Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Reds 1 – White Sox 7

Game 2: Reds 1 – White Sox 6

 

In a 2 game stint against a team clinging to playoff contention with a single fingernail, the Sox walked to the edge of that cliff and stomped squarely on that finger, sending the Reds to the bottom of the sea. Both Reynaldo Lopez and a diminished Carlos Rodon were able to hold a disinterested Cincinnati offense at bay, while Luis Robert continued to put the rest of the league on notice that he’s coming for his seat at the Table Of The Upper Echelon.

In other news, word broke yesterday that Tim Anderson somehow landed himself a 3-game suspension for supposedly “making contact” with umpire Tim Timmons (clearly a fake name) during the benches-clearing fracas stemming from Jose Abreu getting plunked for approximately the 6,548th time this season. In video posted to the internet, you can see Timmons and Timmy (new jazz-fusion group name) face to face but really nothing comes of it. The suspension is being appealed, and won’t affect Timmy’s availability for the postseason. I guess we’ll just wait and see what actually happened down there.

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

GAME 1

-Reynaldo Lopez continues to make a solid case for him to be on the postseason roster with another excellent outing. His 6 innings of 2 hit ball were only slightly marred by an Eugenio Suarez bombshot in the 5th inning. Even better, he only needed 80 pitches to get through 6, showing his newfound efficiency. Nice work.

-Luis Robert had two dingers on the night, the second of which was absolutely murdered and briefly showed up on our radar here at work. He’s been a force of nature recently, and has matured into the world destroyer Rick Hahn was hoping for when he coughed up that international signing money.

-In addition to Robert’s two blasts, Yoan Moncada and Gavin Sheets each added solo shots of their own. Sheets is another one who I would say has absolutely earned himself a playoff roster spot, as that kind of insane power from the left side will be very useful going forward.

-Jose Ruiz, Aaron Bummer and Matt Foster all added scoreless innings of relief, and while only 2 of those 3 will be pitching in the postseason it’s good to see.

GAME 2

-Carlos Rodon looked solid in his final tune-up before postseason play, though his velocity was still considerably down. Instead of dominating the Reds lineup with 98-mph fastballs, he kept them off kilter with 85 mph changeups and sliders then occasionally peppering them with a fastball that topped out at 93. Whether or not he was holding back due to the impending playoff pitching he’ll be asked to do (I don’t think this is the case), he was definitely good enough to hold down a depressed Reds offense. Will it be enough next week? We’ll see, but either way his arm strength will be one of the biggest storylines heading into the Astros series.

-Oh look, more dingers from Gavin Sheets.

-Michael Kopech finally got to go more than 2 innings, and made the most of the 3 he was given. The 2 walks weren’t great, but the overall performance is exactly what you’d want to see out of him.

-Leury Legend continued to swing a hot bat, going 2-4 with an RBI and run scored. Once Adam Engel is fully stretched out and ready for the playoffs, it’ll be interesting to see how much Caesar Hernandez actually plays.

 

 

Next up is the final series of the regular season. Naturally it’s against the team involved in the bench-clearing incident from the other day. I would fully expect things to be less chippy this time around, and wouldn’t be shocked if both teams start with umpire warnings in effect.

With the Astros 1.5 games ahead of the Sox in the standings, the odds of home field advantage are pretty long. The ultimate goal this weekend is to get out of the series unscathed, so expect to see pretty short outings from Giolito and Lance Lynn. In addition to that, it should be the last appearances for guys like Mike Wright Jr and Matt Foster so just one more time to deal with that. Stay healthy and get through the weekend, then it’s time to fuck up the Asstros.

Let’s Go Sox!

Everything Else

There’s nothing funnier than when a Cubs team with nothing to play for spoils a playoff-contending team by winning the series. It gets even funnier when it’s the Cincinnati Reds, who only got one win and arguably should’ve come out of this series with all three to jump back into a playoff position. Now they are a game back of the Padres in the wild card race and the Cubs have won eight of their last nine games. Get your fun where you can get it at this point of a lost season.

September 6, 2021
Cubs 4, Reds 3
WP: Effross (2-0) LP: Lorenzen (0-2)
Box Score

The Reds become one of the more formidable opponents the Cubs have faced recently, as they poked holes in our defense and figured out Justin Steele the third time through the lineup, which is when opponents always figure out Justin Steele.

Ian Happ spotted the Cubs an early 3-0 lead after a fielding error and a single for Rafael Ortega and Frank Schwindel put them on base, putting Happ in the position to hit his big homer. That was just about all the offense either team allowed until the 6th, when things got stupid with Steele walking a batter, allowing a single and hitting two guys in a row.

Codi Heuer replaced Steele and we all watched as most of his pitches didn’t go where he wanted them to go, culminating toward the Reds tying the game on a double off of him. However, Scott F-Ross came in in the 7th and was able to pretty reliably shut down the Reds offense as they squandered their chances of moving back into a wild card position.

The nail in the coffin of this game was Frank Schwindel once again with the game-winning hit, which happened in the bottom of the 8th inning and scored Alfonso Rivas, who had singled earlier. Adam Morgan completely shut things down in the 9th with the save, which included a line-out for pinch hitter Joey Votto. A solid performance, despite a complete lack of offense for most of the outing with Sonny Gray on the mound.

September 7, 2021
Cubs 3, Reds 4
WP: Miley (12-5) LP: Sampson (0-2)
Box Score

Despite their best efforts and a start from Adrian Sampson, the Cubs weren’t able to win their eighth in a row. Two homers – one a leadoff homer – in the 1st inning for the Reds made it so the Cubs couldn’t ever catch up. The Cubs were unable to figure out Reds pitcher Wade Miley, with only a Willson Contreras solo homer in the 3rd inning to dent Miley’s stats.

Sampson allowed six hits in five innings pitched and allowed no more runs after his shaky first inning. He also threw only one strikeout and allowed a walk, however, which is a somewhat-concerning stat. Miley, on the other hand, struck out eight Cubs in his seven innings pitched and allowed no walks and only five hits. Contreras’s homer was the only run he allowed, showing the Cubs how far this team actually is from having a solid starter. Pray for us all.

