spite me and I can claim karmic credit. It may take something supernatural to get the W on Monday because I’m not sure what the hell’s going on with this lineup. Miles Mastrobuoni is leading off at third base, Nico Hoerner bats second at second, Ian Happ is in left, and Seiya Suzuki is in right. Dansby Swanson slides down to fifth and will be playing short, Mike Tauchman is in center, and Edwin Ríos is the DH. Matt Mervis is the first baseman and Tucker Barnhart is the catcher.
If you’re keeping track at home, that’s six left-handed hitters — including 6-9 — with one inexplicably taking leadoff duties and another getting a very rare start. You’ll see later why that’s odd.
Marcus Stroman is on the bump as his tenure on the North Side appears to be winding down. He’s got one year left on his deal, but he’s almost certain to opt out of the remaining $21 million to seek a long-term contract worth significantly more. That was always the plan, of course, it’s just that the Cubs were supposed to have been in a position by now to do more than just flip him at the deadline.
Stroman has said publicly that he wants to stay in Chicago, but that seems more like PR spin than anything. He knows where this thing is headed if the Cubs don’t pull out of their swoon soon, and now he’s got to face the best team in the game to get things moving in the right direction.
The Rays will counter with rookie Taj Bradley, who is actually one of their weaker starters with his massive 4.44 ERA. His xERA is only 3.12, though, and he’s struck out 34 batters to just four walks over 24.1 innings. Armed with an upper-90s fastball, a nasty cutter/slider, a curve, and a very firm change, Bradley can be deadly when he’s on.
He has really stifled lefties, making this the third game out of four in which the Cubs have faced a starter with huge reverse splits. Right-handed batters are hitting .304 with a .917 OPS and all four of the homers Bradley has allowed so far in his young career, so perhaps Patrick Wisdom and Chris Morel can do more damage this afternoon. Wait, what do you mean they’re not in the lineup?
I have a really bad feeling about this one, so here’s hoping I’m wrong.
First pitch is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
Here is today's #Cubs starting lineup for the series opener vs. the Rays.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 29, 2023