Baseball

The baseball season is so long, that we have a need to identify certain games or plays that signaled something, otherwise we’d have to admit we’ve just spent six months kind of watching the same thing over and over. Especially when it’s a team like this Cubs team that can never spend that much time being bad or good. It’s all dependent on location. Combine it all so far and you get a big bunch of mediocre, a colorless canvas, something that just kind of makes you make a sound like, “PHWA?”

You only can “identify” these moments in review, and that’s only when something much bigger happens at the end. Tell me, what was the defining moment of the 2017 season? I can’t really think of one, because that was a 92-win season that ended in the NLCS rather meekly. Wade Davis striking out Harper to end the series before (oh, the symbolism)? Max Scherzer’s inning? Certainly can’t think of much during the season.

I suppose last year has one, and it’s Carl Edwards Jr. throwing up all over what should have been the biggest home run of the season, Anthony Rizzo off Josh Hader to take the lead. Get that one win, and then you win the division and we see where it goes. Sometimes they’re easy to find, but then again it doesn’t really matter if the Cubs find one more win anywhere else along the six month season.

So yeah, there’s a huge urge to label last night’s dance quintet/cycle as the moment that will tear apart the season and send the Cubs spiraling to a .500 record or thereabouts, Maddon off into his RV, possibly Theo into the sunset to wait for his Hall of Fame berth, and whatever else. Certainly the symbols were all there–the player the Cubs refused to even try to sign (and rightly, honestly), the bullpen meltdown, the managerial what-ifs, the middle infield defense, I could keep going.

But you forget that the Cubs rolled into The Zit after what seemed like one of the biggest wins of the season, the comeback one over their bogey team Cincinnati. And they responded to that by three lifeless or dumbass games. So it honestly wouldn’t be a shock, and truly fitting, but following the worst loss of the season by three ho-hum, whatever wins over the already-quit Pirates. And then that will be a .500 road trip which won’t be great but isn’t disaster and we’ll be right back where we started. And the whole season has been just about ending up back where we started.

And they’ve done this before. I thought they were pretty much left in the shit after biffing a road trip to Milwaukee and St. Louis. They swept the Brewers and took two of three from the A’s, an AL playoff contender. I thought that might spur them. They then came up with these seven games of pure brilliance. They roared out of the All-Star break. That road trip they fucked up I just mentioned followed. That roaring out of the break followed a road trip they limped out of as well. They keep doing this.

“Momentum” in baseball is either non-existent or non-quantifiable. I can never decide. In the end, you win seven in a row because you’re playing well and you get a little luck. And you lose seven or eight in a row because of the opposite. The Cubs aren’t good enough to do the former and not bad enough to do the latter. If they were a winning team, their lack of spikes in the EKG would be cited as just staying on an even-keel, a quiet cool, a steady confidence. Because they’re a gray, shapeless life form at the moment, it’s easy to label them as lifeless, as bored, as unengaged. And they’ve looked all of that at times, as all disappointing teams do.

But I don’t know which one they are, I don’t think anyone else does, and more importantly I don’t think they do either. This Cubs team has just kind of existed through this season. It’s just there, standing in the corner, eating just the right amount of appetizers and drinking just the right amount of free booze without indulging and barely talking to anyone while also not appearing creepily aloof (can you tell who I am at parties?).

And that’s what I would guess would happen now. They’re not so stupid as to not take the two or three games this Pirates team will just hand you because that’s a thing they do now. And then they’ll return home and probably win more than they lose because that’s what they do. And then they’ll head on the road and lose more than they should. And they’ll just continue to Billy Pilgrim their way through this campaign until it ends, and still the most likely scenario is them standing on top as the Cardinals and Brewers more violently thrash about to go nowhere even harder than the Cubs.

It could be by next week you’ll barely remember last night. Or by the middle of September you won’t. There’s a small possibility it’ll become a comedic note, one we giggle about after the Cubs actually do turn it around and the Phillies continue to go straight to the middle. Most likely, it’ll just be something that happened. as pretty much all of this season has been.

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Phillies 4, Cubs 2

Game 2 Box Score: Phillies 11, Cubs 1

Game 3 Box Score: Phillies 7, Cubs 5

If you’ve come here for a rant and rave…well, you might get one. I’m not sure. I don’t really plan on it, but it might just happen. Once you start talking about this team, the anger and bile just tend to flow.