Sergio Alcantara had a few good throwing plays this game, which is good to see considering he seems to be the poor man’s Javy Baez replacement. Schwindel was also doing a good job of catching all of those throws—if a ball was hit to the infield today, the Cubs were able to get the out.

Manuel Rodriguez allowed two more Reds runs in the 8th inning, allowing big outfield hits that the current Cubs outfield couldn’t make plays on. The homer happy Cubs got two solo dingers in the bottom of the 8th from Rafael Ortega and Happ to make the score 4-3, but it wouldn’t be enough as the Reds took this one.

September 8, 2021
Cubs 4, Reds 1 (F/10)
WP: Heuer (7-2) LP: Brach (1-2)
Box Score

For the first four innings of this game the only runs to be had were solo dingers, one for each team: Ian Happ and Joey Votto, respectively. Other than that, it was for the most part a pitchers’ duel between Alec Mills and Vladimir Gutierrez. Mills was able to stay in for six innings and allowed four hits and a walk with three strikeouts. This is compared to Gutierrez, who despite only going five innings had twice as many strikeouts and half as many hits. Once again, our starting pitching has a long way to go to get to playoff contention.

Once Mills’s time was done, Rowan Wick allowed two hits but no runs in two innings pitched, and then Codi Heuer stepped to the mound to allow no hits and two strikeouts in his winning performance. His pitches are really something to watch; many of them never look like strikes because they’re always so inside, but whenever a player swings at those inside pitches they almost never make contact.

The unlikely hero of this game was Jason Heyward in the bottom of the 10th inning—everyone knew the ball was outta here seemingly as soon as the ball left his bat. He knocked in Contreras, the runner who had started on second base, and Patrick Wisdom, who hit a bloop to left field and ended up stealing second base soon after.

The Cubs are off today and then return this weekend to face the Giants and Kris Bryant, who is having the time of his life away from the Ricketts family and all you can do is wish him the best. Bryant was out on Tuesday for the Giants with an injury (shocker) but is supposed to make a quick return by the time this series tees off. Psst — remember Jake Jewell? Did you miss that he got picked off waivers when we tried to send him to the minors? (You wouldn’t be at fault if you did.) He’s now with the Giants’ AAA affiliate, which is where Jake Jewell is supposed to be when employed by a team with actual MLB-caliber players.

As for the Giants themselves, they still lead the MLB with 90 wins of this writing and will likely find themselves in the first-place playoff spot, as long as they keep the Dodgers an arm’s length away, which is what the Dodgers deserve. Wins will be hard to come by, and I’m not sure if Happ’s season in a can performance over the past month will be enough to fool this team. We’ll see what happens. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

The Cubs came into this series on an eleven-game losing streak, the second losing streak that long of the year. They’ve been getting skulled by teams that are playing any type of meaningful baseball, most recently getting swept by the Miami Marlins, despite the Miami Marlins being 4th in the NL East and eleven games back.

And yet, the Cubs came in against a theoretically-playoff-caliber Reds team and won their first series since the July 25, before the trade deadline, if you can remember back that far. Led by pitching marvel Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs continued their momentum through to this afternoon’s game. Ian Happ ended yesterday’s game with the winning homer and started this game out with a homer that began a deluge of offense for a team that has sorely needed some. Nowadays we will take the little victories.

August 16, 2021
Cubs 5, Reds 14
WP: Miley (10-4) LP: Steele (2-2)
Box Score

It was Justin Steele’s second career start, and he did just about as well numbers-wise as his last start against the Brewers. Despite five strikeouts in four innings, he also allowed five hits and two runs, and the Cubs offense were showing us they didn’t have what it took to even make this game a close one.

The homer Steele gave up was a two-run homer in the bottom of the 4th after allowing a walk. Up until then, he had been keeping the score at zero and even impressively getting himself out of a jam in the 3rd inning. With no outs and runners on the corners, Steele struck out two in a row and forced weak contact to get the third out.

Things got marginally worse when Michael Rucker replaced Steele on the mound in the 5th inning. Once again it was a walk and a two-run homer that doubled the hole the Cubs found themselves in. Despite this, he stayed in an inning longer, and that homer was the only hit he gave up.

As for the offense, there was none to speak of until the 8th inning, when they decided they wanted to score runs on a completely different Reds team—between innings, Cincinnati had replaced their pitcher, first baseman, right fielder and shortstop to give their best guys some rest during their current playoff push. It was a no-brainer after the Reds scored EIGHT runs the inning before, making it 12-0 mostly thanks to the antics of Dan Winkler on the mound and Rucker not getting any outs to start the inning either.

The Cubs scored five during what was essentially a minor league game to close things out, highlighted by an Ian Happ double—he’s been struggling so much this season that any hit by him is a means for half-hearted celebration. It seemed like just about the entire lineup went up to bat, and the ones who didn’t get a hit were Patrick Wisdom, David Bote, and Sergio Alcantara. The Reds piled on a few more in the bottom of the 8th, however, to render things even more meaningless than they were before.

August 17, 2021
Cubs 2, Reds 1
WP: Hendricks (14-5) LP: Gutierrez (8-4)
Box Score

The Cubs finally snapped their 12-game losing streak with this game, which you’d have to be really incompetent not to do with Kyle Hendricks on the mound. He went four innings without allowing a hit, giving up only three walks and having three strikeouts to boot. Arguably the best player on this new Cubs team, he now leads all starting pitchers in the league with wins in 14.

Hendricks’s first jam came in the 5th inning, with a walk and a single putting runners on first and second. This would be the first time all game a Reds runner was in scoring position; despite this, a strikeout and a groundout ended the inning for the Reds, who just couldn’t figure out Hendricks. Nick Castellanos, the Cub That Got Away, hit a solo homer in the 6th, but that was the only run the Reds would score all game.

Meanwhile, some offense from Frank Schwindel—who’s on a six-game hitting streak, by the way—helped bat in Rafael Ortega who absolutely hauled ass from first base to make it happen. Happ continued his offensive streak by hitting a solo homer in the 6th, which ended up being the winning run for this Cubs team.

In a whirlwind of big-brain pitching, Rowan Wick loaded up the bases in the 7th inning as relief for Hendricks. Surprisingly to everyone, Wick got two strikeouts to keep the bases loaded and no additional runs scored. Rossy, however, knew he wasn’t gonna keep playing with this fire, replacing Wick with Adam Morgan, who got Joey Votto of all people to ground out and end the inning, keeping the Cubs ahead.

