Baseball

The Cubs’ fall from grace was fast and frankly, expected—they haven’t won a series yet this year outside of their first against the Brewers, catching them when Milwaukee’s pitching seemed to think the season started a week later than it really did. The Brewers are back to the top of the NL Central standings and their pitchers are back to shutting the Cubs out, outscoring them this past weekend 20-4. The defending World Series champion Braves also mostly dominated the Cubs, winning two out of three games. There’s not a lot you can do against a team with multiple Gold Glove winners—the Cubs aren’t that team anymore.

Slightly more concerning is the fact that the Cubs pitching continues to be a rollercoaster ride I’d prefer to get off of. The starters largely haven’t been able to hold things together, meaning the bullpen is eating innings like nobody’s business. And we saw exactly what happened when this same scenario went down for the Cubs last year, and that was a significantly better team than what we’re trotting out this year. We are still without staples like Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay and Wade Miley, but so far the starters who were supposed to be holding it down largely aren’t doing that right now.

  • Mark Leiter Jr. finally got optioned, as the Cubs tried to cram him in as a starter despite him not having played in the MLB since 2018. It went about as well as you’d think, as he took the mound against the Braves on Wednesday trying to improve upon his ERA of 11.05. He stayed in for the first 2 innings, which took him 45 pitches to get through, and only four of them were called strikes. He then came in as a bullpen guy on Friday after Hendricks had already given up 7 runs. Leiter Jr. pitched one inning in which he had three strikeouts and only one hit. He seems to be better and more comfortable there, and if he does get called up again that is a better place for him to stay than as a starter.
  • Marcus Stroman has been an experience for the Cubs, being objectively bad all the way up until Sunday’s game when he finally got his first win of the season. Stroman can at least throw strikeouts, but the hits he gives up can get dicey, especially if Michael Hermosillo is playing at center and has to field just about every ball in just about every at-bat. It got almost comical on Tuesday. I’m just praying Stroman can build on Sunday’s win, where he pitched 7 innings and only allowed two hits. That’s the kind of performance he needs to be consistently putting up if this team is going to not be shit for the next 5 months.
  • Even Seiya Suzuki cooled down a bit this past week, with eight strikeouts in his past six games and a three-game hitless streak Saturday-Monday. He’s also only had one walk since April 21, showing that pitchers around the league have started to figure him out a little bit. This is what I was expecting to start out the season, as players are streaky throughout the year. But the Cubs are better when Seiya is hitting, and he is still 16th in the league in OPS, so hopefully he’s able to get hot again soon.
  • Comparing Anthony Rizzo’s offensive numbers so far this year against Frank Schwindel’s brings me great sadness.

The Cubs play the White Sox (9-13) and the Dodgers (14-7) this week. It will probably go as bad as you can imagine against Los Angeles, but if the Cubs can get quality starts they might have a chance against the Sox. But quality starts are really a necessity at this point. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

Yesterday was likely one of the hardest days in Cubs history. The trade deadline we’d had circled on the calendar finally happened, and despite knowing for months exactly what was gonna happen, it didn’t make saying goodbye any more painful.

Jed Hoyer sent away not one, not two, but ALL THREE of the core players from the 2016 World Series team that had expiring contracts after this year, over the last 48ish hours. He also sent away the three key pieces that made the Cubs bullpen so nails during the start of the season, and also Jake Marisnick and Trevor Williams, if you got attached to those guys. (I didn’t.)

Despite knowing it was coming, it’s still extremely difficult to say goodbye, especially because fans aren’t sure if there will ever be another Cubs team like the 2015-2017 teams. There may not be, and the future is now filled with question marks and unknowns for Cubs fans. Hatred toward the Ricketts family for not adequately building around for the core post-2016 is now the norm for any North Sider, and distrust that he will be able to build a core that strong again is certainly rampant throughout the fanbase.

There are many players to say goodbye to, so let’s get going.

Joc Pederson – Though he was sent away a while before the trade deadline, he deserves a space in this eulogy just like anyone else, I guess. He was our starting left fielder for the first half of the season, and though he was overly hyped to begin the season thanks to a crazy spring training, his offensive numbers were just about always in the top five of Cubs players: runs, hits, doubles, triples, and RBIs — he’s there for all of them. (Granted, the team’s offense overall this season has for all but one month been in the bottom of the league standings, but at least he was trying.)

Pederson now plays for the Atlanta Braves, where he has 17 hits, 2 homers, and a .288/.333/.441 slash line in 14 games, because of course he does. Pederson was always going to be short-term, signed on a one-year prove-it deal, so Cubs fans can say goodbye and good luck to the outfielder as he continues his MLB career elsewhere.

Andrew Chafin – Though shaky early on, allowing eight hits in April, Chafin quickly turned into a bullpen staple and was continually relied upon to get outs, arguably a little too much. He ended his Cubs career with a 2.03 ERA out of the bullpen, pitching almost 40 innings and allowing only 21 hits and 9 runs. As a native of my home state who played baseball at my college, Chafin was a favorite player of mine the last few seasons. I wish him all the best as he…attempts to make the playoffs with the A’s, I guess?

Ryan Tepera – Another bullpen staple was moved mid-game Friday across town to the White Sox, to the behest of many angry people on Twitter. (There were a lot of them yesterday.) Although Tepera didn’t do too well in his White Sox debut yesterday, not being able to get any outs and allowing a run, Sox fans will soon come to like him as he had a 2.91 ERA for the Cubs over 43 innings pitched. If you need an inning from him he can usually provide one without giving up any runs in the process. In fact, prior to yesterday’s game, he hadn’t given up a run since June 28, right before he was put on the IL.

Anthony Rizzo – Despite being out of Friday’s lineup for a “scheduled rest day,” the announcement that he had been traded — to the damn Yankees, of all teams — still felt like your guts were getting ripped out when you heard the news.

Like many sportswriters have pointed out before me, Rizzo will never have to pay for dinner in this city for as long as he lives. For nine years, he was the face of the greatest Cubs run in history. He caught the final out, hit 242 home runs (6th all-time for the club), drove in 784 batters, got MVP votes in five straight seasons, is a four-time Gold Glover, and appeared in three straight All-Star Games. This doesn’t even get into his charitable foundation, all the money he raised and all the smiles he put on children in hospitals all across Chicago.

Although his WAR suggests he’s on the decline, and his back will likely continue to keep him out of the lineup for short stretches, Rizzo is a veteran presence and a shakeup the Yankees infield probably needs. He also slashed .248/.346/.446 this season, better numbers than the rest of the Yankees’ first basemen this season combined. Take care of him, Yanks. We’ll miss him.

Craig Kimbrel – Moved on trade deadline day to the White Sox to join Ryan Tepera, Kimbrel was another pitcher acquired by the Cubs who started things off quite rocky but ended up straightening the ship, being incredibly reliable when called onto the mound and continuing his hall of fame career with the Cubs.

When coming over from Boston in 2019, Kimbrel was shaky, posting a 6.53 ERA. Everyone shuddered when Maddon would put him on the mound that year; I know I was. However, Rossy had confidence in him that the fanbase didn’t have, and he was eventually right on that one for once. He posted a 5.28 ERA in 2020, allowing nine runs in eighteen appearances, but has returned this season to a form that he’s never really been before. His 0.49 ERA is astounding considering the team behind him, and his best ERA since his MLB debut for the Braves in 2010, despite having only half the number of appearances for Atlanta that year.

He’s also only allowed six runs total in 39 games he’s appeared in. The Sox are getting an amazing, hall of fame closer, making their pitching even more dangerous, as Kimbrel continues to climb up the all-time career saves list. (371, for those counting at home.) Best of luck.

Javier Baez (and Trevor Williams) – Baez is on the back of my jersey, and it’s because he made the game so excited to watch. He kept you sitting in front of the TV during the 3-hour slog that baseball games can sometimes be; his defensive plays often had you doing double takes, asking how on earth did he do that? His baserunning was magical, and the 140 homers he hit for the Cubs, his .262/.303./.474 career slash line for the club, and the ridiculously high 900 strikeouts were just another unique dimension to his on-field play.