Let’s get one thing straight, no matter what you’re thinking about Joe Maddon, any selection of brain-addled morons should be able to get six outs with a five-run lead. I was actually with Joe after seven, thinking that pulling Yu there with an extra day of rest will leave him full tank for his next couple starts after that. And hey, it’s five runs. If you think he should have left Yu in for the 8th, I don’t think you’re wrong. There shouldn’t be a wrong answer, because it’s a five-run lead with six outs to go. There are tons of ways to get those.

The one problem I would point out is that once you hit Kemp for Darvish, then he should stay in the game. He’s your best second baseman defensively, and that’s what matters. Happ has no range and no hands. I don’t want to get too upset with Bote, because he’s not really supposed to play short but has to once a blue moon.

So yeah, I’m not advocating for him to be on the team ever again, but all those who kept wailing about why Addison Russell was still playing even though he was going up to the plate with a toothbrush, it’s defense. He was good at second, despite the errors you remember and were looking for. It’s hard to remember too many other games that the Cubs lost because they were simply bad defensively, but aside from mistakes. Sure, they’ve made errors and bad decisions, but that came from everyone. Just being unable to actually play the position…well here you go.

And Joe even has his hands tied with the pen. Kyle Ryan and Rowan Wick have probably the ones you can count on most there lately. They couldn’t get it done. Now you’re into the clown’s mouth, literally. Strop’s fastball has been missing to arm-side all season, and he had no business trying to throw it inside because of that. He doesn’t have the control. Start it above the zone in the middle. But no, that’s too simple.

Six outs. Anyone should get six outs with five runs to play with. You have to actually work to blow that. And all the Cubs did.

As for the rest, I’ve seen enough of Albert Almora Jr. for my life. Tuesday’s loss pivoted on him trying to yank another hairball that human sweat-stain Jason Vargas coughed at the outside corner, when it’s all he can do. Almora shouldn’t be playing, which is weird to write after just complaining about the defense. He can play late in games then, but Happ’s bat is probably more needed, especially with Heyward and Baez at least ailing.

You have to do better than two runs off Jason Vargas, with his jersey yellowing by the third inning. Is that on Joe? Can they blame another hitting coach? Or maybe it’s that Theo and Jed filled out the lineup with players who aren’t any good? Just a hunch.

I thought about writing something today about the home and road splits, except on the ground it’s basically the starters have been much better at home than the road, and Wrigley has played to the pitchers more this year. That’s the big number you see. They score the same amount of runs, basically. The bullpen sucks just about anywhere. So whatever.

Still, maybe it’s because they lose on the road all the time now, but maybe it’s because they just don’t like being around each other. Sure feels that way. At home they get to go to their own homes. On the road they’re stuck with each other. But that’s a stretch. A guess. I don’t really know. No team looks like it’s having that much fun when they’re getting their dick kicked in on the road night after night.

The easy call is to say it’s Maddon’s fault. I don’t see it. I think this team is maxed out. He has had no bullpen to work with, whatever missteps there have been in games here and there strategically. Everyone he turns to out there is either terrible or hurt or both. I don’t know what he’s supposed to do.

Is it his fault that his starters seem to share the belt of “Tonight’s my night to get turned into dog vomit?” It seems like they do that at least once per turn through the rotation. It’s not his fault that he wasn’t provided any depth that this team had enjoyed the previous four seasons. You can blame the front office. You can blame ownership. They’re both at fault.

I would say one of Maddon’s strengths, and a bigger portion of a baseball manager’s job than we think, is to create a comfortable atmosphere and keep players loose. Well, the front office decided he can’t do that anymore, so what’s left? A bunch of players on edge with not enough talent to just stroll through the regular season and ease those fears through wins they just accrue because they’re that good. The talent base isn’t Maddon’s problem.

Me, I’m curious to see if this is the breaking point. If this is the finally the point in the season where someone like Rizzo or Bryant (not his style) or Baez (old enough?) closes the doors to the clubhouse and tells everyone to get their head out of their ass and start playing like it. Would it matter? With this pen in this condition? I guess we could find out. They can either look at this as the bottom and decide it’s time to knock it off, or they can use it as an excuse to quit.

But if they quit, it won’t be on Joe. At least not completely. It’ll lie with the front office that failed to buttress a roster that wasn’t the sure thing they wanted you to believe it was. A front office that bought into its own products far too much, and ones that haven’t helped. It’ll be the fault of ownership that for reasons they have yet to explain to anyone decided it couldn’t spend to secure the bullpen and maybe a bench player or two. And maybe the players that are here felt just a tiny bit abandoned by those above.