We also saw some good stuff from Codi Heuer, who came in and closed out the last two innings for the Cubs. He allowed no hits and struck out two batters in a pretty impressive performance, although the bar here is quite low and I will reserve my long-term judgment until I see more.

August 18, 2021
Cubs 7, Reds 1
WP: Rodriguez (1-2) LP: Mahle (10-4)
Box Score

Another win the Cubs needed, and it’s made all the more sweeter since it meant putting the Reds now two games back of the second wild card spot. (Though with Yu Darvish injured, will the Padres be able to hold on?) The offensive deluge coming from the Cubs instead of against the Cubs was also a welcome change for those of us watching.

Only Matt Duffy and Frank Schwindel didn’t have hits in this game out of all the position players; the offense was spread out pretty evenly throughout the lineup, and home runs were pretty plentiful by all. Ian Happ’s solo homer in his second straight game led things off for the Cubs, while Michael Hermosillo homered today as well in his second big-league game this season, which makes for a good story.

Things really got away from the Reds early on, as the 2nd inning saw a walk, Hermosillo’s homer, a single, a sac bunt, a single and a double as just about the entire lineup got an appearance against Tyler Mahle, who had a pretty awful game and gave up the majority of the runs. The Reds’ bullpen wasn’t stellar, either, giving up four hits and two more runs in five innings, including a Sergio Alcantara home run in the 6th.

The offense came at a good time for Adrian Sampson, who made his season debut on the mound as the starter after not playing in the MLB since 2019. Although he only pitched four innings, that’s sort of the way things go for this team as Rossy and Co. try to stretch out pitchers and see who could have the wherewithal to be a starter on an actual major league team, which this isn’t. Despite allowing five hits, Sampson gave up only one run, no walks and struck out two batters. Though this didn’t put him in line for the win, it wasn’t an awful appearance overall.

The bullpen allowed only one hit, and it was in the 9th inning by Trevor Megill. The pen also had eight strikeouts today, a pretty obscene number. Despite Rowan Wick’s shaky performance yesterday, today’s inning-long appearance by him wasn’t too shabby and kept his 0.00 ERA (???) intact.

It’s good to win a few, and the fun continues as the Cubs visit the Kansas City Royals, who are somehow worse than us and a team I’d equate to the gum stuck on the bottom of my shoe. (Of course now that I say that, the Cubs will drop all three games. Please don’t do this to me, baseball gods.)

The story, of course, is that Keegan Thompson is getting called back up again to make his first-ever MLB start as the Cubs continue to examine their pitchers in the system. Hopefully the momentum keeps rolling and the Cubs can at least get a win that day for his first career start. The bar is still quite low here. See you then, and go Cubs go!

Baseball

The Cubs’ slump continues, but after last series I feel indifferent to this club. Why should I expect any more when our offense is sputtering and our starting pitchers just aren’t good enough? Now our bullpen is suffering too, after being overworked early on in the first half of the season. While the run earlier in the season was fun while it lasted, it’s really starting to look like a selloff is imminent, and maybe that’s for the best, because the team as it’s been the past few weeks isn’t very good at all.

July 2, 2021
Cubs 1, Reds 2
WP: Osich (1-0) LP: Mills (3-2)
Box Score

Things started out innocently enough, everyone looking okay through the first few innings as the Cubs seemed more evenly matched for the Reds, especially compared to the shellacking put to us by the Brewers in the last series. Alec Mills was throwing some nasty pitches, striking out four batters in the first two innings, totaling 9 strikeouts on the game after 5.2 innings pitched.

Ian Happ even got a hit in the 3rd inning, despite having one of the worst batting averages in the NL against lefties. Kris Bryant is back in the lineup, and he celebrated by going 2 for 4 for the night. His hit in the top of the 4th inning allowed Jason Heyward to bat him home on a double to put the Cubs up 1-0.

It would be the Cubs’ only run, as the wheels fell off the wagon just a few innings later at the bottom of the 6th, where Mills allowed a walk and a single to put runners on 1st and 2nd base. He was then yanked and replaced by Adam Morgan, who immediately gave up a double to make it 2-1 Reds; neither team decided it was necessary to score any more runs.

Dan Winkler and Andrew Chafin were able to hold the Reds to only one hit in the 8th and 9th innings, striking out three batters combined. But the Cubs pretty much gave up in the final innings of this game, allowing themselves to be struck out 4 times in 3 innings. The only time a hitter reached base was a Joc Pederson walk in the 7th, after a Cubs challenge about Willson Contreras grounding out was upheld on the field as an out.

July 3, 2021
Cubs 2, Reds 3
WP: Hendrix (4-1) LP: Alzolay (4-8)
Box Score

The Cubs’ losing streak extended to eight games, as the offense continues to be unable to follow through when runners are in scoring position, nor can they capitalize on games where the starters throw quality outings. This time it was Albert Alzolay, who pitched seven innings and allowed only 5 hits. Unfortunately, two of those were solo home runs, even though otherwise he had a pretty good outing. This is his fourth loss in a row, despite him not entirely deserving to have such a skid. By the end of the 7th inning, just before getting pulled, he allowed a walk, a double, and another single to score the Reds’ winning run, as the Cubs’ bats once again stopped working in the 8th and 9th innings.

The Cubs were able to score in the 2nd inning; Rafael Ortega came home on a passed ball after doubling earlier. In the 3rd inning, Kris Bryant’s solo homer made it 2-0 Cubs. In the 1st, 4th, 5th and 7th innings, the Cubs had runners in scoring position they didn’t convert on. Despite Bryant having three hits in five at-bats, there were only four other hits from the rest of the team that came from Rizzo, Conteras, Ortega and Eric Sogard. Without offense, the Reds were able to edge the team out in the 7th inning, after Joey Votto walked and Tyler Stephenson doubled to score him.

The bullpen of Brad Wieck and Craig Kimbrel only pitched one inning combined, but they of course allowed no hits. They allowed one walk total and struck out three batters. I guess the only bright side to this game is that a lot of the pen got the day off to rest, which is important since those games seem to be very few and far between for those poor pitchers.