Javy is going to be sliding over to second to play with Francisco Lindor on the Mets after Lindor returns from injury soon, and they will probably make some crazy highlight-reel plays together that will make you remember the good old days. He’s going to love playing with him, the Mets will likely offer him a bigger contract than the Cubs, and life will move on. I truly wish him all the best and hope he thrives there, as it’s certainly what he deserves.

As for Trevor Williams, his quality starts were few and far between for the Cubs, only three out of thirteen total. It probably wasn’t helped by his bout of appendicitis a quarter of the way through the season that shut him down for all of June. I’m sure his father is bummed Williams is leaving Chicago, but hey, New York’s…kinda fun too, I guess?

Kris Bryant – The prized trade chip — one who never wanted to leave the Cubs. When KB was drafted, he zoomed right through the minors and spent no time immediately becoming one of the best players in the league, winning NL Rookie of the Year and NL MVP in his time with the Cubs, a feat no other Cub has done.

Though he has dealt with injury issues throughout his career, his statistics over his seven years in the MLB are still really impressive: his .279/.378/.508 slash line, 160 homers and 465 RBIs were a huge part of what made the Cubs elite, especially in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. His career WAR is, boy howdy, 27.6. He was on a tear this season as well, hitting 18 homers and 51 RBIs despite some nagging injuries; his RBI numbers this year especially are on track to be better than he’s had throughout his entire career. For a lot of this season, Bryant was carrying the Cubs offense on his back.

Now he heads to the San Francisco Giants to chase another ring and hopefully beat down the Dodgers in the process. He wanted to stay in Chicago, and it was quite sad to see videos of him sitting in the dugout Thursday and getting the phone call Friday before the game. Bryant should’ve been a Cub for life because he was such a special one — for God’s sake, you could ask him to fill in at pretty much any spot on the field and he wouldn’t break a sweat. Hopefully he gets the money (and another ring?) that he deserves during his time with the Giants.

Jake Marisnick – Hoyer threw this one in at the end just to mess with us after all the other franchise-altering damage had been done. Marisnick played fine for us over his 65 games this year, never truly horrific in the outfield and putting up middling offensive numbers compared to the rest of his career. He’ll likely be remembered with a passing shrug by Cubs fans; now he’ll be with the Padres trying to chase a playoff spot. Say hello to Darvish for me.

We have some horrific baseball in front of us for the next few months, Cubs fans. I’d be lying if I said I even turned on yesterday’s game, though tonight’s showed a bit more promise. The good news is that former Cubs will likely be seen dotted throughout the playoff race, although you’ll have to decide which of the Yankees, Giants, White Sox, or Mets are the lesser evil when the playoffs do roll around. (I guess I’ll be cheering on the Sox for my colleagues’ sake. Let’s not spread the bad vibes across town, shall we?)

We now enter the great unknown; who knows what’s coming up next for the Cubs. I may as well stick around to see what happens. I hope some of you will too. Go Cubs go.

Baseball

Seriously though, I assume you all saw this with your psychic vision: the Mets have acceptable starting pitching, whereas the Cubs do not. It’s a 3.12 vs. a 3.72 ERA. Jacob deGrom played against Robert Stock of Literally Who status. deGrom was hurt, for God’s sake, and only pitched three innings, but it was enough to beat out the Cubs for the day. deGrom was also the only Mets starter to pitch less than 6 innings, which is how you can save your bullpen from getting overworked.

Seeing a team with good starting pitching makes me hope we’ll get some by the trade deadline, and hopefully the Cubs will produce more offensively on a regular basis to make a playoff push. Let’s break this series down and move on, shall we?

June 14, 2021
Cubs 2, Mets 5
WP: Peterson (2-5) LP: Arrieta (5-7)
Box Score

If you had any hope after last series that the starting pitching would continue to pleasantly surprise you, it’s probably time to take a step back. Jake Arrieta, loved by this city thanks to his contributions to the team from 2013-2017, is not who he used to be. As the season wears on, Arrieta’s ability to get to 6 innings pitched seems to dwindle, as three of his four six-inning games came in April and the last one he threw was on May 14.

Though it was a pitching duel for the first three innings, Arrieta broke down in the 4th inning when he gave up three runs against the Mets, allowing three hits and two walks, one intentional. Dominic Smith hit a solo home run off of him in the 5th inning before he got pulled between innings. Tommy Nance took over and allowed his first run of the season in his 13th appearance, after throwing two walks and allowing a single to score a runner to make it 5-0 Mets.

On the other side of the coin, the Cubs offense was nothing to speak of. A small rally was drummed up in the 7th inning after Anthony Rizzo and Patrick Wisdom hit back-to-back solo homers, but the pitching had already dug the Cubs in a hole that couldn’t be dug out of. The winning streak always has to end sometime.

June 15, 2021
Cubs 2, Mets 3
WP: Walker (6-2) LP: Mills (2-1)
Box Score

The Cubs didn’t look very good for this game either, not even leading for half an inning before the Mets were able to tie it up and then eventually take the lead entirely. Alec Mills started this game, his first appearance since May 15, and allowed five hits and all three runs on his time out, only lasting for 4.1 innings. He did, however, strike out six batters, so it certainly seems like he’s doing something…sort of right? If he can limit throwing pitches that players can crush and try to focus more on soft contact, perhaps the defense behind him can help him out in the future. He hasn’t pitched in a month, so I want to be sympathetic, but we also need quality outings from our starters and stat.

The rest of our bullpen once again gave us nothing to worry about — unless, of course, you’d like to worry about all the innings they’re being asked to throw. However, Rex Brothers, Keegan Thompson and Dan Winkler allowed no runs in their 0.2, 2.0 and 1.0 innings, respectively. They walked four batters altogether, though, which could probably be limited as well.

The most horrifying news of the day, however, was when Kris Bryant got hit by a pitch in the 1st inning and was almost immediately taken out of the game, replaced by Wisdom. Ironically, it was one of Bryant’s rare starts at third base, his “usual” position, as he’s been asked to pick up the slack for other injured players over most of the past month or so. Luckily, his x-rays seemed to come out negative, but the possibility of him sitting a game was likely.

The Cubs’ two runs came from Wisdom trading in his routine dingers for a single in the 3rd inning. Javier Baez took matters into his own hands the very next at-bat, hitting a home run to score them both. However, a walk, double and single at the bottom of the 3rd inning allowed the Mets to tie it, and a sac fly in the 5th inning gave them the lead they’d never give back.

June 16, 2021
Cubs 3, Mets 6
WP: Reid-Foley (2-0) LP: Stock (0-1)
Box Score

As soon as the lineups came out you knew what was coming with this one. The Cubs decided to start a 31-year-old pitcher named Robert Stock in his Cubs debut after only 51 major league appearances. And they had him pitch against Jacob deGrom, one of the best starters in baseball. deGrom, granted, was just coming off a start he left due to injury, but it only really took his three innings pitched for the Mets to establish themselves as the dominant team.

Stock was pulled up apparently because he was throwing 4 innings consistently in the minor leagues and was also hitting upwards of 100 mph. He was only able to throw his fastest pitch at 99 mph on his fastball in today’s outing, but that still might be something interesting to mix in with the Cubs’ entirely soft tossing rotation? However, he gave up four hits and five runs in his, again, 4-inning outing, and walked 6 players for an 11.25 ERA this season.

Anthony Rizzo hit a solo homer in the 4th, but other than that the Cubs weren’t able to figure out the Mets’ pitching, often leaving runners stranded on base if not getting struck out three times in a row like in the 2nd, 3rd AND 8th innings.

The Mets finished up their scoring by the 5th inning, where a solo homer made it 6-1 Mets. The Cubs ended up scoring two runs in the 9th inning after Wisdom walked and Rafael Ortega homered to drive them both home, but it wasn’t enough to overcome New York.

