Baseball

Luckily for us, we will no longer be subject to the bad baseball that the Arizona Diamondbacks have brought to us over the past few weeks. Despite the blowout on Saturday that we’d all rather forget happened, the Cubs otherwise made quick work and picked up two wins against Arizona this weekend.

It doesn’t really matter for us at this point, however, as we continue to move about our lives alongside a baseball season that no longer matters. We continue to enjoy what is likely some of the final games of Kris Bryant, Craig Kimbrel and perhaps others in a Cubs uniform as the trade deadline looms like a dark cloud over fans and all of the Cubs baseball writers. But hey, David Bote’s back! And he hit a home run! These are the silly things we get to grip onto post-deadline, are you excited?

July 23, 2021
Cubs 8, Diamondbacks 3
WP: Davies (6-6) LP: Gallen (1-5)
Box Score

The Cubs never cease to get their offense going during games where nothing matters anymore. In this case, it was the start of this series against the D-backs where the Cubs scored more runs in the first half of the game than they had scored in the last two games total against St. Louis.

Also amazingly, the Cubs didn’t wait until the tail end of the game to start producing. In the 1st inning, they scored three runs against the Diamondbacks after Bryant and Anthony Rizzo were both walked. Javy Baez homered easily to send all three home for a commanding lead to start the game.

The bottom of the 3rd was a bit of a disaster for the D-backs, as their starter Zac Gallen walked Bryant (again) and gave up a single to Rizzo that sent Bryant to third base. They ended up getting him out at the plate when Baez hit a ball to third, but it ended up not mattering. Matt Duffy, newly activated from the IL, walked to load the bases, and then Gallen threw a wild pitch to send Rizzo home. Nico Hoerner singled to score Baez and Duffy, and although he ended up being tagged out at second to end the inning, the damage had already been done. The D-backs would never recover. The Official New Backup Catcher (according to the Marquee announcers, of course) Robinson Chirinos had a solo homer in the bottom of the 4th to make things 7-0 Cubs.

Zach Davies pitched an okay game, which is not hard to do against the D-backs, who got 7 hits off of him and managed to score 0 runs. He also struck out eight batters in his 5.1 innings out, and with the Cubs going nuts offensively earlier in the game it would be enough to put him in line for the win. Not sure why he was put into the 6th inning after he was already at 100 pitches but keeping pitchers in for just a bit too long is Rossy’s favorite thing to do as manager.

Davies was replaced by Adam Morgan, who immediately gave up a double to score two runs that Davies had allowed on base earlier in the inning. After a quick mound visit, Morgan was able to reel it in and strikeout the next two batters to limit the damage, and it certainly helped that Chirinos hit yet another home run in the bottom of that inning as well; he went three for four today and had a great game.

Keegan Thompson threw the final three innings of the game and looked pretty good doing it, allowing only one hit, a solo homer. He also had two strikeouts and only walked one player. He got his first big league save of the night also, an accolade he well deserved. He is one bright spot in the lineup that I’m excited to keep watching in the future.

July 24, 2021
Cubs 3, Diamondbacks 7
WP: Kelly (7-7) LP: Chafin (0-2)
Box Score

After putting on a good performance the day before, the Cubs got domed by the D-backs for this game, because of course they did. They had a 2-0 lead going into the 5th inning but ended up squandering it quickly and not getting the lead back.

It was in the 3rd inning where Alec Mills (a pitcher, you say?) doubled, Rafael Ortega singled and Bryant walked to load the bases. Baez grounded into a double play to make it a two-out inning but not before Mills was able to score. In the 4th, a solo homer by Willson Contreras made it 2-0 Cubs.

Mills pitched into the 5th inning before things started to go haywire, as he walked the first batter and later gave up a home run that tied the game. A double and another walk later put the Cubs in a dicey situation, but Anthony Rizzo was able to field a ground ball to end the inning. Mills got pulled by Ross before the 6th.