July 4, 2021
Cubs 2, Reds 3
WP: Warren (2-0) LP: Winkler (1-1)
Box Score

The Cubs were able to celebrate the founding of America by activating Nico Hoerner off the injured list, finally. He was not very helpful on the offensive front, with no hits and a strikeout where he chased a ball that no one could hit. However, he was effective when needed defensively on the field, as he was part of an inning-ending double-play in the 5th inning to keep the Cubs’ one-run lead intact.

On the offensive front, the Cubs had plenty of hits but not a lot of runs to show for it. Patrick Wisdom, Hoerner and Ian Happ were the only players who went without a hit this game, with Contreras, Baez, Rizzo and Jake Marisnick having two.

Kyle Hendricks pitched well, giving the Cubs another quality start with 5 hits and only one run allowed in 6 innings. The Cubs gave him the minimum amount of effort needed offensively to let him walk away without taking the loss, which was oh so kind of them.

The bullpen, however, seemed to be a different story. Dan Winkler was the first pitcher up, and immediately gave up a single, a hit by pitch and another single to load the bases. After a forceout, Winkler hit another batter, allowing the tying run to score. He was replaced by Andrew Chafin in a bases loaded, one-out situation, and a ground ball forceout was all it took for the Reds to score one more player in order to put them in the lead 3-2.

The Cubs were unable to come back; for the rest of the game only three guys got on base and only one of those situations was a hit, an Eric Sogard single. Ian Happ walked earlier that same inning in the 9th, but Willson Contreras grounded into a double play, ending the game.

The Cubs could’ve made the most of this Reds series, but they didn’t, and now they slip to 3rd place in the Central. The Cubs now look forward to playing nothing but sub-.500 teams all the way through the end of the month, as a four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies awaits them starting tonight and going through all next week. Then they get a series against the Cardinals, the Diamondbacks, and the Cardinals again before facing Cincinnati at the end of the month. You can’t really drop any of those Cardinals games, and there’s no excuses to not win against the Diamondbacks. The Phillies should in theory be easy opponents as well.

If the Cubs were going to end their slump and get hot again, now is the time to do it. Fail against these teams and there’s no question it’ll be a selling deadline. Sit back and get ready to watch some sub-par baseball! Go Cubs go!

Baseball

History is deemed to repeat itself, as once again the Cubs take two out of three this series and another important position player goes down with an injury. The club’s six-game winning streak ended today as the Cubs weren’t as consistent with their bats as they had been in the last few series.

We are also staring at an uphill battle with matchups against actually good teams as opposed to the bottom-of-the-barrel NL Central sludge we’ve been seeing as of late. The season will only get more exciting from here.

May 28, 2021
Cubs 1, Reds 0
WP: Alzolay (3-4) LP: Gutierrez (0-1)
Box Score

This game is the type of game fans point to when they argue that baseball is dying, that it’s too boring and this is why it’s hard to get more young people to watch. Nevertheless, the Cubs were able to win this one, as David Bote hit a solo homer as the only run of the game in the bottom of the 5th inning to give the Cubs the win.

This game was obviously a pitcher’s duel against Adbert Alzolay and the Reds’ Vladimir Gutierrez, pitching in his MLB debut. Alzolay won out, pitching 5.2 innings to Gutierrez’s 5.0, although it was Gutierrez with less hits (2 vs. 5) and walks (2 vs. 3). However, Alzolay allowed no runs, the most important metric, and also had six strikeouts on the day. There were also times in innings 1 and 2 when Alzolay pitched himself into a bit of a sticky situation with runners in scoring position, but he was able to pitch his way out of both of them. A solid outing overall.

Andrew Chafin continues to show us his capabilities as a reliever are just as solid as his abilities to rebuild cars and boats, as Ohioans are wont to do. He allowed only two runs and had a strikeout in his 1.1 innings out.

Tommy Nance and Craig Kimbrel finished out the game, pitching one inning each and both striking out one batter.

There were only three Cubs hits on the day, coming from Kris Bryant (of course), Javier Baez and David Bote again. The bats were not exactly working out today, but hopefully that is just an anomaly and not a trend.

May 29, 2021
Cubs 10, Reds 2
WP: Thompson (3-1) LP: Castillo (1-8)
Box Score

The Cubs were able to hop on the board early in the 2nd inning thanks to a litany of tough fielding plays by the Reds, where they probably could’ve gotten Contreras out at 3rd base but were unable to. Soon Eric Sogard, king of singles, was able to hit one between short and third base, scoring Contreras, and then a single by none other than Zach Davies ended up scoring David Bote right after, putting the Cubs up 2-0.

Then David Bote got hurt, and he looked like he was hurt pretty badly. A dislocated shoulder was eventually confirmed for him after the game, and he got taken out immediately. Considering Bote was third on the team in RBIs and had been playing pretty well over the past few weeks, including making solid defensive plays wherever he’s slotted, this is certainly not good news.

A pretty nice Reds double in the top of the sixth to the corner of right field in a bases-loaded situation allowed them to tie the game, but it only took to the bottom of that inning for the Cubs to break out offensively, thanks in part to four walks in the inning that allowed Eric Sogard to amble on home. A pitching change didn’t even help the Reds get out of the inning, as two singles were able to score two more Cubs, making it 6-2 by the time Baez characteristically struck out to end the inning.

The Cubs piled it on, scoring four more in the next two innings, including a solo homer by Rafael Ortega, who at this point with all the players getting hurt will likely be a new staple on the field. Baez was able to score Joc Pederson in the 8th on a single, and Ian Happ singled also in the 8th to RBI in both Bryant and Baez. At least the offense got going.

As for pitching, Zach Davies went the usual five innings, allowing two hits, two walks and striking out three batters. The bullpen was really solid, allowing no runs in four innings. We saw Rex Brothers pitch for the first time in ten days. Keegan Thompson was credited with the win, allowing only one hit and getting a strikeout. Finally, Tepera and Wieck got two strikeouts each and Maples ended the game by allowing only one hit.