June 17, 2021
Cubs 2, Mets 0
WP: Hendricks (9-4) LP: Stroman (6-5)
Box Score

For the seventh start in a row, Kyle Hendricks was able to throw at least 6 innings, helping the Cubs get tonight’s win. When the Cubs have good starting pitching, they can almost always outhit their other problems, if they even have any. Although the Cubs’ bats weren’t super good this game, they once again faced a hot starter having a career year who struck out eight batters, walked only one and allowed four hits over 7 innings. Javier Baez produced the only runs of the game at the top of the 1st inning: with Kris Bryant (who luckily returned) singling before him, he was able to hit a dinger to center field to score them both. It would end up being all the Cubs needed — the other two hits for the Cubs all game long came from Joc Pederson and Jason Heyward, respectively.

The Mets were, for once, confounded by tonight’s pitching staff, only getting two hits the entire game, both off of Hendricks. The bullpen pitchers kept the Cubs in it as per usual around here, with Andrew Chafin allowing no hits and throwing a pretty nifty strikeout. Tepera had a strikeout, too, and Craig Kimbrel was able to come in and save the game, despite getting to a three-ball count a few times. Hopefully the Cubs can use this win, however meager it may seem, to help propel them back into a winning streak and help get some offense back.

The Cubs are finally getting an easy matchup this weekend against the Miami Marlins, down in the dumps of the NL East with a meager 29-39 record. The Marlins have won two of their last three series, but the series they won were against similarly garbage teams like the Braves and the Rockies. If there was ever a time to get out of an offensive funk, it’s now. Now that I’ve said that, the opposite will likely happen, but I don’t think a winning weekend series against this team is a lot for me to ask for. See you on the other side of it. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

The good times certainly outweighed the bad if you were a Cubs fan this weekend. With Wrigley Field at 100% capacity and the fans going nuts, the Cubs seemed to get another rush of adrenaline that pushed them to winning an important series against the Cardinals. After Friday’s blip, where Kohl Stewart only went 4 innings, the Cubs starters were, dare I say it…good?

Both Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies went 6+ innings this weekend, giving the bullpen a needed breather to keep from tiring out as this full-length season continues. More big games from the starters, and the Cubs, dare I say it, look dangerous? More important games are coming up, and soon, so we’ll have to see how this team fares.

June 11, 2021
Cubs 7, Cardinals 5
WP: Nance (1-0) LP: Cabrera (1-2)
Box Score

Let’s be honest: the game didn’t start the way any of us wanted to, with the Cubs pretty much always behind on the score, as Kohl Stewart made his second start as a Cub and almost immediately started giving up hits. In the 2nd inning, a walk and two singles were able to score the Cardinals’ first run of the game, and they added onto that in the 3rd when a walk and two more singles allowed another run to score.

It took around half the game for the Cubs’ offense to show up, but I’d take that over them never showing up at all. The Cubs started out with a solo home run by Joc Pederson in the 4th, and by the top of the 5th the Cardinals had scored another run before Stewart was pulled for Keegan Thompson. A single by Nolan Arenado was all the Cards needed to make the score 5-1 Cardinals, but amazingly the Cubs came roaring back at the bottom of the inning with three runs of their own. Although Contreras walked and Jason Heyward (finally) singled, it was Sergio Alcantara, the second baseman for today, who was the hero of the inning. His triple scored two runs, and after a kind of hilarious Yadier Molina throwing error, he was able to score to make it 5-4.

Though by this time the inning ended with the Cubs behind, it was Anthony Rizzo in the 6th who hit a solo bomb to tie the game, and in the 7th inning it was Heyward again with a leadoff single, Jake Marisnick with a single, and Joc Pederson again being the catalyst for some runs as he hit a double, scoring both men in front of him. The Cubs ended the game offensively for both sides through a solo homer by Contreras in the 8th.

Once Thompson stepped off the mound, the Cubs only allowed one hit and one walk and had five strikeouts. The Cardinals tried to make contact on Craig Kimbrel’s pitches in the 9th inning but kept getting pop-ups that were easy plays for guys like Baez. Even when the first batter hit a ground ball off Kimbrel’s pitch, it was Baez who made a crazy split-second play to Rizzo to get him out quickly. Good work was done by all.

June 12, 2021
Cubs 7, Cardinals 2
WP: Hendricks (8-4) LP: Gant (4-4)
Box Score

The Cubs have done it again. In front of a rip-roaring crowd, it only took two innings for them to blow this game wide open. Kyle Hendricks was able to pitch 6 innings, a rarity these days for a Cubs starter, and allowed the only two runs the Cardinals would get all game. Those runs were both homers and came off of only three hits he allowed; he also had two strikeouts on the day.

The Cubs, however, had three home runs this game. The first one opened up scoring in the 2nd inning by Ian Happ that scored Willson Conteras, who walked earlier. Four straight walks (and one Pederson flyout) later, and the Cubs were up 3-1. Javier Baez singled to make it 4-1, and Rizzo got hit by a pitch which made the game 5-1 Cubs.

The team never looked back, despite the Cardinals hitting another solo home run to start the 3rd inning. A single and a walk put Hendricks in the diciest situation of the day, but he was able to get out of it thanks to the defense behind him getting lineouts and forceouts. Alcantara homered in the bottom of the 3rd, once again showing Cubs fans that he is competent on both an offensive and defensive level, but what call-ups haven’t been like that so far this season?

Maybe it was Trevor Megill, who didn’t have a good outing after being recently called up, trading places with Kohl Stewart for a reliever position. Megill only lasted 0.2 innings in the 9th and gave up one of only two bullpen hits of the game for the Cubs. He allowed two walks, loading the bases. The Cubs, not wanting to extend this game any longer than necessary, just decided to yank him and put in Craig Kimbrel, who was able to get the final out of the game.

June 13, 2021
Cubs 2, Cardinals 0
WP: Davies (4-3) LP: Martinez (3-7)
Box Score

The Cubs continue to dazzle, including on the starting pitching front, as Zach Davies went 6.2 innings of baseball where he gave up only 2 hits and 2 walks. Can I believe I’m writing these words? Not exactly, but I’ll take all the good that I can get for this team.

The Wrigley Field crowd cheered the whole way through (and made a very impressive beer snake in the bleachers) as the Cubs scored twice in the 3rd inning to go up on the Cards. It started out with Eric Sogard — yes, once again I’m amazed — hitting a double to start out the inning. He scored on a fielding error just two batters later, as Pederson was able to reach first. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo then drew back-to-back singles to make it 2-0 Cubs.

Baez was not playing today after likely reinjuring his thumb after running to catch a ball in left field during yesterday’s game. Sergio Alcantara once again filled in for him at short, making all the big plays at shortstop that were needed, occasionally in an impressive Baez-like manner. More please.

After Davies looked shaky to start the 7th inning in a two-out situation, Rossy decided it was time for the bullpen. Ryan Tepera finished out the inning, getting the forceout to strand a few Cardinals on base. He might’ve gone three-up, three-down in the 8th inning if not for an overthrow to first base by Patrick Wisdom. And Craig Kimbrel? Well, we’re all just glad to be watching his hall-of-fame career.

The Cubs immediately turn around to face the Mets this week in New York. The Mets stand at the top of the NL East, and with a 3-game margin. They have played less games than the Cubs have, but are still similarly matched in points percentage, .561 for them vs. .578 for us. The Cubs have quickly and shockingly turned their entire season around, and if they win some games against New York this week, that’s right folks — we will be buyers at the deadline. You won’t have to see Kris Bryant leave until the winter.

Knock on wood, of course.

Baseball

I have returned from the boonies of southern Ohio, where I was constantly asking other people for their phones with better data than mine to check the score of each Cubs/Cards game. Two out of three wins ain’t bad for a Cubs team that was sitting at the bottom of the NL Central not too long ago. (Also, shoutout to the White Sox across town for slowing down the Cards enough this week so we could tie them for 1st place. Really couldn’t get a sweep there though?)

The Pirates are still garbage, despite the distant memory of them making us look like fools in the beginning of the season. The Cubs are finally on a roll and made this sweep look pretty easy, although that’s because it was for the most part. Let’s break these games down.

May 25, 2021
Cubs 4, Pirates 3
WP: Arrieta (5-4) LP: Cody Ponce (0-1)
Box Score

The Cubs started this game off with a spectacular passed ball by P.J. Higgins, filling in for the injured Willson Contreras. This happened after Jake Arrieta allowed a single and a double in the first two at-bats of the game. Another single allowed the Pirates to go up 2-0, and by the 2nd inning Arrieta still didn’t have a handle on things. He allowed a double, hit a batter and then allowed a single to make things 3-0 Pirates.

