Know When to Fold ‘Em – Cubs/Pirates Series Review: Cubs Lose Series 4-2/2-8/1-7

This was an incredibly frustrating series as a Cubs fan, as it seemed like this weekend nothing went right. Davies and Williams threw clunkers, the Cubs can’t hit, the umpires gave us no help, Ross doesn’t know when to pull his starters, the defense gave up 13 runs to a team projected to be one of the worst in the league, and the Cubs now sit with a 4-5 record for 4th place in the Central. At least our bullpen was pretty solid?

In case you (correctly) traded in Cubs games this weekend to watch the Masters, here’s what went down:

April 8, 2021
Cubs 4, Pirates 2
WP: Arrieta (2-0) LP: Anderson (0-2)
Box Score

The Cubs went into this series with the lowest batting average in the league, and the lowest batting average for a team by far in recent memory. Despite this, the Cubs had an astounding 11 hits, a season-high for this team by four. It may be a season-high, sure, but for the league we are still sitting in the basement when it comes to hits and offense, so I’m still not impressed or satisfied with this number.

They got on the board early thanks to a Kris Bryant solo shot homer in the 1st inning, as he continues to make his trade value go up and up. Bryant had two hits, an RBI, and a .982 OPS for this game, one of his better outings so far this season.

The score stayed put until the fourth, where a couple of big hits off Arrieta helped the Pirates score 2. By the 6th, Anthony Rizzo hit a homer that allowed a Javier Baez run to put the Cubs ahead 3-2. Baez also had a hit in the 1st, two RBIs, and a walk — the walk being the most exciting news because he had seriously gone 100something at-bats without drawing one.

Arrieta was able to pitch through 6 innings thanks to a solid defense behind him cleaning up after any Pirates contact. By the 8th inning, Rizzo hit a solo homer to end the game 4-2, but whatever you do, don’t re-sign him. Totally not necessary.

Craig Kimbrel is back to his ways of old, and it seems as though the disaster that was his 2020 season was far behind him. He came out with the save for the night, getting a huge final two outs of a huge bases-loaded situation he inherited in the 8th and putting down three batters in the 9th with a little help from the outfield.

April 10, 2021
Cubs 2, Pirates 8
WP: Keller (1-1) LP: Davies (1-1)
Box Score

This game has got to be the biggest disappointment of the entire year by far, maybe in the past two years. Certainly in my recent memory.

I am finding it difficult to express how ridiculous this game was. It all happened in one half-inning, where Zach Davies and the Cubs’ defense completely collapsed to the worst team in the league. I tried to give Davies his day on the mound — it’s not his fault he got traded for Yu Darvish, who had been the best pitcher in the NL, after all — but the 2nd inning was completely inexcusable and a total nightmare.

In the 2nd inning, Davies gave up 5 hits and 3 walks before he got pulled after his 10th batter of the inning for Alec Mills. Davies only had 1 strikeout. In addition to being unable to throw strikes and reduce the contact rate, all of the hits went right past everyone on defense.

By the time Davies was pulled in the 2nd, it was time to throw all of our bullpen pitchers into the fire. Mills and the defense kept things under control until the 5th, where Dillon Maples gave up a mighty unfortunate home run to dig our grave deeper to 8-1, and by this time all Chicago sports fans had turned to watch the Blackhawks beat Columbus.

In case you wanted to know how the rest of the game turned out, it was pretty terrible. The Cubs had 3 hits for the rest of the game. Jason Adam was able to get a lot of Pirates swinging at a lot of crappy pitches but was able to end an inning with three strikeouts. The Cubs in the 8th got rocked by a pitcher who throws a fastball 63% of the time, because it’s no secret our Cubs can’t hit a fastball if their lives depended on it. The only Cub that hit off him was Joc Pederson, who knocked in the Cubs’ second and final run. At least he can hit fastballs.

April 11, 2021
Cubs 1, Pirates 7
WP: Brubaker (1-0) LP: Williams (1-1)
Box Score

Although Trevor Williams had a good 1st inning, things started going haywire quickly in the 2nd. An overturned out call at 2nd base put the Cubs in a tie game situation with the dreaded runners in scoring position on second and third base, even after Javier Baez hit a home run the half inning before to put the Cubs up in the game. Williams was completely unable to throw strikes, and when he did throw strikes they were getting rocked to the outfield. He allowed 5 hits on the half inning, none of them home runs. He did try to end the inning on a more positive note with a pretty nice strikeout, but things wouldn’t get better from there.

The Cubs were able to make some magic happen in the 3rd after an Ian Happ single, Willson Contreras sacrificing himself to a hit by pitch walk for the 64th time this season, but none of it mattered because Anthony Rizzo grounded into a double play. Originally, Happ had scored on this play to make it 3-2 with Rizzo out at 1st, but the Pirates challenged their second call of the day for slide interference. He was kind of sliding into Kevin Newman when trying to get to 2nd and Newman had to jump over him to make a throw to first, which went right past Colin Moran. Who knew the rules of baseball?

Williams didn’t make things any easier on the Cubs in the 3rd inning, either, as he had only one strikeout and gave up a hit, an RBI, and two walks. More umpball confusion continued into the 4th as the umpire ejected…someone. We eventually learned it was catching coach Mike Borzello, but because umpires for some reason do not have microphones and are for some reason not forced to answer or explain any of their rulings or calls to anyone watching, this ejection was not immediately clear.

For the second Trevor Williams start in a row, Ross kept him in an inning too long. By the 5th inning, the Pirates had completely taken control of the game, getting three straight hits against him before he finally got pulled for Brothers. Brothers immediately got the two strikeouts Williams couldn’t get and ended the inning. Ross needs to get a lot better at managing his starting pitchers, because “squeezing all you can” out of Williams when he’s thrown three bad innings in a row is certainly not the answer. Know when to pull ‘em, Rossy.

The bullpen did well to stop the scoring until Ryan Tepera gave up a 2-run homer in the 7th, but by that time the game was over anyway.

The Cubs turn around and play three more games against the Brewers starting up tonight. The Brewers have won two of their last three games against the Cardinals since we saw them last week, and are sitting in 2nd place in the division. What could possibly go wrong?