There’s been a malaise to this team. If you want to use those intangible reasons for tonight’s and this week’s performance, I won’t stop you. Or you can simply look at a pen that is missing its three top arms and simply doesn’t have enough after that. Maybe both are right.

Onwards…

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 64-54   Phillies 60-58

GAMETIMES: Tuesday-Thursday 6:05

TV: NBCSN Tuesday and Wednesday, WGN Thursday

AND HIS HOUSE TOO: The Good Phight

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Phillies Spotlight

After escaping Cincinnati with a split that you’re more glad to get against a sub-.500 team than would normally make sense, the Cubs will attempt to actually surge forward on the road in the Keystone State, including one game in the middle part of the state lovingly referred to as “Pennsyl-tucky.” It starts with a three-game set against the Phillies, who are doing a damn fine impression of the Mets these days.

It all started so well for the Phils, as they were 33-24 on June 1st and atop the East. They then watched the Braves go nuclear, the Nationals not far behind, and of late the Mets have become something of a farce, all the while piling up a 23-27 record in June and July. August hasn’t started much better at 4-7. losing series to the White Sox, Diamondbacks, and Giants. Yuck.

It’s not hard to figure out why. This team doesn’t really hit all that well, nor do they pitch all that well either out of the rotation or the pen. That’s a rough combination. The offense should be better, at least that’s what you’d think when you hear the names Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, and J.T. Realmuto. The latter has been everything they wanted defensively, perhaps the best actual receiver in the league. But his offense has been exactly average, as additional Ks to what he did in Florida have kneecapped him. Harper has merely been ok-to-good, but not the star he has fooled a lot of people into thinking he is every year. He pops that for seasons here and there, but not every year. Hoskins has been everything they want.

But there were too many dead spots. Left field was one after Andrew McCutchen had knee-death, which they’re trying to fill with Corey Dickerson now after getting him from Pittsburgh. They still get nothing out of center. Second base is another black hole. Jean Segura has been ok at short but he’s never going to provide much more than average offense. You know you’re in trouble when you’re trying Jay Bruce at all.

We went over the rotation’s problems, and they’e throwing out Jason Vargas and Drew Smyly in this series, both midseason acquisitions. Arrieta is sounding like he’s not going to be able to put off the surgery on his elbow bone spurs until after the season as he’d hoped to do. So they’ll have to fill that spot, and internally now thanks to the passing of the one deadline to rule them all.

The pen has been extremely beat up, as all of Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan, Victor Arano, Tommy Hunter, and supposed closer this year David Robertson are on the shelf. And all save Robertson were key contributors last year. That’s part of the reason Eflin and Pivetta are in the pen now, but when you’re closing games with Hector Neris, you’ve broken the glass.

For the Cubs, they’ll hope to get both Brandon Kinztler and Craig Kimbrel back from the DL this series, though likely the former much more than the latter. They somehow have survived their reliever-ocalypse this past week, at least so far. Kyle Ryan is coming off the Bereavement List today as well, so that will help.

Other than that, the Cubs merely have to keep the momentum of Sunday’s win, which did feel important, rolling. This Phillies team is looking for a reason to roll over, and the Pirates are a roll over right now. A first successful road trip since the beginning of time, or so it feels, is just beckoning. Yes, weird things can happen at Citizen’s Bank considering it’s a launchpad, but this is a team that just gave up 25 runs to the Giants over four games, and the Giants have a couple of sock puppets and broom handles in the lineup right now.

Feast.

 

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: White Sox 4, Phillies 3 (15)

Game 2 Box Score: Phillies 3, White Sox 2

Game 3 Box Score: White Sox 10, Phillies 5

No matter where the Sox rebuild goes, how long it takes, Sox fans will have the night that it took two innings to get a position player pitching, got a runner thrown out at home from left by another pitcher, and nearly completed the feat again in the 15th. The Phillies basically waved the white flag on that game, and it still took the Sox a couple attempts to accept the surrender. That’s the good stuff.

In the end, the Sox have only muddled the NL East/Wildcard picture more by getting swept the Mets but then going on the road taking two of three from the Phillies. Also, the Phillies are a goddamn mess. They can’t hit, two-fifths of their rotation is now in the pen, and their manager might be a lunatic. But then when is anything with the Phillies ever sane?

Let’s clean this one up too.