It was singlehandedly Joc Pederson who came to save the day for the Cubs. He hit two home runs, one a solo shot in the 3rd and one a two-run homer to tie the game. Then the old guard came up to bat to take back the lead, as Javier Baez doubled and Anthony Rizzo batted him in with a single.

Then, Nico Hoerner got hurt. It is yet another nasty hamstring injury for the Cubs, as the injury beast continues to ravage this team. Eric Sogard was his replacement, of course. Additionally, Matt Duffy also sat for this game for injury-related reasons, so you know that can only mean seeing even more fresh faces for this fielding group.

Shortly after this injury delay, Keegan Thompson went in to replace Arrieta after 5 innings pitched, 3 runs, a walk, and 7 strikeouts. Thompson threw 1.2 innings and looked pretty nice, allowing no hits and only two walks. Andrew Chafin immediately allowed a double but was able to get out of the two-out jam with a strikeout. Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel pitched the 8th and 9th innings, respectively, allowing only 1 hit between the two of them and allowing the Cubs to squeak past this one with a win, pulling one game behind the 1st-place Cardinals.

May 26, 2021
Cubs 4, Pirates 1
WP: Williams (3-2) LP: Crowe (0-3)
Box Score

This game was a duel of pitchers playing against their old teams, as both Trevor Williams and Duane Underwood Jr. saw significant time today. Pirates starter Wil Crowe only lasted 1.1 innings, where he allowed 5 hits and three of four Cubs runs on the day. He only had one strikeout to his name before Underwood Jr. was called in to take his place, playing the next 3.2 innings and only giving up one hit throughout that span.

The Cubs were able to get up big in the 2nd inning thanks to the aforementioned ugly pitching by the Pirates. Thanks to having Jake Marisnick, Jason Heyward and now Hoerner on the 10-day IL, the Cubs called up Rafael Ortega to play center field today, where he was walked by Crowe and then was sent home thanks to a two-run homer by David Bote. The Pirates then allowed two Cubs singles, got a flyout, and allowed a Kris Bryant single to score Sogard to make it 3-0 Cubs.

After this starter’s meltdown by the Pirates, the pitchers on both teams were able to limit runs. The Cubs didn’t only get one hit until the 6th inning, where a double and two singles scored Eric Sogard again, giving the Cubs another insurance run. Trevor Williams finally got a win against his former team, pitching 6.0 innings against his former team, allowing only three hits and one run, striking out 7 batters. His only run came in the 8th inning after he allowed a double and a single to start things off. However, a double play and a strikeout kept things from going sideways for the Cubs.

Tommy Nance pitched an inning today, doing pretty well with no hits, a walk, and a strikeout. The last three Cubs pitchers were able to all but completely shut down the Pirates, allowing only two hits total and striking out four batters. Craig Kimbrel was up to his old tricks, closing things up for the team easily.

May 27, 2021
Cubs 5, Pirates 3
WP: Hendricks (3-4) LP: Anderson (3-5)
Box Score

The Pirates tried their best to recover after their hilariously unacceptable fielding blunder in the 3rd inning, after we all watched decision making skills on the field that were so poor I hadn’t seen anything similar since playing tee ball. And that play alone certainly cost the Pirates the game — if they had just…stepped on first base, the Pirates’ three home runs later on in the game would’ve been enough to at least send this to extra innings. Ian Happ’s single, which was another fielding atrocity in and of itself, ended up scoring Javy Baez after he made MLB headlines with that baserunning, giving the Cubs a lead they would never give back.

In other news, Kyle Hendricks was at least able to play seven innings. He probably wouldn’t have played as long against any other team, but the Pirates are still on another level of horrific in our division and because of it Hendricks was able to comfortably give up six hits and three solo home runs without giving up the lead. Dan Winkler and Ryan Tepera were the bullpen appearances, striking out two, walking two, and only allowing one hit between them.

From a hitting standpoint for the Cubs, Kris Bryant is still playing at MVP levels, homering as the second batter in the 1st inning to start the game off on the right foot and grounding into a double play that ended up scoring Eric Sogard. In addition, Anthony Rizzo sat out his second straight game due to more muscular strain. One of the many new faces who have appeared recently to fill in the growing number of fielding gaps was Patrick Wisdom, whose full count solo homer in the 4th was overshadowed by the fielding debacle the inning before but was a pretty nifty one.

The Cubs play the Reds this weekend, who are at the bottom of the NL standings if you pretend the AAA-level Pirates don’t exist. The Cubs will need to rack up points against the Reds because they play the Padres next week who are 32-19 and atop the NL West. The Reds are similarly banged up with players going on IL and having knee surgeries and all kinds of tough stuff. In addition, the Reds will be giving a pitcher his big league debut tomorrow, so we’ll see him and hopefully not any more of Amir Garrett, because I’ve had about enough of him since the last series.

See you then, and go Cubs go!

Baseball

The Cubs got the three wins they needed to put them back over .500 and place themselves second in the division this week against the struggling Nationals. They did this while battling injuries; the injury bug continues to make its way around the clubhouse, as we continue to see new starting position players get injured in Anthony Rizzo and, most recently, Jason Heyward and Justin Steele. (Please can Kris Bryant NOT be next?)

Despite these injuries, the Cubs were able to outscore the Nationals 21-10 this series as the offense continues to putter along. The bullpen pitching is finally looking solid also, which is quite good considering our starters still can’t survive very long into any game, it seems. Without further ado, let’s break down this week’s games.

May 17, 2021
Cubs 4, Nationals 3
WP: Alzolay (2-3) LP: Lester (0-2)
Box Score

Things started off badly relatively quickly for Jon Lester, making his first start at Wrigley in a Nationals uniform. Just about everyone in the top half of the Cubs lineup was able to hit off him. First it was a couple of singles by the top of the order in the 1st and a sac fly by Anthony Rizzo to score a runner. Then Jason Heyward hit a two-run bomb to center to make it 3-0 Cubs in the 2nd inning. Contreras’s second hit of the night was a solo homer in the 3rd, and by this point just about everyone felt a little bit, just a teeny bit, bad for Jon Lester. But hey, at least Marquee didn’t cut to commercial in the middle of the 1st inning to show the fans of Wrigley giving Lester a standing ovation before he put up this performance!

That being said, our starter, Adbert Alzolay, wasn’t exactly nails either. Although he kept things scoreless through the first two innings, he allowed a Trea Turner home run in the 3rd inning to give the Nationals a little bit of life. To rub salt in the wound, Kyle Schwarber hit a two-run homer in the 3rd inning to cut the Cubs’ lead to only one, but the Nats’ bats would die after that.

The Cubs scored one run per inning in the 6th, 7th and 8th. Javy Baez hit a solo homer in the 6th to give the Cubs some insurance. Eric Sogard was able to single on a ground ball to Schwarber, which scored Nico Hoerner. Finally, in the 8th, a Heyward single was able to drive in Anthony Rizzo, who had a double of his own earlier in the inning.

Alzolay survived five innings and didn’t put up a single walk during that span. He had five hits and two home runs, and limiting those homers is something he can work on in the future. The bullpen pitchers that were trotted out after Alzolay did well allowed only one hit between the four of them.

The Cubs also saw a new pitcher make his major league debut, as Tommy Nance pitched the 8th inning. Called up since Alec Mills was put on the IL, Nance isn’t exactly young at 30 years old, but he’s definitely a new face to Cubs fans unless you frequent Iowa Cubs games. He struck out his first big league batter and had some pretty sweet pitches, including this nasty one:

May 18, 2021
Cubs 6, Nationals 3
WP: Thompson (2-1) LP: Harris (0-1)
Box Score

The Cubs put up another win in this game, pushing the team to back over .500…again. Zach Davies, the starter of the day, allowed all three Nationals runs in 5 innings pitched. He allowed a homer, a walk, and 7 hits total. Luckily for the Cubs, the bullpen and the offense were able to come through for the win this game.