May 30, 2021
Cubs 1, Reds 5
WP: Mahle (4-2) LP: Arrieta (5-5)
Box Score

The Cubs once again were unable to generate a lot of offense, having four total hits on the whole night: Pederson, Bryant, Contreras, and the presumable-new-third-baseman-for-the-next-ten-days Patrick Wisdom. Additionally, three of those four hits came in the 8th inning, where Bryant’s RBI single drove in the only run despite it being far too late in the game for a comeback.

Jake Arrieta was also pretty horrendous, as he was only able to stay in the game for 3.2 innings and in that stretch gave up all five of the Reds’ runs off of six hits. He walked four batters, allowed one homer, and struck out only three in an ugly, forgettable performance to add to his illustrious career.

The only good Cubs news I have to report here is that the bullpen was once again nails. Brad Wieck, who took over for Arrieta in the 4th inning, was the only bullpen pitcher who allowed a hit. The other three pitchers—Brothers, Maples, and Winkler—allowed no hits and only two walks between them all.

Anthony Rizzo is still day-to-day with a back injury, and before the game we learned that David Bote will in fact be on the 10-day IL. It’s grand, because the next two and a half weeks of the schedule is pretty brutal. The Cubs will be facing the Padres, the Giants, the Padres again, the Cardinals, and the Mets in that span. And in case you’re still fully engrossed in playoff hockey, these teams are all currently sitting at the top or near the top of their respective divisions.

This is the toughest stretch of baseball the Cubs have faced to date and going into this stretch after falling with a thud in today’s game is probably not great. And that’s not even mentioning the plethora of injured position players we are still hoping to get back soon.

These two weeks will be the ultimate test for this team, and their performance here will very likely help to determine whether or not the Cubs sell or stay put at the trade deadline (I still believe a selloff is imminent because after 2016 we cannot have nice things).

The fun starts now. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Sox 9 – Reds 0

Game 2: Sox 0 – Reds 1

 

It’s very rare in my baseball watching tenure where something will occur during a game that renders me completely unable to speak. The top of the 10th inning against the Reds yesterday was one of those times. It was a moment so drenched in stupidity, that I could just sit there in awe with my mouth agape like a landed fish.

For those of you who were living in a cave the past 24 hours, this is how it shook down: the top of the 9th ended with an Andrew Vaughn out, making him the runner on 2nd should the Sox be able to push the game that far. They did so, with Liam Hendriks coming out to get Michael Kopech out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom. For some reason, Grandpa Galaxybrain at that point decided the time was ripe for a double switch, bringing in Jake Lamb for Vaughn…leaving Hendriks as the runner on 2nd to start the top of the inning.

Now imagine that you’re the GM of an MLB team, and you need a new coach. What would the bare minimum that you’d expect from someone who wanted to be the coach of your team? Would you want him to be able to evaluate talent? Probably. Be a good communicator? Yep. Would you want him to, oh I don’t know, maybe BE FAMILAIR WITH THE RULES OF THE GAME THAT HE IS COACHING? That seems like it would be an important thing to know at the Major League level. Well ole Tony doesn’t have time to read every single little rule in the book. Tony has other things to worry about, like “when is nap time?” and “why isn’t it nap time yet?”

So we were left with Liam Hendriks the pitcher, standing on 2nd base at the start of the top of the 10th inning. The guy who hasn’t had to run the bases since he was a young lad punching a kangaroo back in the junior leagues in Australia. It didn’t have to be this way. The extra innings runner rule looks like this:

Image

So LaRussa could’ve had Jose Abreu standing on 2nd base instead of Hendriks, without being forced to pull Hendriks from the game. While Abreu isn’t exactly Pietro Maximoff on the base paths, he’s an intelligent runner, knowing what to do in any given situation. He’s also fucking huge, which would allow him to potentially blow up Tucker Barnhardt at home should the need arise. Both are things that Liam Hendriks cannot do or be.

After a Grandal walk (shocking, I know), and a Leury Garcia fielder’s choice (also shocking), the Sox had 1st and 3rd with one out. Now, if you have Abreu on 3rd, you have more options to score on a ground ball or attempting a suicide squeeze as again, Jose is an intelligent baserunner.

Now you have Billy Hamilton at the plate, who’s greatest value in this situation would be to lay down said squeeze bunt to get the runner home. However you can’t do that because it’s Liam Hendriks on 3rd who is not trained for this situation and is also a$70 million investment you don’t want broken. So if you’re not going to do the squeeze and you have another outfielder in the form of Adam Eaton on the bench, why do you have Hamilton hit here, as getting the ball out of the infield is not a specialty of his. Zack Collins is literally just sitting there waiting to prove himself.

None of this mattered ultimately, because for reasons known only to Ole Uncle Drinky, Leury Garcia tried to steal 2nd base and was gunned down. Shortly thereafter Hamilton strikes out to end the inning and naturally the Reds walk it off in the bottom of the 10th.

This is now the 3rd time on the season where LaRussa’s choices have directly affected the outcome of the games, and not in a good way. The fact that the offense was unable to string together any hits or the fact that 2/3rds of the starting OF is currently deceased does not absolve LaRussa for not knowing the rules or pulling some mad shit like having Leury try to steal second on a gold glove winning catcher when his run is not the one that matters. No amount of lawyering or being a Hall of Fame Baseball Person can polish the turd that was the top of the 10th yesterday, which is really a shame because Dallas Keuchel kicked all kinds of ass.

Other Notes:

-Is Dylan Cease fixed? Is he the best hitter on the team? Both of these things seem possible after Tuesday night as he went 6 strong innings striking out 11 AND went 3-4 at the dish with a double and a run scored. Some credit here to Grandal, as when it seemed like Cease was about to let his mechanics break down he called for about 6 straight fastballs to recalibrate him. It worked, as he got Castellanos and Suarez swinging. More please.

-Yoan Moncada had a few frozen ropes in night one, with an AEV of about 101 mph between them. Once he starts elevating these, they’re not coming back.

-As mentioned above, Dallas Keuchel had himself a day. While the strikeouts were low (only 1), he kept everything on the ground, which at the Great American Ballpark is absolutely key. The starting pitching is going to have to step it up with the offense hurting, and the last two starts are very good signs.

-Michael Kopech was a little wild yesterday, but effectively so. 4 walks and 4 Ks, but no earned runs. I would’ve like to have seen him work out of the jam he created for himself in the 9th, but I also understand the move to Hendriks.