-The Sox got another decent start from Ivan Nova, which now seems like a waste. Nova didn’t pitch well enough soon enough to be flipped for anything useful at the deadline, and now one wonders if those starts and innings could go to anyone who might be here when the Sox are playing games that matter again. Cease is already up, There really isn’t anyone else. Guess you just enjoy the show.

-The offense is still a tough watch without Moncada. They put up 10 runs off scrapheap rescue Drew Smyly, yes, but a sweep was possible and 15 innings weren’t necessary on Friday.

Which means a little talk about Eloy Jimenez. Parroting what Joe Sheehan had to say in his newsletter, but Eloy came up in the 8th last night against Nick Pivetta with a chance to win the game, and Pivetta never more than a couple pitches away from self-immolation. And Eloy never had a chance. He swung at three curves he didn’t come within a foot of, and that’s happened too often. There is still all the potential in the world, but a .294 OBP is what it is. He gets enough walks, and that will improve more, but there are times when you have to get the bat on the ball. He’s a long way from that yet.

-Shouldn’t the Phillies be better than this? They only have three hitters you need to worry about, and Harper is barely qualifying as that right now as the Sox got him out in every big situation they needed to, other than his one homer. There are a lot of outs on this team, there’s only one starter you fear now that Eflin became ash, and the pen is a mess too. Not one functioning unit here?

-When Ryan Goins is taking your best ABs, you know that’s a problem.

-James McCann dropped to 7th in the lineup on Sunday, though with Ricky Renteria that might be what he thinks is cleanup considering how long Tim Anderson was there. It’s been a constant slide for McCann since June 1, which is throwing some plans into flux. He could use a finish here.

-Shouldn’t you assume the one thing a pitcher in left field can do is throw powerfully and accurately?

-The Phillies managed one hit off Carson Fullmer. That alone should probably disqualify you from playoff contention.

Baseball

vs.

Records: White Sox 46-60 Phillies 57-51

GAMETIMES: Friday-Saturday 6:05 pm, Sunday 12:05 pm

TV: NBCSN Friday/Sunday, WGN Saturday

Gabe Kapler – Still Here, Still Beefy: The Good Phight 

The Phillies have to be excited to welcome in the White Sox after seeing what the inept Mets were just able to do to the Pale Hose in Chicago earlier this week. Hell, everyone with the Sox coming up on the schedule has to eager for their arrival. At 4-16 since the break, the White Sox are who we thought they were before a few first half flashes had some of the fan base dreaming on a Wild Card run. The Phightin’s are what those Sox fans had hoped for, as they come into the weekend firmly in the discussion for a playoff spot in the NL albeit tied with 1/3 of the league for that right. They’re 7-4 in their last 11 to help pull into said tie, but that includes six wins against SF, DET and PIT with a series loss to NL East leaders ATL sandwiched in the middle. There will be no David Robertson revenge game as his season was finally, mercifully ended yesterday with the announcement of elbow surgery on the horizon.

The Phillies will not only be pleased to see the White Sox stumble into town having just been blanked by their rivals in New York, but they’ll also miss Lucas Giolito and take favorable match ups on Friday and Saturday with Ivan Nova and the return of BIG BOSS Ross Detwiler before getting a resurgent Reynaldo Lopez on Sunday afternoon. The Phaithful will get their first glance at new acquisition Jason Vargas in the opener, who has been quietly much better of late. Considering his 2019 campaign began with 13 earned runs and 35 base runners allowed in six April appearances and a flirtation with being both DFA’d and murdered by half of New York, a stretch of 3 ER or less in all but one start since April 13 makes him a solid addition for the stretch run. He’s posted two quality starts in his last three, coming one out away from a clean sweep in that time. They’ll round out the weekend with pitching acquisition #2 in Drew Smyly taking his third turn since joining the rotation, looking for his own streak of three consecutive quality starts. Staff Ace Aaron Nola takes the ball in between, looking to continue recent success. He had his best month of the season posting a 2.52 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 39.1 July innings.

The Philly offense is currently all over the map. In the aforementioned 7-4 run, they’ve scored six runs or more in four games while putting up four or fewer in the other seven. That struggle for consistent runs is a theme throughout the year, as they’re the only other NL team in that tight Wild Card race with a negative run differential at -16, one better than the Brewers. They’ve relied on the long ball to carry them to victory, with J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins the heroes of late. $330M man Bryce Harper hasn’t exactly been the force Philadelphia had planned on when they signed him in the spring, but July did see his best splits thus far for AVG, OBP, OPS and wRC+. He also carries a very appealing 138 wRC+ at home and will likely increase that number against the soft underbelly of the Sox rotation.