Scoring for the Cubs started in the 3rd inning when David Bote and Nico Hoerner both singled. Willson Contreras singled after a Davies sac bunt to score both of them.

After the 4th inning, Anthony Rizzo left the game to deal with back tightness as a “precautionary measure,” because the injuries won’t stop rolling in for the Cubs. Kris Bryant moved over to first base, because the man can play anywhere nowadays, and Jason Heyward went to right field.

Immediately after, at the top of the 5th, the Nationals were able to get three singles in a row against Davies which tied the game up. Never fear, however; MVP Kris Bryant is here! (For a few more months, at least). He was able to bat in both Hoerner on a ground ball to give the Cubs the lead.

The game continued to stay tight as the top of the inning featured an immediate solo homer by the Nationals to tie the game up again. After Davies allowed another single right after that, he got yanked in favor of Keegan Thompson, who got the three outs for the inning with two strikeouts.

Bote homered at the bottom of the inning after a Matt Duffy walk, and the Cubs never looked back. Ian Happ had a solo homer in the 8th to make the final score 6-3. The bullpen pitched well generally, allowing two hits and striking out six batters between the four of them. They also allowed five walks, but the defense prevailed this game, as is wont to do with the Cubs.

May 19, 2021
Cubs 3, Nationals 4
WP: Scherzer (4-2) LP: Arrieta (4-4)
Box Score

Runners in scoring position once again killed the Cubs this game, as any other competent team would’ve made something happen in the bases-loaded situation in the 6th inning. However, Contreras and David Bote could not convert enough runs to beat the Nationals’ four. Ian Happ, at least, was able to single to make it 4-2 then, and Javier Baez hit a solo home run in the 9th to make this game at least seem close. However, when you’re facing really good pitching on the mound, sometimes the offense just shuts down.

Max Scherzer, hall-of-famer that he is, struck out eight Cubs, allowing five hits and only two runs. The Cubs had similar issues with the Nats’ bullpen tonight, not being able to convert when in RISP situations and getting struck out five times in the final 2.2 innings of the game.

At least Joc Pederson showed signs of life offensively, after being in the leadoff position for a few games. He had two hits today, leading the team. Poor David Bote was left on base on four separate occasions today, and Arrieta had a hit, surprisingly.

Arrieta’s pitching…well, it was not up to snuff when you take a glance over at the opposing dugout. He allowed seven hits and only struck out two runners. In fact, Tommy Nance again, the first reliever for Arrieta in the 6th, was able to strike out one more runner, and allowed no hits for another pretty impressive outing. More please.

May 20, 2021
Cubs 5, Nationals 2
WP: Steele (2-0) LP: Ross (2-4)
Box Score

Despite the wind blowing quite strongly out of Wrigley Field, the Cubs were able to keep the Nationals to only two home run hits, by Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber…again. Sigh. However, Ian Happ was the star of the show today with two homers, solely responsible for three of the five Cubs runs.

Joc Pederson had another good day, also, with two hits total and an RBI. Anthony Rizzo also had two hits, coming back after sitting out the previous game due to the aforementioned back injury. Luckily for the Cubs, he seemed to get better just in time for Jason Heyward to be put on the 10-day IL today. Covering for him today and through the future is Nick Martini, who debuted quite marvelously with a sac fly RBI to score David Bote and put the Cubs on the board in the 2nd inning, along with scoring on a Joc Pederson single in the 4th to put the Cubs up 4-2.

Trevor Williams allowed the two Nationals’ runs, while also striking out five batters and allowing only two walks. However, he did not survive until the 5th inning, being replaced by Justin Steele. Steele was doing great, allowing no hits, three strikeouts, and only one walk through 1.1 innings until he exited the game due to an injury. Ryan Tepera replaced him, striking out three. Andrew Chafin was able to get out of his inning with no runs thanks in part to yet another amazing Nico Hoerner diving play to save a hit, and Craig Kimbrel got yet another save today with three straight strikeouts in the 9th inning.

After this three-win series, the Cubs have now secured themselves quite precariously in 2nd place in the Central Division, three games back of the 1st-place Cardinals, who the Cubs ironically face this weekend.

The Cardinals are much better than the rest of their division so far, being quite a few games over .500, unlike every other team in the division until the Cubs’ win today that put them over .500 again. The Cards most recently completed a two-game sweep of the Pirates (not hard at all to do) and got trounced by the Padres, getting spectacularly swept themselves last weekend.

On a personal note, I am going camping tomorrow in an area with no TV or internet, so I’m sorry to say I will be unable to cover this weekend’s excitement, despite this being the first series of any actual meaning we’ve had all season. Luckily for all of us, I’ll be back next week to cover the next three game series of the Pirates/Cubs series, because God knows we’d all like to watch more of that.

See you then, and go Cubs go!

Baseball

The Cubs went into this series with a handful of injured players: Nico Hoerner was put on the IL and Ian Happ is also day-to-day after their ugly on-field collision from last series. Additionally, Jake Arrieta has a right thumb abrasion and cannot pitch. Neither can Dan Winkler, who’s been a pretty good reliever all season, only giving up 2 hits in his last 5 appearances. The Cubs decided to bring up Kyle Ryan With Two First Names and Keegan Thompson, who we saw last series, in the meantime for pitching. Additionally, we got to see the first of Ildemaro Vargas in the infield this series as he replaces Hoerner…it’s happening.

However, the Dodgers came and played worse than we did in these games, allowing the Cubs to win the series. It was mostly because of a horrendous bullpen and some cringey fielding errors on the Dodgers’ part, but this series was a jolt of electricity that this struggling Cubs team needed to hopefully not be as trash in the future.

May 4, 2021 Game 1
Cubs 7, Dodgers 1
WP: Hendricks (2-3) LP: Kershaw (4-3)
Box Score

After last night’s game got rained out, Cubs fans got overloaded with baseball thanks to the first double-header of the season. Despite the daunting opponent and a Javier Baez fielding error to start the game, the Cubs jumped in front in the 1st inning, up 4-0. Clayton Kershaw got absolutely rocked by the Cubs, allowing a double, a single, a walk, a single, a double and a walk in the 1st inning, throwing a career-high 39 pitches and immediately getting yanked for the 2nd inning. And since Clayton Kershaw is an Incredibly Annoying Individual, giving him his worst and shortest start of his career is pretty hilarious.

The Cubs were then able to get two more runs in the 3rd inning. First, Jake Marisnick got hit in the wrist and got a walk, and right after that Ildemaro Vargas singled to bring Marisnick to third base. After Vargas stole 2nd, a wild pitch by Dennis Santana and a horrendous overthrow error by the Dodgers allowed both runners to score. Marisnick reappeared in the 6th inning also and ended up hitting a solo home run to make the game 7-0.

Today was certainly not Javy Baez’s best day defensively. In fact, it’s possible this was one of his worst ever statistically, as he has never had a three-error game in his career. Usually he’s the one making the big flashy plays, but today he was making the stupid errors. A particularly egregious error happened in the 7th; after dropping the ball in the infield and recording an error, he decided to toss the ball over to a Cub that just simply wasn’t there, letting the Dodger on base steal third. Good job, Javy. Sometimes you just have to laugh at it all.

Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks pitched a complete game for once, and the Cubs’ starting rotation was finally able to make it to and record an out in the 7th inning this season. Although he allowed seven hits, the defense behind Hendricks was able to stay competent enough to only allow one Dodgers run, a solo homer. Hendricks also recorded only one walk and six strikeouts on the day.

May 4, 2021 Game 2
Cubs 4, Dodgers 3 (F/9)
WP: Steele (1-0) LP: Cleavinger (0-2)
Box Score

The Cubs returned to the field a mere three hours later and trotted out Keegan Thompson to the mound for his first-ever major league start against Trevor Bauer, another Incredibly Annoying Individual. (The Dodgers have a lot of those.) Thompson and the defense behind him did a pretty good job of limiting the Dodgers, allowing only two hits and two walks in 3.2 innings for his first start. Rex Brothers, Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin combined to allow one hit total and 4 strikeouts.