Dan Winkler made it through the rest of the 6th as relief with no issues; instead, it was Andrew Chafin, who can usually be relied upon to get outs, getting the loss tonight and having the bad game. In the 7th, he walked the first two batters and then gave up a single to give the D-backs the lead. A double given up after that ended Chafin’s day, as it became 5-2 Diamondbacks. Ryan Tepera was put in and was able to get three straight outs, two of them strikeouts, to get out of the inning.

Trevor Megill pitched 0.2 innings and gave up a walk and a single to put runners on first and second, where he was replaced by Rex Brothers. Brothers allowed a double and a home run in the 9th to complete the shellacking.

After a rain delay that lasted nearly two hours, Anthony Rizzo scored a run off of a double in the bottom of the 9th inning thanks to a wild pitch and some good baserunning. It wouldn’t be enough to score, and soon after that Contreras got ejected for arguing balls and strikes from the bench on Jason Heyward, having to be restrained by Ross as the frustration of losing to such a bottomfeeding team finally boiled over. It wouldn’t matter, as the game was already put away 7-3.

July 25, 2021
Cubs 5, Diamondbacks 1
WP: Williams (4-2) LP: Smith (3-7)
Box Score

Fueled by a pair of home runs in the 1st and a Willson Contreras walk, the Cubs quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead against the D-backs. Adding onto that, the newly-returned David Bote hit a two-run homer in the 4th inning, scoring Patrick Wisdom, who walked earlier. Despite the homer-heavy offense that made up the game, the Cubs were able to right whatever was wrong in the previous game in order to hold the Diamondbacks off the scoreboard and score a litany of runs on their own.

Trevor Williams had a quality start, a rare accomplishment for him. However, he deserves a pat on the back for his six strikeouts, no walks and only five hits allowed for the first 6.1 innings of the game. The bullpen also deserves a tip of the cap, as five bullpen guys pitched today, none of them going a full inning, and yet they allowed only two hits combined and one measly run that happened in the 9th. If you want to be nit-picky, it was Dillon Maples that could’ve been better; he walked David Peralta to start the 9th, and then a groundout moved him to second base, and a single drove him in. Maples hasn’t allowed two walks in an outing since May 30, so it will likely be something he can control moving forward. Kimbrel closed out the game and got the last out in the 9th, because of course he did.

The Cubs now move on to play the Reds this week, the final series before the July 30th trade deadline. The Reds themselves are barely over .500, 2.5 games up on the Cubs, but 6.5 games back of the first-place Brewers. They’ve only won three of their last nine games, although technically we’d be considered easy pickings for the Reds to try and gain on the Brewers in the division race, I guess?

The next time I write for you all, this team will look very different, as we likely move into a completely new era of Cubs baseball. Enjoy the players while you still can, and I’ll be back to wrap up this series and the subsequent trade deadline to assess the damage. See you all then. Go Cubs go!

Everything Else

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)
Box Score

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)
Box Score

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)
Box Score

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!

Baseball

You’ll have to excuse me a bit, and I will not make this a habit. But with both teams in town playing the same teams they played last weekend, there isn’t that much to discuss. So we’ll just combine these into one preview, and you’ll give me a pass, and we’ll all be very happy. Besides, how much do you really want to read about the Detroit Tigers? Exactly.

First, the series happening locally:

vs.

RECORDS: Tigers 12-12   White Sox 9-14

GAMETIMES: 7:10 Friday, 6:10 Saturday, 1:10 Sunday

TV: NBCSN Friday and Sunday, WGN Saturday

SONS OF SPARKY: Bless You Boys

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Daniel Norris vs. Carlos Rodon

Ryan Carpenter vs. Reynaldo Lopez

Matthew Boyd vs. Manny Banuelos

PROBABLE TIGERS LINEUP

Jeimer Candelario – 3B

Nicholas Castellanos – RF

Miguel Cabrera – 1B

Niko Goodrum – LF

Brandon Dixon – DH

Ronny Rodriguez – SS

Gordon Beckham – 2B

Greyson Greiner – C

JaCoby Jones – CF

 

PROBABLE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – CF

Tim Anderson – SS

Jose Abreu – 1B

James McCann – C

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Yonder Alonso – DH

Jose Rondon – 2B

Ryan Cordell – RF

 

Who doesn’t love more Tigers? Then again, this didn’t go so well for the White Sox in downtown Detroit (then again, when does it?). The Sox were awfully charitable to Daniel Norris last Sunday, where he tossed five shutout innings for his first win in over a year. There’s being nice and there’s being a doormat.

