Chicago Cubs Lineup (4/8/24): Suzuki DH, Morel 3B, Assad Starting

The Cubs are in for better weather over the next few days, but they still have to face some pretty decent opponents after taking two of three from the Dodgers in the damp chill of Chicago. First up are the Padres, who have stumbled out of the gate with a 5-7 record despite a great deal of star power.

Javier Assad will be tasked with containing a lineup that features more than its fair share of big names, though this is yet another matchup in which familiarity is at a premium. Assad has faced members of this Padres lineup a total of four times and has given up two hits and a walk. He looked great in his season debut, however, and will be looking to extend a scoreless innings streak that covered all six frames he pitched against Colorado.

Even if Assad isn’t quite as sharp, the offense has been patient and opportunistic even in poor hitting conditions. Playing in more conducive environs over the next week-plus should help, though it could mean the Cubs’ opponents will get better results as well.

Craig Counsell has been very consistent with his lineups and this one is pretty much unchanged with the exception of Seiya Suzuki manning the DH role. Ian Happ leads off in left, followed by Suzuki and then Cody Bellinger in center. Christopher Morel cleans up and plays third, Dansby Swanson is at short, and Michael Busch plays first. Nico Hoerner bats seventh at second, Mike Tauchman is in right, and Miguel Amaya is the catcher.

They’re facing former Cubs great Yu Darvish, who doesn’t need as many scouting notes as most pitchers. The 37-year-old righty has already made three starts this season and has gone deeper into each one, tossing seven innings in a loss to the Cardinals last time out. His fastball is losing just a little zip, though it still sits 94 mph, and his repertoire is pretty much the same with a few tweaks in terms of usage.

Darvish has thrown his curve more than ever (19%) in the early going and he’s going to the splitter (13.4%) nearly twice as much as in any previous season. Some of that could be about matchups, but it makes sense that he’d shift things around in his notoriously varied bag of tricks as he ages. The slider still makes up around 30% of what he throws, then he’s got a sinker and a cutter.

And don’t forget, he can manipulate those pitches differently based on feel. The Cubs have understandably had trouble with Darvish in the past and only Yan Gomes has handled him well over more than a small handful of plate appearances, not that it matters tonight. This will be a very stern test of that aggregate approach, but I think they’ll be up to the challenge.

First pitch is at 8:40pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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