This game was horrific, however, when it came to runners in scoring position. In 7 innings, the Cubs left fifteen people on base. Jason Heyward’s 3rd-inning homer was the only run the Cubs scored in regulation. Rizzo hits a lead-off triple and nobody can score him? It was honestly a disaster.

Any other team would’ve gained insurance runs on the disaster that is currently the Dodgers and their ugly bullpen, but the Cubs were unable to do it, forcing Craig Kimbrel into a huge save situation. When he allowed a homer to be plunked by Max Muncy, on any other team that wouldn’t have been enough to send the game to extras, but that’s exactly where it went for the Cubbies.

Dillon Maples, who is good by Cubs bullpen standards, threw a wild pitch to score the 2nd baserunner, and then Justin Turner homered to make it 3-1. I almost thought it was over until Javy Baez hit an absolute bomb to tie the game up, through just a great at-bat. In the 9th inning, David Bote hit a second walk-off that he can add to his highlight reel collection of two walk-offs, because his single sent our second baserunner home to end the game.

May 5, 2021
Cubs 6, Dodgers 5 (F/11)
WP: Mills (2-0) LP: Cleavinger (0-3)
Box Score

This game was a pitchers’ duel for the first half, going four innings before a pitcher gave up a run. Adbert Alzolay started this game as the Cubs try to see if they can get him to stretch and cover some more innings. His career-high innings played in a single game is 6.0, so there’s that. He got to the 5th inning before he really started to show wear, and he was immediately yanked to start the 6th (probably a good idea). After giving up a solo homer in the 4th, Alzolay gave up a single and a double to make the score 2-0 Dodgers. Overall, however, Alzolay’s numbers are acceptable for him. He had 6 strikeouts, 1 walk and allowed 1 homer, par for the course for him this season.

Luckily, Jake Marisnick did it again, tying the game and scoring Matt Duffy on a home run. The spotlight has been on Kris Bryant offensively so far this season, but Marisnick deserves some recognition of his own. He has 4 runs in 5 games so far in the month of May and has struck out just twice. He is second on the team behind Kris Bryant with a .987 OPS. When Marisnick’s up to bat, I get excited. And he’s “only” supposed to be a utility player. This is the absolute state of Cubs baseball this season.

The Cubs still left a handful of runners in scoring position, but not nearly as many as yesterday. The Dodgers’ bullpen, still more problematic than our own bullpen, gave up a walk and an RBI for Baez to tie up the game. Kimbrel looked a lot better in today’s 9th inning than last night’s, and because of it the Cubs got to the bottom of the 9th tied. Unable to walk it off, this matchup once again went to extra innings.

Baez had a highlight-reel day, RBI-ing in the tying run of the game and making a huge play at the plate in the 10th inning to limit the damage the Dodgers did from two runs to only one. Rizzo came in to pinch hit, a passed ball put Sogard and Rizzo on second and third, and a cringey Joc Pederson celebration was proved to be too early as he hit a fly ball that just missed home run territory. However, it meant the Cubs got to tie the game. Again.

The Dodgers used Big Brain Logic to intentionally walk Bryant and Baez to load the bases, and a double play showed their big brains paid off. Then there was the double play gone wrong thanks to Rizzo not stepping on the bag and allowing the Dodgers to score another run. However, it was Rizzo that hit the single at the bottom of the 11th inning that gave the Cubs the sweep after some useless dawdling by Dodgers pitcher Alex Vesia to make this game’s runtime a ridiculous four and a half hours.

Next up the Cubs play a series against the Pirates this weekend, who have lost 5 of their last 7 games and have since this series fallen to last place in the NL Central, having one less win than the Cubs and just as many losses. These two teams have split the six games they’ve played so far this season, although the Pirates have won the last two. And nowadays in the batting stats the two teams are just about even with each other, Pittsburgh just .001 point better than the Cubs with a .226 batting average. It’s gonna be loads of fun. See you Sunday.

Baseball

It’s drought or deluge offensively with this team, and it seems like we can’t keep the offense going for many games in a row before it completely dries out. The 15-2 win was fun, especially after the 16-run game last series, but once again even somewhat-competent pitching and fielding held the Cubs off the scoreboard and the win sheet for the most part. Here come the game recaps.

April 23, 2021
Cubs 15, Brewers 2
WP: Hendricks (1-2) LP: Anderson (2-2)
Box Score

Phew, this game was blown wide open real quick. The bottom of the 1st inning saw a Kris Bryant double, an Anthony Rizzo double to score Bryant, a Javier Baez single, a pitching change, a David Bote single to score Rizzo, a Jason Heyward walk, a Jake Marisnick double to score Baez, Bote, and Heyward, a Nico Hoerner double to score Marisnick, and then two strikeouts. It was a wild one, putting the Cubs up 6-0 faster than I could’ve written in more detail.

Brewers starter Brett Anderson left the game officially in the 2nd inning after tweaking his knee. His replacement, Josh Lindblom, just couldn’t stop allowing hits. The bottom of the 2nd was just as head-spinning as the 1st, with back-to-back solo homers from Rizzo and Baez, a Bote walk, a Heyward triple to score Bote, a Marisnick RBI, a Hoerner walk…and then Kyle Hendricks struck out for the second inning in a row, ending the fun.

Jake Marisnick had himself a day, with 2 hits (one a solo homer in the 4th inning), 2 runs, and 5 RBIs. The Cubs utility players continue to shine, which is impressive because offensively they seem to almost regularly be better than the starters they occasionally replace. Something to keep an eye on.

Meanwhile, on the defensive end of things, Kyle Hendricks had a solid outing, especially compared to his less-than-stellar last outing. He had 6 strikeouts, 6 hits, 2 runs, and 1 walk. He allowed two back-to-back solo Brewers homers in the 6th, but the Cubs had already run away with the game. The Cubs also assisted by giving Hendricks four insurance runs in the bottom of the inning thanks to two walks, a double, and a three-run Contreras homer.

Even after Hendricks was pulled in the 7th inning, the bullpen did a good job of limiting runs. Together, Kyle Ryan and Dillon Maples combined for 0 runs, only 1 hit, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts. Other bullpen outings later on in this series would not have numbers this pretty.

April 24, 2021
Cubs 3, Brewers 4
WP: Suter (2-1) LP: Chafin (0-1)
Box Score

Baez got the day off today as Nico Hoerner makes his season debut at shortstop and Eric Sogard starts at second base. Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain were out for the Brewers, and with Adbert Alzolay starting for the Cubs, it was written on the wall this would be a dicey game on both sides.

The Brewers led off the game with a double and a walk, and the base runners were able to advance to second and third after a lineout in the outfield. However, the Cubs were able to get out of that one-out jam and started producing offensively in the 3rd inning. After a few Cubs singles, Nico Hoerner was able to double to score both Jason Heyward at third base and Eric Sogard at second base, starting to cement himself as one of the few Cubs players that can consistently bat in runners at the moment. Although this series constituted his first three MLB appearances of the year, he has stellar numbers so far: .700 OBP, 1.000 SLG, 1.700 OPS.

The pitchers essentially dueled through the 4th inning. By the 5th inning, Alzolay allowed a double and then a walk on two outs. He got switched out for Rex Brothers, and then it was time for the Cubs bullpen to blow the game. Brothers allowed three straight walks to have the Brewers tie it up 2-2 with two unearned runs.

Brothers was yanked immediately following that inning, which is good because two walks and a hit by pitch on two outs to allow the other team to tie the game should be an unacceptable situation. He was replaced by Brandon Workman, who got out of the inning with no runs added. Andrew Chafin, who up until this game had a respectable 3.24 ERA, pitched the 7th and allowed a two-run homer to give the Brewers the lead. After a fielding error, he was replaced by Tepera who gave up a single but then struck out Jackie Bradley Jr.

Meanwhile, the Cubs couldn’t generate any offense or bat any runners in from scoring position. Jason Heyward was able to solo homer in the 8th inning to put the Cubs within one, and it all came down to the bottom of the 9th inning, where Brewers closer Josh Hader was able to end the game quickly and easily. He walked Hoerner, getting him to first base, and after an egregious strike call by the umpire, David Ross got ejected. Marisnick was obviously elsewhere from a mental standpoint for the rest of the at-bat, as he whiffed on the next two pitches and got struck out. Happ was then struck out, and Willson Conteras, the usual big hitter on the team who went 0 for 4 today, flied out to end the game.

