I hope everyone had a good All-Star Break. I moved apartments and was living life out of half-unpacked boxes and no wifi for six days. Luckily, I didn’t miss anything memorable outside of Willson Contreras having a small meltdown and the trading of Joc Pederson (what a replacement for Kyle Schwarber that turned out to be). The Cubs return from the break to face the Arizona Diamondbacks — a more even matchup than what may have been originally expected just three short weeks ago.
The MLB is about to rev back up again at the halfway point of the season, meaning we’re about to see Cubs galore get shipped off to (hopefully) greener pastures. Pederson is the first of the regular starters to do so, being traded to the Atlanta Braves for first base prospect Bryce Ball. I hear that Ball is supposed to be one of the higher-ranked prospects, and I also hear that his strikeout rate is at a glowing 27.8%. He’ll fit right in with the Javy Baezes of the team, if Baez will even come out the other side of this offseason as a Cub.
Meanwhile, the Braves hope that Pederson will be a suitable replacement for Ronald Acuna Jr., who has been sidelined for the rest of the season thanks to an ACL injury a few weeks ago. Acuna’s a really hard member of the team to replace, considering he leads his team with 3.6 WAR, but Pederson will try his best to fit in there as they try to make a playoff push.
July 16, 2021
Cubs 5, Diamondbacks 1
WP: Hendricks (12-4) LP: Bumgarner (4-6)
Hendricks officially becomes the winningest pitcher in baseball; he’s already cemented his spot as the only truly consistent pitcher in the Cubs’ starting rotation, as they used the All-Star Break to give him the rest he needed to start after pitching technically just two games ago. He allowed only run one total in his 6.0 innings pitched, another quality start in the bag. Only six hits were made off of him and he walked three batters, striking out four. A single and a double in the 3rd inning scored the Diamondbacks’ only run.
The Cubs made quick work of the Diamondbacks after that. In the 2nd inning, Baez was able to single, steal second base, and score when Jake Marisnick hit a sacrifice fly. Then three home runs in the 4th and 7th innings closed the game down for the Cubs thanks to Rizzo, Patrick Wisdom, and Jason Heyward. Heyward also scored Ian Happ, who singled on a ground ball that hit Nico Hoerner as he tried to run for second base, getting him out. It ended up not mattering too much, though, as 5-1 would be the final score.
The bullpen allowed only one hit all game, and it was Ryan Tepera in the 7th inning. He did, however, throw three strikeouts in an otherwise dominant performance. Andrew Chafin allowed no hits and had a strikeout, and Craig Kimbrel shut the Diamondbacks down with a flyout and two strikeouts to finish out the game.
July 17, 2021
Cubs 4, Diamondbacks 2
WP: Brothers (3-2) LP: Soria (1-4)
The first half of this game made it seem like the Cubs were slipping back into their pre-All Star Break ways, but they ended up returning to true form in the late innings of the game. It was Adbert Alzolay starting on the mound, and in the 2nd inning he had given up two singles and a groundout that scored a Diamondback. He walked a batter after this, putting himself in a tough situation with runners on 2nd and 3rd, but he was able to get out of the jam thanks to a groundout and help from Hoerner and Rizzo behind him making the play.
The Diamondbacks scored again in the 5th, once again off two singles. A double play took a little bit of the pressure off, but with a runner on third base, Josh Rojas was able to score him to make it 2-0 Diamondbacks. This would be Alzolay’s final inning, as he allowed five hits, two walks and two strikeouts in his time out.
The bullpen once again played solidly, allowing no more Diamondbacks runs to give the offense time to sputter to life. Willson Contreras, after telling the media that others on the team don’t work as hard as he and Baez work just a week ago, proved it for the rest of this game; Contreras himself was directly responsible for three of the Cubs’ four runs, and Baez helped with the first one. After Contreras singled and Rizzo walked, Baez doubled to score Contreras. One play later, Rizzo was tagged out at home and Wisdom lined out, the score still being 2-1 Diamondbacks. In the 9th, however, Rafael Ortega was able to double, and Robinson Chirinos singled in a pinch-hit situation to score Ortega and tie the game. Immediately after, Contreras came in and hit a home run, scoring two runners and giving the Cubs the 4-2 lead. In the bottom of the 9th, Craig Kimbrel once again shows off his closer abilities to any other teams in the market who may be watching, shutting down the D-backs and throwing two strikeouts in the Cubs win.
July 18, 2021
Cubs 4, Diamondbacks 6
WP: Kelly (6-7) LP: Winkler (1-2)
The Cubs were once again late to the party when it came to generating offense, and this time it really came back to bite them, as Arizona had a late-inning rally of their own that proved too much to overcome. Zach Davies was on the mound, where he gave up 6 hits, 4 walks and 2 runs in just 4.2 innings, if that shocks any of you. In the 4th inning, Davies loaded up the bases so that a single scored a D-backs run, and then in the 5th a double and a single scored yet another run for the opponents. When he gave up another single shortly after that, he was pulled for Kyle Ryan, who loaded the bases with another walk. Luckily, a groundout play ended the inning.
The Cubs came back to tie things up in the 6th inning. Robinson Chirinos hit a ground-rule double, Bryant doubled to score Chirinos, and Baez singled to score Bryant. Wisdom striking out ended the inning and the two-out rally, and the Diamondbacks wasted no time at the bottom of the next inning preying on Dan Winkler, who walked the first batter, hit the second batter, popped someone out, and then threw a wild pitch to put runners on 2nd and 3rd. Winkler intentionally walked Pavin Smith to load the bases with only one out, a galaxy-brained decision at best. A groundout happened for the next batter, but not before a run was scored to give the D-backs the lead they’d never get back.
Rex Brothers replaced Dan Winkler after that at-bat and the fun didn’t stop there. After a wild pitch to score yet another runner, Brothers decided to intentionally walk Daulton Varsho, who immediately stole second base. Luckily it was the pitcher, Merrill Kelly, who grounded out next to end the inning.
It wasn’t over. The next inning, Brothers walked his first batter and then a home run two batters later gave the Diamondbacks a 6-2 lead. By the 9th inning, the Cubs started things off with a double and a single that led Kelly, the starting pitcher, to finally leave the game after allowing six hits, four runs and six strikeouts in his 8 innings pitched. Baez was able to steal two bases thanks to the Diamondbacks — the DIAMONDBACKS — feeling defensive indifference toward our team in this 9th-inning, two-out situation. Ortega hit a line drive after that to score Baez, but the Diamondbacks got the final strikeout to end an absolutely embarrassing game, all things considered.
The Cubs came out of the All-Star Break winning a pair of games, which is good for their confidence, theoretically. However, it IS the Diamondbacks, who are 27-68 on the year. And today’s loss was pretty embarrassing. Our team is pretty bad, folks.
Next comes a four-game series against the Cardinals at St. Louis, who are now exactly tied with the Cubs at just a tick under .500. Both teams are 9 games back of the 1st-place Brewers and 7 games back of the 2nd-place Reds. Though the playoffs aren’t realistic for either of these teams anymore, it’s always good to not get embarrassed by the Cardinals, so let’s try and get the job done, alright? Go Cubs go!