The Tigers took both halves of a doubleheader in Fenway after dealing with the Sox, but then lost the next two games to the still-trying-to-care Red Sox. Because of that DH, they’ll be calling up Carpenter to take a spot start on Saturday to keep Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull on their normal rest. The Tigers offense is starting to sputter out, with Castellanos hitting .200 over the last week and JaCoby Jones hitting .091. Josh Harrison has been hot over the past seven days though, along with Brandon Dixon.

For the Sox, Rodon gets to try and add to his excellent start to the season, with only one bad start in five and even that was only four earned runs. He held these Tigers to just one run over six last time out, and maybe just maybe is starting to look like something. The hope is that Reynaldo Lopez has turned a corner as well, as his last two starts have seen him surrender three runs in 12 innings while striking out 13 and walking two. Certainly an upgrade over how the season started for him.

Eloy Jimenez returns from bereavement leave tonight, he missed the Baltimore series. Oh, and it’s supposed to snow tomorrow, which seems just about perfect for a Sox-Tigers series, doesn’t it?

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 12-11   Diamondbacks 15-11

GAMETIMES: Friday 8:40, Saturday 7:10, Sunday 3:10

TV: NBCSN Friday, ABC Saturday, WGN Sunday

UNPAINTED HUFFHINES: AZ Snakepit

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Kyle Hendricks vs. Robbie Ray

Yu Darvish vs. Zack Godley

Jose Quintan vs. Luke Weaver

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Albert Almora – CF

Kris Bryant – LF

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Willson Contreras – C

David Bote – 3B

Daniel Descalso – 2B

Jason Heyward – RF

 

PROBABLE DIAMONDBACKS LINEUP

Jarred Dyson – CF

Eduardo Escobar – 3B

David Peralta – LF

Adam Jones – RF

Christian Walker – 1B

Ketel Marte – 2B

Nick Ahmed – SS

Carson Kelly – C

Meanwhile, the Cubs head out on a very convenient trip to Arizona followed by a short jaunt the width of the nation to Seattle before settling in St. Louis next week. They’ll catch a Diamondbacks team that swept the Pirates in Pittsburgh after exiting Chicago, which sent the Pirates away from the top spot of the Central and handed it to West East St. Louis. They gave up all of seven runs over four games, so the staff is rolling.

The Cubs will catch a break in missing Greinke this time around as they didn’t have an answer for him last Saturday. Godley is one they didn’t see last week, and much like Robbie Ray the key to him is just waiting him out. He’s walking nearly five hitters per nine innings, though is having terrible luck with an abundance of runners getting all the way around the bases. The Cubs will also get introduced to Luke Weaver, whom they missed last week. Weaver has been dominant so far this season, getting five Ks for every walk and 50% ground-balls. Weaver has a wicked change that he pairs with a plus-fastball and cutter, and was the centerpiece of the Goldschmidt deal. So get to Ray and Godley before having to deal with that shit.

The D-Backs offense went to town on the Bucs, putting up a 12- and 11-spot in that series. Everyone aside from Ahmed comes in hot to this one, and whatever they call that thing with the pool in Phoenix these days has generally been a hitter’s paradise. Gotta keep it rolling.