April 25, 2021
Cubs 0, Brewers 6
WP: Woodruff (2-0) LP: Arrieta (3-2)
Box Score

Arrieta got into a 1st-inning jam that the Cubs couldn’t recover from. He only allowed one run and was able to get out of a dangerous bases-loaded situation, but with Woodruff pitching for the Brewers, the Cubs couldn’t muster up enough offense to even make it an interesting game.

Even after Arrieta’s 1st-inning, 27-pitch blunder, he was pretty good for the rest of the game, getting out of one other jam in the 6th but overall getting 8 strikeouts and allowing no other runs. The bullpen, however, continues to be a weak spot for this Cubs team, as Alec Mills couldn’t find the zone for the life of him, not being able to strike anyone out. He allowed 2 hits and no walks, however, which was enough to keep the Cubs in it, even if their offense didn’t follow through.

Things unraveled quickly in the 9th inning when Adam replaced Mills and gave up a double, two walks, a single and a double back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Maples replaced him in a no-out, bases loaded situation and got two strikeouts, but also walked a guy and hit a guy which forced two more runners to score, giving us the final score of the game, 6-0 Brewers.

Additionally, Hoerner looked pretty good this game, being a part of a big double play in the 8th inning and generally playing good defense. He had no hits today, but that is how it went for most of this team. People justified Ross sending him down because he was still young and perhaps not yet ready for the MLB, but he seems plenty ready to me, and injecting a new young player into this team might just be what these guys need to feel more invigorated and maybe try to string together a few more wins in a row.

Next team up in the never-ending barrage of baseball games come the Atlanta Braves and the start of a 7-game road trip for our Cubbies. The Braves continue to not live up to their preseason expectations, as they are still a sub-.500 team who just got trounced today by the Arizona Diamondbacks, allowing the Diamondbacks’ pitcher to get an unofficial 7-inning no-hitter against them. The Diamondbacks blanked them yesterday, too, to the tune of 5-0.

That’s right everyone: the Braves have one (1) singular hit over the past two games. Despite this, the Braves still technically have a better team slash line than the Cubs: .228/.323/.424 vs. .213/.308/.395. This upcoming series will likely be the Battle of Bad Offense, as we will watch to see whose bats will break through first. See you then, unless you’d rather be tuned into late-season hockey, in which case I wouldn’t blame you.

Baseball

Well, at least we know there’s a team somewhere in this league that sucks more than we do.

The Mets were honestly atrocious to watch nearly all series. Their fielding sucks, their batting sucks, their bullpen sucks…I was going to say their pitching generally sucks, but we didn’t see Jacob DeGrom this series. (And even when he does play, the Mets tend to lose anyway.)

At least the Cubs have won a series and looked…not horrific doing it?

April 20, 2021
Cubs 3, Mets 1
WP: Arrieta (3-1) LP: Walker (0-1)
Box Score

Contreras continues to be the biggest piece of trade bait on the Cubs. Although this 8-game hit streak ended the game before this, he was a part of two of the Cubs’ three runs this game. First he was able to reach first base in the 3rd inning, allowing Eric Sogard to score. He also walked in a bases-loaded situation in the 4th to score Sogard again.

Speaking of Sogard, yes, David Bote, was out of this game because he had some sort of stomach bug, and Sogard took his place. He was more than an able replacement, as he was able to top even Contreras as a part of all three Cubs runs this game. He scored twice and singled to score Heyward in the 4th. Other Cubs that got hits were Kris Bryant and Heyward, and that’s about it.

It’s been a hot minute since Craig Kimbrel had to make a save, but today was his big opportunity. He got himself into a bases loaded jam in the 9th, and every Cubs fan watching was probably at least a little skeptical about whether he could get out of it. But he was able to get a strikeout and a ground out to end the game, thankfully.

April 21, 2021
Cubs 16, Mets 4
WP: Mills (1-0) LP: Peterson (1-2)
Box Score

Good grief, the bats are either on it or they aren’t, huh?

The Cubs’ team batting average is officially at .201, thanks to a .12-point increase from this game alone. Things didn’t start out so pretty, however; the first inning started with a Mets home run off Zach Davies for the second batter to open scoring. Then we watched some hilarious Mets baserunning in the 2nd when Bote dropped the ball and couldn’t get the out at second base. The Mets baserunner, however, decided to run to third base anyway for kicks, where Matt Duffy promptly tagged him out.

The baserunning didn’t help the Cubs for long, as it only took some time in the 3rd for Davies to give up a single, a walk and a double to make it 2-0 Mets. Although the bats were dead for the first three innings, something sparked the Cubs in the 4th, because Contreras, Bryant and Anthony Rizzo singled three guys in a row and were able to score two runs. It also didn’t help that the Mets made another egregiously horrible baseball play, as it was now their time to drop the ball at second base. Unlike the Cubs, however, quick thinking didn’t save them any outs.

Matt Duffy, in at third base today, was able to walk soon after that, and a Bote single (wow!) scored two runners. Jake Marisnick scored Duffy, Sogard singled to score Bote, Ian Happ singled to score Sogard and things started to look pretty good for us. I don’t Sogard after these two games, but also the Mets are a really bad baseball team. Let’s see some more from him.

At this point, the score was 7-2 and it seemed like this game was pretty much in the bag, even though Rex Brothers came in to replace Davies in the 5th and immediately gave up a single and a homer to tighten the score slightly to 7-4. However, more horrendous fielding screw-ups by the Mets and then a Duffy single was able to score two Cubs to make it 9-4.

In the next inning, the Mets bullpen allowed three walks to load the bases and then a Baez grand slam just completely slammed the door shut for any Mets comeback, the score being 14-4. The Cubs weren’t done yet; they had a walk and three hits in the 8th inning to score two runners for that final score of 16-4.

April 22, 2021
Cubs 3, Mets 2
WP: Winkler (1-0) LP: Diaz (1-1)
Box Score

Well, Joc Pederson is on the 10-day IL thanks to an injured wrist, which means Nico Hoerner is officially up and available to play for the Cubs. We’ll see how that goes; for tonight, however, Happ was shifted to left to replace Pederson, Marisnick replaced Happ in center field, Kris Bryant in right field to give Heyward the day off, and Duffy at third base.

The Mets continued to be absolutely horrendous on the field, allowing a Contreras infield hit to score a runner to put us on the board. Not soon after, Bryant was able to double and score two people thanks to another overthrow to the catcher. Contreras and Trevor Williams scored on this play.

Speaking of Trevor Williams, although his outing wasn’t the best, it certainly wasn’t his worst either. He had 6 strikeouts, 5 hits, only 1 walk and 1 home run allowed. His outings still greatly excite his father, who is still doing the scorebook, which is quickly becoming the staple camera pan during every Williams start for Marquee.

Things were going okay until the 4th inning when Pete Alonso hit a 2-run homer to make this game close. Soon after, a double was reviewed to see if it should’ve been a home run because it hit the outfield netting. Luckily, the double call on the field was sustained, allowing the Cubs to cling to the one-run lead.

Williams was pulled for the 6th, being replaced by Jason Adam, who struck out one guy and allowed the defense to clean up contact with a fly ball and pop-up. After hitting Jonathan Villar in the 7th, he was pulled for Ryan Tepera who gave up a big double to center field that allowed the Mets to tie it up. Andrew Chafin replaced Tepera to get the important out.

Baez got on base in the 7th as the go-ahead run; he hit a fly ball to center field but the incompetence of the Mets’ fielding allowed the ball to drop on the ground. However, the throw to 1st was almost in time and Javy almost got caught off the plate. The ruling on the field was out but after a challenge that was overturned. It didn’t matter, however, because then Baez actually got caught stealing second base. Fantastic job, everyone.

Kimbrel closing the 9th allowed us to get to extra innings. Marisnick had a huge triple to start off the bottom of the inning, but in true Cubs fashion they were unable to bat in the runner in scoring position and got tagged out baserunning because of course. The Cubs got out of a huge jam in the 10th thanks to a double play. Heyward pinch batting won the game, scoring Baez at third base.