Speaking of that rotation, what can really be said to this point that hasn’t already? Nova is just going through the motions, with the simple hope he can make it five or more innings to keep from having to exhaust the bullpen like they are in any non-Giolito/Lopez starts. Detwiler takes this turn after Dylan Covey failed to get a single out last Sunday, so while that bar is pretty easy to clear the second half of the season is all about continuing to lower the bar for this sad excuse of a starting five or six. Lopez represents the best hope of the weekend having turned his season around since the break. He’s allowed a total of six earned runs over his last four starts, a major improvement over the nearly four he averaged per start for his first 18 of the season. This probably has a lot to do with a season-best 19% K-BB ratio in July, so if he can keep pumping strikes he can carry the success into August.

The Chicago offense continues it’s downward spiral into the deepest reaches of hell, ranking dead last in the entire league in runs (55), Home Runs (15), Total Bases (226) and all of AVG/SLG/OPS (.602!) for the holy trinity of suck. Jose Abreu and James McCann are the biggest offenders here, as they come in at a combined five XBH (4 HR) and .210/.175 OBP, respectively. McCann has been especially horrific in July, posting a THIRTY-FOUR, 3-4, wRC+ for the month. That is….atrocious. The team sorely missed Eloy Jimenez and Tim Anderson for most of this paltry stretch, but even in return they’ve been more hurtful than helpful with two hits over seven combined games since coming of the IL. Add to that Yoan Moncada and his 33 total bases/.821 OPS landing on the IL earlier this week and….you get the picture. Everyone sucks, more so than usual, and the one guy that hasn’t sucked got hurt. White Sox baseball, CATCH THE FEVER.

The Phillies should expect to take this series and take it going away, and even if their bats can’t solve Nova, Detwiler or Lopez they might be fine with a combined five runs for the series if they can spread ’em out. That’s all it’d have taken the Mets in three games earlier this week. The White Sox COULD have taken this slide and turned it on it’s head by conducting a mass promotion of overly qualified talent at Charlotte, but they’re all still working on their salary suppression clocks instead.

What a time to be alive, Sox fans!

 

Baseball

You’ll never convince Cubs fans that Bryce Harper wouldn’t have fixed everything that’s wrong with them. Big splashes feel good. You learned that when you were four at the pool (unless you were like me and your father showing you “Jaws” at age four had you terrified of any body of water until you were like 10. It was an odd childhood). Harper would probably be a slight upgrade on Nicholas Castellanos now, and certainly would have provided more than Albert Almora Jr. did in center, or whatever various combinations the Cubs have tried.

Still, the Phillies–or more to the point, their fans–might just be wondering if this is all they’re going to get from their $330M man. Because it’s easy to sit and point out that his average, his on-base, his slugging are all below career-norms, as are the encompassing numbers like wOBA and wRC+. It would be natural to conclude that it will go up from here, that is if you were the optimistic type. Phillies fans have rarely been confused with that, though.

But this is hardly the first season that Harper has put up above-average but hardly Titan-mashing numbers. His wRC+ is 118 this year. He has a 111 season on the resume, and a 115. He’s shown this before. And none of these numbers are bad, but they’re not worth the armored truck he’s getting paid on a weekly basis.

And you have to ask how much his incredible 2015 season, which featured a 197 wRC+ and a .461 wOBA. Even without that season, his averages for his career are that of a very good, if not great, player. But he’s hardly a metronome. It’s not that he’s past his peak, it’s just that the Phillies can see it from where he is now.

So how do they get him back to that 2015 form? Or even 2017 when he was fantastic before getting hurt? Which is also a patented move for him.

That’s a tough answer. Harper has seen a small surge in his contact numbers, just liek everyone else this year thanks to the Titleists that are posing as baseballs these days. But hardly a surge, and pretty much in line with what he’s done most of his career.

What has flummoxed Harper this year is that he’s been nearly helpless against breaking pitches. He whiffs on half the swings he takes against them, which is a bit obscene. Against sliders and curves he’s not even close to hitting .200. He hasn’t been much better on change-ups. Harper has always struggled with slower stuff, but this is pushing it. Might make one fear he’s cheating on fastballs, which at the age of 27 would be something of a nightmare. It’s still tough to get a fastball by him, but he can’t be selling out for that now. And he is whiffing a touch more on those as well.

