Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: White Sox 1 – Reds 7

Game 2: White Sox 5 – Reds 0

Game 3: White Sox 3 – Reds 7

 

MEH.

That’s really the only descriptor that can sum up this weekend of White Sox baseball. The starting pitching, the timely hitting, the focus, all…meh. Which is really kind of understandable, really, to come out a little flat after the balls to the wall series against the Twins earlier in the week. If the next series looks like this, then perhaps we might begin to worry. As for now, treat it as an aberration and move on to the next one.

 

TO THE BULLETS!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

-We learned two main things this weekend: Jonathan Stiever is young and inexperienced (DUH) and Dain Dunning is the team’s number 3 starter until proven otherwise.

-Dylan Cease finally found a bullet he couldn’t dodge: the patient plate approach of the Cincinnati Reds. The book was out on him, and the Reds hitters were all prepared to make Cease get THEM out and do him no favors in the process. Cease went 3+ innings and threw 80 pitches while walking 7 hitters. Almost every count went full, and Dylan just had no answers to their patience. His breaking stuff actually looked the best that it has in quite awhile, but his fastball control flat out sucks right now. Obviously after seeing the lows and highs of Lucas Giolito I’m not willing to write Cease of by any means, but if his control isn’t there he’s not much more than a 5th starter for this team.

-The Tim Anderson/Trevor Bauer headline lived up to the hype, as Timmy managed to take him deep in the 5th inning on Saturday night. Credit to Bauer for taking it with good humor saying TA should have bat flipped it.

-Nomar Mazara also managed to go deep off Bauer, however, so how hard can it be?

-Dallas Keuchel struck out a season high 7 batters, but he didn’t complete the 5th inning which is not something that’s happened in quite awhile. The K’s are nice, but I don’t think anyone would trade 7 Ks for 7 innings.

-Matt Foster and Cody Heuer are now officially “A Thing”

-Luis Robert is in a full on slump now, and a night off might not be the worst thing in the world for the kid. Give him a chance to get his brain in order.

-As of right now, the Cubs and Twins have each won one this weekend with tonight’s game to go so the lead still stands at 2.5 over the Twins. Go Cubs….I guess.

-Next up is 4 against Cleveland, which taking 3 of 4 could possibly result in the Indians missing the post season 2 years in a row because of the Sox. I’d love to see it, because I don’t think any of us want a 3 game series with that pitching staff in the first round.

 

Moving on…

 

Baseball

vs.

Records: Reds 70-80  Cubs 81-68

GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday 7:05

TV: NBCSN Monday, WCIU/ESPN Tuesday, WGN Wednesday

NOT READY FOR FULL-TIME DALTON YET: Blog Red Machine

DEPTH CHARTS & PITCHING STAFFS

Note: Due to scheduling and traveling, there isn’t a Reds Spotlight today. Picture one in your head if you must. Maybe Votto’s regression or Aquino’s 12 wRC+ in September. Choose your own adventure. 

After 47 runs in three games and thoroughly burning any sense of self-worth the Pirates might have thought about having, the Cubs will look to keep it going against the Reds. The challenge with the Reds is they have one real live pitcher starting a game this series, and a couple ones in the pen, neither of which the Pirates can claim right now. And the Cubs might be without their linchpin.

We all are holding our breath to hear news of Anthony Rizzo, which will come down after this goes to print. Everyone’s expecting the worst, because when a player is helped off the field that generally means a week or two, maybe more. The Cubs don’t have two weeks or more, and face the apocalyptic seven games with the Cardinals. As if the Reds haven’t been enough of a headache. The simplest solution is a lot of Victor Caratini at first, though you may see some of Happ and Bryant there too. The latter gets David Bote’s bat into the lineup, though Caratini and Contreras both being in the lineup doesn’t leave you offensively short either. It just leaves you short of what Rizzo would provide.

Of course, another wonderful aspect of a Rizzo absence is more debate about the leadoff spot,, which has become the Cubs’ TIF funding. Rizzo moved there for the Pirates series, suddenly they turned into Loyola-Marymount, but now they have to figure it out again. Mostly you can count on Zobrist being there, and he can at least be representative. It’s basically a “So What Don’t You Want?” situation. Heyward has proven he can’t do it and doesn’t like it. They won’t try Bryant there, especially as he’s rediscovered some of his power over the weekend (if results against the Pirates even count). Contreras is another candidate against lefties, as long as we never see Almora there again. Go down the list and you see there aren’t a lot of answers.