Did you enjoy not having to watch a team from the NL Central for the first time in over a year? Too bad. The Cubs now must prepare to get skulled by the Brewers again, who are sitting at the top of the division with an 11-7 record. See you then.

Hockey

This season has been nothing but a clownshow thus far. What does a 13-run game mean for the Cubs when the Braves can turn right around the next day and score 13 runs right back? The Braves themselves were severely underperforming to start the season like we were, but they obviously came out the better team here, and now I’m wondering if we’ll ever win against anybody ever again. Nothing like being a pessimistic Cubs fan to remind you there’s no bright side to this season so far.

If you’re lucky enough to not spend your free time watching this garbage team play and you only make yourself susceptible to it through my overly descriptive writing, be glad. This team is legitimately awful and not fun at all to watch. Even during the second game of the series where they were offensively competent, we were all thinking in the back of our minds that the fun couldn’t last long, and it didn’t. Let’s look at the games.

April 16, 2021
Cubs 2, Braves 5
WP: Tomlin (2-0) LP: Davies (1-2)
Box Score

Zach Davies was the starter, lobbing balls over the plate and only getting one strikeout the whole game, early in the 2nd inning.

The Cubs were able to get on the board in the 2nd thanks to Javier Baez getting hit by a pitch. Eric Sogard was able to make himself useful despite his .120 batting average, RBI-ing Baez to give the Cubs the lead.

However, going up one run early only to squander it with no more offense to be seen for the rest of the game is something the Cubs do quite easily. By the 3rd inning, Davies’ walks came back to haunt him when Travis d’Arnaud hit the ball to left field and Joc Pederson dropped the ball while trying to field it, allowing a runner to score.

Ronald Acuna Jr. has one and a half times the batting average of our best batter, Kris Bryant, and showed how helpful it can be to have hits that aren’t just solo shot home runs all the time. He hit a pitch to the outfield in the 4th inning, allowing the Braves to score two runners.

After four straight Braves hits, Baez slipped while fielding a ball with two outs in the 4th. He could’ve dived to second base, just a few feet away from him, to end the inning. Instead he threw to first base, which did nothing because the runner was already safe. The very next at-bat, Baez fell while fielding another hit and made a really bad throw to the plate that ended up popping out of Contreras’s glove. Suddenly it was 4-1 Braves and they never looked back.

Contreras was the other hitter of the game with a (who could’ve guessed) solo shot home run in the 5th inning. He also was part of a big double play throw in the 5th to get Guillermo Heredia caught stealing at third base. He was the best player on the Cubs by far, and did we mention he got hit by another pitch this game? It never ends for this guy.

The Braves were able to extend their lead back to three in the 7th, however, with a sacrifice fly ball by Ehire Adrianza. The Cubs were never able to get back, although they once again had a 2-out “rally” in the 9th where they had bases loaded and a home run could win them the game…and then it ended with an amazing flop as Pederson struck out swinging. Some upgrade from Kyle Schwarber he was, huh?

April 17, 2021
Cubs 13, Braves 4
WP: Williams (2-1) LP: Ynoa (0-1)
Box Score

This game started out the way we’ve seen too many of these games start: first an early-inning home run, again from Contreras. But unlike the games in the past, the Cubs’ offense actually crushed it today, making up for the lack of offense all season. The Cubs scored runs in back-to-back innings for the first time since April 3rd and scored runs in three straight innings for the first time all season.

Contreras had two home runs in the first 3 innings of this game, meaning at this time he had hit 4 of the last 5 Cubs home runs, and can claim home runs in three straight games. David Bote, who has the worst batting average of all Cubs starters, hit a double RBI in the 2nd inning. Couple that with a walk, a Bryant single and a 3-run homer by a suddenly rejuvenated Baez, and it was 6-0 Cubs.

Both Bryant and Bote homered in the 5th inning, RBI-ing three other guys combined. Bryant had a second homer in the 6th, scoring Anthony Rizzo. Overall, the Cubs had 14 total hits (highest of the season so far) and 13 RBIs (more than doubling the Cubs’ second-best RBI number this season at 5). Bryant and Rizzo led the team with three hits each. The Cubs jumped from a .166 batting average before this game to a .184 batting average after an over two-week-long narrative that the bats just weren’t happening for this team.

It was another start for Trevor Williams today, and he had 4 strikeouts, 4 hits and 3 walks. He worked himself almost into a jam in the 2nd inning with Braves runners on second and third and only 1 out, but he then worked himself back out of it quite quickly by striking out the next two batters to keep the Braves off the board. Williams played 5 full innings, getting pulled when he loaded up the bases in the 6th. Ryan Tepera replaced him, and although the Braves were able to make contact off his pitches, the Cubs defense was able to get out of that inning only allowing one Braves run.

By the 7th inning, the bullpen wasn’t spectacular, but when you’re up 11 runs you can usually just let the bullpen do whatever it wants and you can still win the game. The Cubs…well, they just rolled out everybody, as Shelby Miller, Brandon Workman, Dan Winkler and Jason Adam all saw an inning (or less). Miller gave up 3 hits for 3 runs, had 2 walks and only 1 strikeout, but also got the save. The rest of the bullpen combined for no hits, no runs, no strikeouts and only one walk.

April 18, 2021
Cubs 4, Braves 13
WP: Wilson (1-0) LP: Hendricks (0-2)
Box Score

Thought the Cubs would build off their solid offensive game from yesterday? Slow down there, cowboy. Despite Kyle Hendricks coming back from what seemed to be a very minor illness, the top of the 1st inning was an absolute nightmare, as he gave up 6 runs to Atlanta off of 4 homers. Hendricks also gave up two walks in that inning, and three total all game. He only stayed in for 4 innings and had only two strikeouts. In that 1st inning, he didn’t even give the defense behind him a chance to help out because he was just walking people and letting people homer. It was a really rough outing.

Rizzo, however, decided to try his best to get the Cubs back into this. After a double play to start out the bottom of the inning, Rizzo hit a solo homer to right. (He would also homer later in the 3rd to the Cubs’ third of four total runs this game.) The Cubs tried their best to continue the rally by hitting a single, drawing a walk, and hitting another RBI single, but then Jason Heyward grounded out to end the inning.

Even though Braves heavy hitter Ronald Acuna Jr. left the game in the 4th inning because of abdominal muscle pain after sliding into the place weirdly, the Braves didn’t miss him offensively at all. Alec Mills replaced Hendricks to begin the 5th inning, and he only lasted that full inning before he got pulled. Mills allowed three singles, two doubles, and a walk during the 5th and for the first three batters in the 6th, where he recorded no outs.

Ryan Tepera replaced Mills; he has a knack for hitting people with his pitches because he hit two of the first three batters he faced. He also allowed a sacrifice fly to put the Braves up 9-3. And then he allowed a grand slam to put the Braves up 13-3. Remember how he appealed his three-game suspension after the last Brewers series to keep playing for the Cubs in the meantime? That turned out real swell.

The Cubs tried to build a mini rally at the bottom of the 6th even though the damage was already done. Bryant walked and Pederson was able to hit a single to drive him to third base in scoring position. But if you thought Baez was going to do anything other than completely whiffing at every pitch way out of the strike zone in this situation, you’d be wrong. Jason Heyward and Bote struck out right after him, quickly ending the mini rally.

By the 8th inning, Baez actually hit the ball for once, and it happened after Pederson tripled in a two-out situation, meaning he was offensively productive for once. Just a few more feet and it would’ve been a homer. Then the Cubs decided to waste a 9th inning outing on Craig Kimbrel because why not at this point. He even put up a below-average performance also, walking two batters and striking out only one.

It’s been less than a month and this season is already in a nearly unwatchable slog. But I do it for you all so you don’t have to. And up next is a three-game series against the New York Mets, who find themselves with a 7-4 record atop the NL East and can boast to having pitchers such as Jacob deGrom…oh wait, the Mets defense has squandered 2 of his 3 starts so far this season. This series should be nothing but more of the same top-tier entertainment. See you all when it’s over with.