Chicago Cubs Lineup (4/14/24): Suzuki DH, Tauchman RF, Assad Pitching

The Cubs got back in the win column after a minor hiccup and now have a chance to capture a series win in Seattle before heading to Arizona to wrap up their first real road trip of the season. Sundays were the bane of their existence last season as they finished 10-17 in those contests after opening with a 2-11 stretch that included six straight losses.

I’m not going to go so far as to say David Ross didn’t care, but it certainly felt at times as though he was flipping a coin at the end of the week. Almost like that was his day to rest the everyday players and give the bench guys time to stretch their legs. That’s a fine strategy for levels with more of a developmental focus, not so much for the big leagues.

In any case, Craig Counsell doesn’t appear to be following the same strategy because this lineup is pretty much the same as what we’ve seen day-in, day-out over the last couple weeks. Ian Happ leads off in left, Seiya Suzuki takes a break from the field as the DH, and Cody Bellinger is in center. Christopher Morel plays third base, Dansby Swanson is the shortstop, Michael Busch is at first, and Nico Hoerner is at second. Mike Tauchman takes right field and Yan Gomes is the catcher.

They’re backing Javier Assad, who might be able to lay claim to the title of active staff ace were it not for Shōta Imanaga‘s sterling effort so far. The Ass Man has been anything but(t), going 11 innings with two earned runs allowed on 11 hits. He’s struck out 12 in that stretch, though his command has been a little spotty and it’s forced him to throw too many pitches.

If he can limit the walks and keep his pitch count down, the Cubs should be able to take care of business against a former division rival who’s not done well through three starts. Luis Castillo has faced the Cubs 17 times, putting them third behind the Cardinals (19) and Brewers (18) as his most frequent opponent. He has a 7-5 record with a 3.64 ERA in those games, but the Cubs have tagged him pretty hard when he’s not on his game.

That’s what teams have been doing so far, as Castillo has surrendered 25 hits over just 15.2 innings. He’s still striking out more than one batter per inning because his slider is still pretty nasty, but his four-seam and sinker have been victimized as his velocity dips. We’re still talking about a guy who sits a little over 95 mph, it’s just that he’s down a tick from last season and two from his time in Cincinnati.

Having less zip on the fastball here in the first month of the season doesn’t portend great things for Castillo, though it’s possible he’s just cruising and will continue to ratchet up over time. This Cubs lineup may be just what he needs to get going because they haven’t hit him very well collectively. While Happ’s .906 OPS over 27 at-bats is very good, the aggregate .645 mark is less than great.

Something tells me this is one of those games that will be decided in the early innings, with the Cubs either getting to Castillo right away or allowing him to build a head of steam. We’ll find out at 3:10pm CT on MLB Network (out-of-market only), Marquee, and 670 The Score.

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