Still, time moves on, and the Cubs have games to win. And as you know, the Reds are a spikier outfit than the Bucs. They’re coming off taking two of three from Arizona, seriously denting their charge to the wildcard. And they’ll have no compunction about doing the same to the Cubs. At least the Cubs will duck Trevor Bauer and Luis Castillo. But they’ll get Sonny Gray, who’s been one of the best starter in the NL and especially of late. Gray has quality starts in 11 of his last 13, and he had a 0.74 ERA in August. His two September starts have seen him give up four runs…so he’s slowing down? Maybe? We’re trying here. Needless to say it would behoove the Cubs to get Monday and Wednesday and consider anything off of Gray a bonus.

The rotation is another problem the Cubs have to solve. All of Quintana, Hamels, and Lester have been backing up for weeks now, and while they got to save the relievers who matter (such as they are) due to the offensive supernova against Pittsburgh, they don’t want to go to that well any more than anyone’s stomach can handle. Hamels doesn’t look healthy, and Lester might just be running out of racetrack in his career. They are wheezing to the finish line and have to find something this series and in the season’s last two weeks, even if it’s just a death rattle.

It’s only two games now. It’s one and a half behind DC while one ahead of Milwaukee. But if the Cubs can at least hold that two games behind St. Louis, that basically puts it all on the seven games they have left together. Let’s do that.

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 12, Reds 5

Game 2 Box Score: Reds 5, Cubs 2

Game 3 Box Score: Reds 10, Cubs 1

Game 4 Boxscore: Cubs 6, Reds 3

Considering all that’s happened against the Reds this year, how annoying they’ve been, how every hitter turns into Barry McGwire Mays against the Cubs, I’m taking this split of four games and sprinting for the airport. Series wins against the Phillies and Pirates would mean a 6-4 roadtrip and yes I’ll have some of that. Sure, it’s still a below-.500 team and you’d like to think the Cubs will find the form to beat teams like that more routinely. But hey, when you get a boil off your ass you don’t really worry about how elegantly you did it.

The thing is it was so close to being better. There was a lot of people trying to remove their own tongues through their neck on Friday night, but if Javy Baez’s hard-hit grounder is two feet to either side of where it was it scores two and it’s 5-4 with no outs and two on. Shit happens sometimes. Sometimes Hendricks or any starter doesn’t have it on that day. You live with it, it’s just that there have been so many other boneheaded losses it gets harder to do.

Most of all, after I complained and moaned after St. Louis that the Cubs didn’t fight or scratch or claw their way back into ABs and games on the road, today they did. Hell, you could argue they did on Thursday too when Hamels gave up a big lead and they just poured it on some more. But today especially, against Luis Castillo-whom they weren’t really close to in the game’s first five innings–they took advantage of some lackadaisical location and selection and found a way back. Helps the Reds pen hasn’t been any good since the break, but you take it.

Oh, and they made Thom Brennaman cry. Good day all around.

Let’s…

-I thought Jon Lester had fucked it today, but that wasn’t totally fair. The 3-0 pitch to Eugenio Suarez wasn’t as bad as a I thought:

That’s more good hitting than bad pitching. He even tried to stay away from Apollo/Aries/Yahweh Aquino, and he still went outside the zone and got it. He kept it close enough, which after that outing on Tuesday is good enough for now.

The real upset was that the pen was flawless, with only one hit and one walk in four innings or work. They may have lucked into Rowan Wick, but he was the main star, going two innings and going through the meat of the Reds lineup to give Strop the easier part. He even figured out to give Aquino nothing below his nose or above his ankles.

-I kind of had it wrong all weekend on Aquino, too. He had a decent 7.9% BB-rate in the minors this year, so he’s not the hack-a-thon I thought/hoped he was. Still, when he’s raining fire down upon you, the Cubs could have figured out to not be over the plate as much if only to avoid damage. Then again, when you’re already down eight…

-Very weird start for Darvish, who gave up four runners all night and all of them scored. He didn’t get away with one mistake, which almost seems unfair. Have that start again and he might go eight shutout next time.

-I want to believe that this IL stint is the rest Cishek needs that Maddon would never give him, instead of the abusive use shredding the hip he’s already had surgery on before. That’s what I want to believe.