-Next up is a series against the division-leading Royals down in BBQ City. Taking 2 of 3 would go a long way to staking their claim to the AL Central, and nobody really believes that the Royals are for real which can be dangerous. Get it done.

Baseball

Tired of boring Cubs baseball? Well you were in luck, because this series had everything you could ever want and a bunch of crap you didn’t: benches-clearing brawls, pitchers collapsing, a 10-homer game, two injured players and no lack of offense.

Things were certainly less bleak this series compared to the last. Despite the Cubs losing two games, at least the bats weren’t dead and everyone was scoring. Our rotation, however, is genuinely atrocious, and the bullpen we have built up can only do so much when the starters dig a huge hole for them to climb out of. Additionally, this all came at the expense of Willson Contreras and Ian Happ, so you have to take the good with the bad.

Here are my observations from the games this weekend.

April 30, 2021
Cubs 6, Reds 8
WP: Miley (3-2) LP: Arrieta (3-3)
Box Score

The Cubs came out in front early in this one, but because Jake Arrieta (unironically the Cubs’ Best Starter) only lasted until the 4th inning, the Cubs ended up down 6-2. He gave up a homer, a single, another two-run homer and a walk in the 4th inning before getting pulled, and he had been unraveling the inning before as well. The Cubs wouldn’t be able to make it back on top, which became the story of two-thirds of this series: this team could always make it back to tie it but never get ahead.

At least Kyle Ryan With Two First Names could stop the bleeding! After yanking Arrieta, David Ross put him in and got the second out with a strikeout. Then Ryan gave up a single and a double to dig the hole deeper, 7-2. Justin Steele was next on the bullpen list who actually looked pretty good, putting up 5 (????) strikeouts through two innings to keep the Cubs in the game, despite the offense trying their best not to stay in this game. Dillon Maples also looked good, striking out three straight batters and getting another strikeout in the 8th to keep the Cubs in it.

Additionally, Willson Contreras exited the game in the 5th inning because of hamstring tightness. The Cubs can never have good things. Contreras avoided a stint on the 10-day IL, instead electing to take the rest of this series off (until the Sunday disaster, of course).

The Cubs finally started rallying back in the 7th thanks to the likes of Eric Sogard walking, Kris Bryant doubling to make it 8-3 and Baez RBI-ing to make it 8-4. The curse of RISP, however, came back to haunt the Cubs in the 9th inning when they blew a bases-loaded situation. David Bote walked up to the plate and it was his time to shine; remember that one time three years ago when he walk-off grand-slammed to win the game? That certainly didn’t happen here. He grounded out unimpressively to lose this game.

May 1, 2021
Cubs 3, Reds 2
WP: Brothers (1-0) LP: Castillo (1-3)
Box Score

If anyone is tired of watching Zach Davies give up runs, you’re certainly not alone. It’s what the baseball gods have decided we deserve to watch for doing something as stupid as trading Yu Darvish for nothing in return. Luckily, the baseball gods took pity on us and limited our suffering this game, as the Reds wouldn’t score past their two runs in the 1st inning.

After Davies’s double, single and sacrifice fly he gave up, the Cubs’ bats started heating up. Tony Wolters, the new new backup catcher when Contreras is out, was able to single. Then Davies tried to endear us Cubs fans by sacrifice bunting to score Nico Hoerner, and then went back to not endearing us when he loaded up the bases in the next inning.

Bote doubled in the 4th, getting the hit that he couldn’t get last game, and Jason Heyward was able to bat him in to tie up the game. In the bottom of that inning Davies once again gave up two singles and a walk, but the defense behind him was able to get things done, fielding any contact and keeping the Reds from scoring any more runs. The big news out of this game was the benches-clearing brawl started by low IQ individual Amir Garrett and Javy Baez, who was not too happy to watch Garrett get overly celebratory after striking out Anthony Rizzo. Lots of shouting and fighting ensued, including Javy flipping off Garrett live on national Marquee television.

The Reds had a myriad of highlight-reel defensive plays this game, from getting players out at the plate to making diving catches in the outfield that nobody has any business catching. The fact that the Cubs came out of this game with a win at all will hopefully be the start of some better baseball for this team.

Better baseball, you say?…

May 2, 2021
Cubs 12, Reds 13 (F/10)
WP: Hendrix (2-0) LP: Kimbrel (0-1)
Box Score

BUCKLE UP. This game was a tire fire the whole way through. And it was offensively explosive early and wouldn’t let up for 10 innings. In the first two pitches of the game, the Cubs set the tone by hitting two doubles to go up 1-0, but the Reds answered right back in the bottom of the inning to go up 2-1. Please also remember that Tony Wolters stole home in the 2nd inning and were it not from the Baseball Gods from On High in New York with their Secret Camera Angles that they will not release to anybody, this game would have been over in the 9th inning and we could have minimized the catastrophe that was the final few innings of this game.

Hometown Boy Trevor Williams was the starting pitcher, but by the time I’m writing this I had seen seven Cubs pitchers after him and his innings felt like they were worlds away. He was bad, though; really bad. But what pitcher wasn’t this game? The poor kid got pulled in the 3rd when he gave up three home runs in one inning, allowing the Reds to go up 6-4.

There was then a never-ending stream of bullpen pitchers being trotted out for the Cubs for the next seven innings. One of them was Keegan Thompson, making his Cubs and MLB debut. This is obviously a tough game to make your debut when the offense in both dugouts can’t stop hitting. Thompson threw a lot of balls and gave up a walk and a single but the defense behind him helped him get out of his first MLB inning without giving up any runs.

Alec Mills came in for a while, but he didn’t look as strong as he usually does, especially after hitting a guy, allowing a single, loading the bases, hitting Mike Moustakas and putting the Reds back in front. And then allowing a two-run single to make it 9-6 Reds. I think it’s probably okay to wipe the slate clean for every Cubs pitcher we saw, however, because of how weird this game was.

Who’s ready for injury? Thought the injuries would be over with this series? Think again. Hoerner and Ian Happ collided in the outfield in the 8th inning trying to catch a fly ball. Hoerner made the catch, the throw and the out while Happ was writhing on the ground in pain. After a ten-minute game delay, watching the poor guy stand up and immediately sit back down on the field and eventually get carted off the field, I knew nothing good could happen for the rest of the game. (Postgame, Ross said that Happ felt “fine, pretty good,” which I doubt, but there’s no word from team doctors yet about what’s up with him.)