 

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Diamondbacks 10-9   Cubs 8-9

GAMETIMES: Friday-Sunday 1:20

TV: NBCSN Friday and Sunday, ABC 7 Saturday

UNPAINTED HUFFHINES: AZ Snake Pit

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Merrill Kelly vs. Kyle Hendricks

Zach Greinke vs. Yu Darvish

Robbie Ray vs. Jose Quintana

PROBABLE ARIZONA LINEUP

Wilmer Flores – 2B

Eduardo Escobar – 3B

David Peralta – LF

Adam Jones – RF

Christian Walker – 1B

Ketel Marte – CF

Nick Ahmed – SS

Caleb Joseph– C

 

PROBABLY CUBS LINEUP

Daniel Descals0 – 2B

Kris Bryant – RF

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Willson Contreras – C

Jason Heyward – CF

David Bote – 3B

Kyle Schwarber – LF

 

It’s the second half of what Greater Cubdom is hoping is “Recovery Week.” The first half went perfectly, a sweep of the grand theft that is the Miami Marlins. Sadly, the Diamondbacks haven’t been playing along of late.

The Diamondbacks were an all-right team last year. They couldn’t quite hang on with Colorado and the Dodgers in a down year last year, running out of gas in September. They must be looking at Colorado’s step-on-a-rake start and wonder what might have happened if they stuck with it. They let Patrick Corbin walk in free agency, which fair enough, pitchers that throw that many sliders don’t last long and aren’t worth a huge investment probably. Still, it didn’t feel like the Diamondbacks had to say, “Fuck it, this will never work,” and blow it all up. But that’s what teams do now, because really, what’s the penalty for doing so?

So out went Paul Goldschmidt, whom they also decided they would never have a chance of re-signing, though how much less likely would they have been than the Cardinals? AJ Pollock moved up the I-10 to the Dodgers. And the white flag has been raised.

The D-Backs have also been bitten (pun probably intended) by the injury bug, with Steven Souza out for the year and Jay Clam also on the DL. Taijuan Walker is recovering from the ol’ TJ and should be back midseason, but likely in the pen.

That hasn’t stopped them from starting out over .500 so far, and winners of four in a row. And about .500 is where you feel they should be after looking it over. Everything has been ok. The lineup has Peralta and Adam Jones going nuclear, and only one of those has a chance to last. And Peralta’s .429 BABIP suggests neither do, because we know what Adam Jones is now. Christian Walker has done a fine Goldschmidt impression at first so far, and has some decent numbers in the minors, but he’s 28 and if he were a thing we’d probably know by now. Jarrod Dyson is somehow getting on base regularly, which has to be some sort of conspiracy because there’s no way. Everyone else is going up there with a banjo.

The rotation is led by Luke Weaver, whom the Cubs will duck this weekend. He was one of the prizes for Goldschmidt, and so far has a sub-3.00 FIP and is sitting down nearly 11 hitters per nine innings. Zack Greinke is having one of the weirder starts to a season you can imagine. He has over an 8-to-1 K/BB ratio, and yet his ERA and FIP are well over 5.00 because a third of the fly balls he’s given up have landed in someone’s beer. He must love the juiced ball! It’s not totally bad luck, as he’s getting less grounders and more flies than he ever has, as well as louder contact, but a third of those flies going for homers is basically preposterous. That will come down. Robbie Ray can’t find the plate with a truffle pig, and yet will still throw six innings of one-run ball against the Cubs BECAUSE. Merrill Kelly is some journeyman they tossed into the rotation to get by the health inspection, and his change-up has gotten him to be useful. Again, probably won’t last.

The pen was something of a strength last year until running out of gas, and returns Hirano, Bradley, and Chafin. Hirano and Chafin however have been tossing volleyballs up there so far, and T.J. McFarland is on the DL. They’re getting by with a reclamation of Greg Holland, who was his own traveling fireworks show last year. But he’s not walking nearly as many hitters so far, and is striking out nearly half of the hitters he sees. I don’t know why either. Bullpens’ll bullpen on ya.

For the Cubs, something of a new alignment as Bryant makes his first start in right today to keep Bote and Descalso in the lineup as Zobrist’s .271 slugging isn’t really worth putting up with his walk-up song right now. Heyward slots again to center. Hendricks looks to get on the board along with all the other starters, and he’ll have to actually be able to predict where his fastball is going which he was unable to do in his last start last Saturday. Darvish and Greinke is a fun matchup of enigmas.

The dizzying heights of .500 await.