And it would appear that pitchers have found a soft-spot on Harper with the fastball: Check out up and in in the zone on him and outside for his career and then this year, in terms of slugging:

Now with the pop-up rate this year:

Seem like he’s having trouble catching up? Care to guess where most of the whiffs on sliders and curves come? You know, we don’t have to show you.

It’s hard to believe that with Harper’s other-worldly bat-speed he can’t get to fastballs in tight anymore, but that’s the way it looks. He’s not going to see anything else until he solves this, and solve it via another way then just getting out in front even more. Otherwise, the next 11 years in Philadelphia he’s going to find are less than sensitive.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Phillies 27-19   Cubs 27-17

GAMETIMES: Monday and Wednesday 7:05, Tuesday 6:05, Thursday 1:20

TV: NBCSN Monday and Wednesday, WGN and ESPN Tuesday, ABC Thursday

BLEW UP THE CHICKEN MAN’S HOUSE: The Good Phight (sky point Crashburn Alley)

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Jake Arrieta vs. Yu Darvish

Zach Efflin vs. Jose Quintana

Cole Irvin vs. Cole Hamels

Aaron Nola vs Jon Lester

PROBABLE PHILLIES LINEUP

Andrew McCutchen – LF

Jean Segura – SS

Bryce Harper – RF

Rhys Hoskins – 1B

J.T. Realmuto – C

Cesar Hernandez – 2B

Odubel Herrera – CF

Maikel Franco – 3B

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Victor Caratini – C

Jason Heyward – RF

Albert Almora Jr. – CF

Daniel Descalso – 2B

Addison Russell – SS

 

It’s a bit silly to talk about playoff previews, but given the way the Mets and Nationals are intent on sucking their own toes right now, it’s not hard to envision the Phillies being around in October. And with the Cubs at the top of their division as well, this is certainly a series that will draw interest from outside their locales.

Ah, but the headline isn’t so much a series between two of the NL’s four best teams, which it is, but the actual return of Jake Arrieta and his date with Yu Darvish tonight. Arrieta didn’t pitch against the Cubs last year, so this feels like the actual homecoming. Sadly, there will be fans and writers who will use this as some sort of barometer or definitive statement on the Cubs decision to move on from Arrieta to Darvish, which will probably ignore that Arrieta has basically been mediocre since leaving and is still heading the wrong way. Jake doesn’t strike out as many hitters as he used to, he’s walking more, and feels like a #3 starter these days. Lucky for the Phils, that’s all he has to be.

Aaron Nola is around to carry the ace-responsibility, though he’s had issues this year with control and being eaten alive by the BABIP Dragon. He is giving up harder contact than he did last year, but he shouldn’t be surrendering a .364 BABIP. Zach Efflin has been the breakout star this year–perhaps the one Nick Pivetta was supposed to be before imploding. He’s cut his walks in half and gives up a startlingly low amount of hard contact. Cole Irvin was a top prospect who is now up, so it’s a pretty effective rotation that can live with an ok-to-good Arrieta instead of a dominant one.

The other narrative that will be barfed up repeatedly until esophaguses are worn away is Bryce Harper coming to where he “should” have been, and whether or not that’s worked out for either. As the Cubs have one of the best offenses in baseball, it seems to have been fine for them. Harps hasn’t set the world on fire which has him on every Philly fan’s enemies list already, and he has struck out a ton, but he’s also gotten on base a ton. He’s hitting for more than decent power, and his defense has actually been good considering that right field in Citizens’ Bank Park is like 15 square feet. His presence on on-base tendencies have certainly helped Hoskins behind him, who has MVP numbers. Jean Segura is having a luck-infused renaissance, and Cesar Hernandez is also having a boom start. J.T. Realmuto hasn’t really got going yet, and third base continues to be a black hole for the Phillies, but it’s a decent lineup

The pen has been an issue. Only Adam Morgan and Hector Neris have been accountable, with everyone else either having control or homer problems or both. David Robertson being hurt hasn’t helped, and same goes for Victor Arano. This is where you get the Fightins most easily.

God help us if Darvish doesn’t have a good start tonight and Arrieta does. There’s a Cole Derby on Wednesday, and that Nola-Lester matchup on getaway day is actually the best one of the series. The Cubs don’t need a litmus test, we know their good, but it’s always fun to see how they do against their fellow glitterati. They took two of three from the Dodgers and have split with the Brewers. This is the cream of the crop of the East, so should be enjoyable.