By this point, Rossy had literally played everyone off the bench except for Contreras, who said he could play if absolutely necessary. And that’s exactly what happened. A defensive shuffle like no other ensued as Contreras put on his catcher’s gear, Tony Wolters went to second, Hoerner went to left field and Bryant went to center field.

Then it was time to watch Amir Garrett be the incredibly annoying man he is after striking out two Cubs and intentionally walking Hoerner, continuing to yell at people about how that’s what’s up. Hilarity ensued, however, when the Reds decided to pull him in exchange for Ryan Hendrix because the Cubs decided Jake Arrieta was next up to bat since 38 other people have pinch hit in this game. Arrieta struck out swinging, and in the bottom of the 10th Kimbrel’s passed ball and a Nick Castellanos single put us all out of our misery, with the Reds winning 13-12.

The Cubs are injured, now more injured than they were before. They are also exhausted, especially our bullpen. Things have been bad enough this season with none of our starters being able to get past the 7th inning, let alone to even still be pitching by the 7th inning. Now that seven (7) bullpen pitchers have played today, they will all be exhausted too.

And the best part about it all is that the schedule does not let up, oh no, that would be silly. The Cubs start a three-game series against the god damned Dodgers of all teams starting tomorrow. The Dodgers are 17-12 and no longer top of the NL West because the Giants are there, although the Giants have played two less games than the Dodgers so everything will right itself the way this league intended eventually. We will probably get crushed. See you then.

Baseball

VS

Records: Sox 33-17/Reds 25-26

Start Times: Fri 6:10/Sun 12:10

TV: NBCSN/FOX/NBCSN

Redreporter.com

PROBABLE STARTERS:

Friday: Tyler Mahle (1-2, 4.31 ERA) vs. Jonathan Stiever (0-0, 2.45 ERA)

Saturday: Tejay Antone (0-2, 2.76 ERA)vs. Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 2.19 ERA)

Sunday: Trevor Bauer (4-3, 1.71 ERA) vs. Dylan Cease (5-2, 3.20 ERA)

PLAYOFFS, BABY!

The First Place White Sox travel to Cincinnati this weekend having clinched the first playoff berth the franchise has seen since 2008. TWELVE YEARS! Much has changed…

The team clinched an overuse of the term “Soxtober” by coming from behind to beat the hated MinneHOta Twins Thursday afternoon, securing postseason representation by taking three of four from their closest pursuant in the Division. Not much time for celebrations, though, as the team heads to the Queen city for three with the resurgent Reds, winners of five straight and thinking about a postseason trip of their own. The Reds have gone 7-3 in their last 10 to take over Second place in the NL Central and an automatic playoff berth – for now.

The exciting Sox bats weren’t exactly on full display against the Twins, but their 14 runs across the four game set were enough to buoy strong pitching performances from the pitching staff in the mid-week series. One would think they’d like to see more from the supporting cast around Jose Abreu and the timely Eloy Jimenez, and especially while visiting the notoriously hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. Sox hitters will look to do so against a few RH SP, none of which instill much fear outside of the polarizing Trevor Bauer. Bauer is hated by many, and rightfully has earned much of that hate, but us haters have to acknowledge the stellar campaign he’s put together in this most odd of seasons – 9 GS, 4-3, 1.71 ERA, 12.88 K/9, 2 CG shutouts, 2.1 WAR. The douche is making himself some money for his mercenary FA plan on the horizon and you can bet some time in the MLB playoff limelight would only improve his position, as would a dominant performance against the potent Sox lineup.

The Sox will also look to the bats to ease what looks to be an all-hands-on-deck type of weekend for the pitching staff. Jonathan Stiever takes his second, and possibly final, turn in the rotation and will look to go a bit further than the 3.2 innings he gave his team on Sunday against Detroilet. Dallas Keuchel makes his return from an IL stint on Saturday and the series wraps with escape artist Dylan Cease, so the bullpen is going to need to be as good as ever to hold down a surging Reds offense. That task is made even harder by the announcement of Setup Man Evan Marshall hitting the IL, with recent draftee Garrett Crochet getting the call to take his spot on the roster. He’ll almost assuredly make his MLB debut in relief this weekend, possibly in a big spot against the likes of veteran Joey Votto or powerful Jesse Winker. Votto boasts three homers in his last seven games, a stretch that’s seen the Reds go 6-1 while claiming sole possession of second place in the pillow fight that is the NL Central. Cincinnati finds itself a half game ahead of St. Louis and one ahead of Milwaukee as all three are under .500 overall.

We as fans get a glimpse as one of the “what could’ve been” scenarios when Nick Castellanos steps in to face Sox pitchers and patrols RF. I guess one of the positives of this truncated schedule is we haven’t been subjected to too many of the ones that got away in the offseason RF search, but it’s going to be hard not to focus on the Mazara/Castellanos comparisons all weekend. The Sox won’t be paying that situation much mind, though, and will need to show they’re focused on more than just this playoff berth as they have a chance to solidify their lead in their own Division and set up to clinch the AL Central next week in Cleveland. It’s easy to look ahead to that four game series and see Lucas Giolito on Monday and get excited, but the Reds are in a fight of their own and cannot be overlooked. My feeling is we’re going to see some high scoring games, likely with a lot of bullpen usage from the White Sox regardless.

The magic number for the Central Division crown is officially 7; the Sox have 10 games to play. This is entirely in the team’s control and a strong showing in Cincinnati while the Twins deal with the Cubs at Wrigley will give this fanbase even more to celebrate. Maybe even a whole ass AL PENNANT.

Don’t Stop Now Boys!

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 8, Reds 2

Game 2 Box Score: Reds 4, Cubs 2

Game 3 Box Score: Reds 3, Cubs 2

The reason I usually take some time before any recap of game or series is it’s best to do your best to see the depth of something. So while I was ranting and raving on Twitter, and being at the last two games certainly didn’t help increase any level-headedness, and this team has been an infuriating watch except for a three week stretch in April and May, at some point you can’t outrun what you’re missing. And this Cubs team is missing Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. That’s two perennial All-Stars on a team that was already offensively spotty.