-I was just thinking to myself that with the ball being a Titleist, 22 homers for Bryant seemed a touch on the low-side. I’ll take the 23rd and shut up now. The Cubs are seriously just one Bryant binge away from hiding from the Brewers and Cardinals.

-And good on Joe for letting Mills take the last four innings in a blowout to not have to use anyone who will matter. That left Phelps, Wick, and Strop fresh for today. I still want to believe Maples will matter one day, but I’m probably the only one now.

-Y’know, if Ian Happ keeps hitting, it doesn’t really matter if Ben Zobrist makes it back or not.

-My one quarrel with Friday is that with two outs and Amir Garrett on the mound, one of the tougher lefties in the division, Schwarber shouldn’t be given that AB. I know that Bote or Almora is hardly a step up, but presumably Bote is still here because he might actually hit a lefty sometime. Fairly sure Schwarber won’t, especially in a clutch situation. Oh well.

Onwards…

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 44-37   Reds 36-42

GAMETIMES: Friday 6:10, Saturday 3:10, Sunday 12:10

TV: WGN Friday, ABC Saturday, NBCSN Sunday

SONS OF LARKIN: Blog Red Machine

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Cole Hamels vs. Sonny Gray

Jose Quintana vs. Luis Castillo

Jon Lester vs. Anthony DeSclafani

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Willson Contreras – C

Jason Heyward – RF

David Bote – 2B

Albert Almora Jr. – CF

PROBABLE REDS LINEUP

Nick Senzel – CF

Joey Votto – 1B

Eugenio Suarez – 3B

Yasiel Puig – RF

Jose Iglesias – SS

Scooter Gennett – 2B

Phillip Irvin – LF

Curt Casali – C

 

The Cubs begin the second-half of the season in the bouncy-castle that is The Great American Ballpark. Get ready for Darth Eugenio for the weekend. There’s no avoiding it.

The Reds have been bipolar of late. They swept the Astros on the road (an admittedly short-staffed ‘Stros but still), and then took the first two from the Brewers in Milwaukee. But then they lost the last two, and then were clocked by the Angels at home for two games, scoring one run in each. All in all it’s been a pretty disappointing June for the Redlegs, as they’ve gone 9-12 after a 15-13 May. Their metrics still suggest they should be far above where they are, but it’s getting a bit late to keep claiming that. Still, a good showing against the Northside Nine this weekend would give June something of a hint of gloss.

In the month, the offense for the Reds has dried up. Those of you waiting on the Derek Dietrich bubble to burst can rejoice, as he managed a 66 wRC+ in June with a glittering .277 wOBA. Only Votto and Puig have pulled their weight the last three weeks, with part-time dash from Jesse Winker. The Reds are in fact last in runs in June, but that’s never stopped them from clubbing the Cubs over the head at that spaceport of a park.

The rotation is moving the wrong direction as well. Anthony DeSclafani has been great in the month, with a 2.40 FIP. Tanner Roark has been on the upside of his usual performance, but Sonny Gray can’t find the plate again and Luis Castillo has been so wayward he’s being picked up by air traffic control. The only thing keeping Castillo’s ERA from blowing up is he still strikes out a ton of batters and some Righteous BABIP Kung Fu Treachery of .208. Gray has not been so lucky, which is why his ERA is over 5.00. The Cubs will see them both, and patience is the order of the day when they do.

Like it’s been with the Reds all season, you should probably do the work against the starters because they do have a very good pen. David Hernandez, Michael Lorenzen and his jersey that’s holding on for dear life, Amir Garrett, and Jared Hughes have all been lights-out over the past couple weeks, so the Cubs recent habit of falling behind by multiple runs is not the way to go about this weekend at all. Given the state of the Reds offense right now, that isn’t a huge ask from the Cubs rotation. But again, dumb things tend to happen at this park, and we don’t mean the food.

It’s now the second half, and while the Cubs usually wait until after the break to really get going, there’s no reason to not to start now. Both the Reds and Pirates are moving backwards, and by the time they get to the Southside to close it out the Sox might not even be able to field a team. They sort of muddled through the first half. And maybe that’s what they are. Still, July’s schedule is S-A-W-F-T, and if they’re ever going to kick to another gear and open up some ground, it’s right now.

Enough of this shit. Time to make the chimi-fucking-changas.