2023 Cubs Road Trip Preview: Toronto

2 months agoTony Andracki

The Cubs are heading north of the border.

The final two games of the series in Toronto will be on Marquee Sports Network with Cubs Live! beginning at 1:30 p.m. Saturday ahead of the 2:47 p.m. start time.

This is a big series for the Cubs against one of the top contenders in the American League. The Blue Jays also have a lot on the line, as they began the series with a 1.5-game lead on the final Wild-Card spot.

The Cubs visited Toronto last August, as well, winning 1 of 3 games against the Blue Jays.

Pitching probables

Saturday: LHP Justin Steele vs. RHP Chris Bassitt

Sunday: RHP Jameson Taillon vs. LHP Hyun Jin Ryu

Steele has been the Cubs’ ace this season, a consistent presence in the rotation. He enters this start tied for the MLB lead in wins (13) and is tied for 6th with 15 quality starts (alongside Bassitt and teammate Marcus Stroman, among others).

Steele also has the 2nd-best ERA in the league, as his 2.68 mark is behind only San Diego’s Blake Snell (2.61).

However, Toronto has fared well against southpaws this season as its .770 OPS vs. LHP ranks 8th in baseball. That includes a whopping .925 OPS against southpaws since the All-Star Break.

Meanwhile, Taillon has put his slow start firmly in the rearview mirror. He has been in a groove over the last 6 outings, posting a 2.17 ERA and 1.02 WHIP thanks in part to a new change in his work behind the scenes.

Quote of the week

“He’s been a gamechanger for us in the middle of our lineup.” David Ross said of Cody Bellinger. Read more on how Bellinger has become so popular in the Cubs clubhouse.

Storylines to keep an eye on

—The Cubs offense has been on fire in the second half with an MLB-leading 172 runs (20 more than the next-closest team) and .288 batting average. Can they continue to keep the bats rolling against a high-powered Toronto offensive attack?

—While the lineup has found success lately, much of that has been without Seiya Suzuki. The Cubs’ high-profile outfielder has not been starting against right-handed pitchers ever since the team acquired Jeimer Candelario at the trade deadline. Against righties, Mike Tauchman has manned right field and the leadoff spot while Suzuki has been on the bench. Against lefties, Suzuki has replaced Tauchman in right field — which is what is likely to happen on Sunday against Ryu. In Suzuki’s last start (Wednesday), he showed signs of climbing out of his slump with a 3-hit day that included a triple and a homer.

—Can the Cubs pick up another series victory? They won 6 straight series prior to dropping 2 of 3 to the Mets in New York earlier in the week. The Cubs enter the weekend 2.5 games back in the division and a half-game out of the final NL Wild-Card spot.

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