Sure, it hurts more after you put up 55 runs in four games. But you don’t get to play the Pirates every day. Sometimes you run into Sonny Gray, which I think we all can accept to a point.

That doesn’t make one goddamn hit off Tyler Mahle acceptable or palatable or something you can just shrug off. Even though the Cubs have been pulling shit like this all season, you thought the momentum they had carried from before or the urgency of the situation would click them into some sort of alertness. But we keep saying that, and it doesn’t happen. Kris Bryant’s cortisone has worn off, and he looked awful at the plate tonight along with a dumb base-running decision. Jason Heyward has backed up all of September and is back to what he’s been his entire Cubs career. We could go on.

It’s just upsetting, no matter how hard you try and rationalize it, because the call before the season (as I keep repeating) from the front office was that the Cubs had to “lock in” on certain games to get the wins they didn’t get last year (even though they got 95). Getaway days, chances to sweep, chances to win or split a series. Well now they had to have this, and they came up with one hit on hardly the Reds top starter and another three against a pen that’s been leaky. They’re not locked in. They’re just middling.

And now they have to take three of four this weekend to even keep the division debate alive. Split and they’re down three with a week to go. It won’t be enough. And they’ll have to do it against a starting staff that’s perfectly built to expose the lack of Rizzo and Baez and also the shortcomings in their rotation (unless Hamels can rediscover health and Q his form from August). That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible It’s just going to be really hard. And this team hasn’t wanted anything to do with hard all season.

All right, let’s…

-The urge is to go off on the bullpen, but Joe Maddon is doing the best with what he’s got. He’s missing his closer, who hasn’t been all that good anyway. Steve Cishek was down. Brandon Kintzler is hurt. That’s the whole top of the pen. Sure, maybe bringing in Pedro Strop into a big situation was the height of optimism, but the bottom of the order is the kind of situation you do that in because your options are limited. You need Wick or Ryan, which is a statement, for the meat of the lineup. There’s just no other way to go.

-Doesn’t mean you need to walk Peraza twice in the late innings, helping to keep turning over the lineup.

-Somewhat fitting, if you’re a masochist, that Jose Iglesias got the winning hit. He was the shortstop available for a song to back up the middle infield when the Cubs opted for another season of Addison Russell and his recovery they were so invested in (which we’ve heard nothing about since the season started).

-You’re running out of time. Is it the worst idea to see if Happ can’t give you better ABs than Heyward right now? The outfield defense might kill you, but Happ’s ABs are at least more battling than Heyward’s and are you really confident that Heyward can find it with ten games to go?

I can’t escape the feeling that there are just too many obstacles in front of this team, either provided by the front office and ownership before a ball was thrown in anger, or the injuries now, for them to get through. You can’t miss two top-of-the-order hitters and the top of your already undercooked pen and think you’re just going to rip through the rest of the season. They couldn’t find a way past the Padres with Rizzo, for fuck’s sake. Feels like a split with the Cards that give them nothing is what’s coming, before the final insult in St. Louis that will have you tasting battery acid all winter.

I pray that I’m wrong.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 62-52   Reds 54-58

GAMETIMES: Thursday-Saturday 6:10, Sunday 12:10

TV: NBCSN Thursday, Friday, Sunday, WGN Saturday

SCHOTZIE’S LEAVINGS: Blog Red Machine

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Reds Spotlight

Once again, the Cubs will try to take momentum gained from a standout homestand onto a 10-game road trip that could see them, if not put the division to bed, give themselves a healthy cushion. The last time they tried this they stained the floors of each destination to the tune of a 3-6 cough-up. This one sets up even easier as the Reds are still below .500, the Phillies can be anything on a given day, and the Pirates have straight up given up. But with the way things have gone for the Cubs on the road, there simply can’t be any sure things.

One change for the Cubs is that Jonathan Lucroy will meet them in Cincinnati, though as of now Taylor Davis is still listed as the backup. That will change in the next day or two, as the Cubs have seen quite enough of that. Lucroy can’t hit anymore, and his brain might be broken, but he is only a season removed from being a pretty good handler back there, and that itself would be an improvement on Davis. He doesn’t rate highly this year, but maybe the significantly better pitching of the Cubs than the Angels can square that around. Again, he’s not going to hit much, and he hasn’t in three seasons, but he might actually get a hit and the Cubs got Taylor Davis’s annual one in that game against the Cardinals in May.

Everything else stays the same. Cole Hamels should have the training wheels taken off in his second start off the DL. Jon Lester will try to come back down from the stratosphere where the A’s put him on Tuesday.

To the Reds, who remade their team a bit at the trade deadline. Gone is Yasiel Puig from the major league roster, and in his King Galaxy Brain Trevor Bauer, whom the Cubs will see Friday. Bauer is certainly a massive upgrade from Tanner Roark, including the headache department. He’s walking more guys than he has in four seasons, and has had home run problems (who hasn’t?) which won’t be helped by the move south in Ohio. The Cubs will also see Alex Wood for the first time, making his four start spurt before he goes back onto the IL with some sort of arm trouble, given that his left one is made of paper mache at this point. The Cubs have had their issues with him in the past, as he carries a lifetime 2.86 ERA against them.

While the Cubs have had no problem making this offense look like something out of a comic book all season, it’s only lately they’ve done that to other teams. They put up 15 runs in two wins over the Angels earlier in the week. Over the past month everyone in the lineup aside from Votto and Peraza (and Votto has been awful in that span) have put up a 100 wRC+ or better, with Suarez and Ervin particularly molten. The latter of which you already knew about because he murdered the Cubs last trip in there and threw the body into the river rolled up in a rug.

The strength of the Reds, if it’s not the rotation, remains the pen, with Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen and his Farnsworth-pants, and Robert Stephenson currently on great runs. The Cubs haven’t been totally ruined when they’ve had to do work against this pen, but it’s not the optimal path when dealing with this crew.

The Cardinals will have the Pirates at home and the Brewers will be entertaining the Rangers in Milwaukee, so if the Cubs want to hold onto this lead it’s likely not going to be handed to them. The Reds have been cumbersome and a nuisance all goddamn season. If the Cubs have turned any corner, finally getting one over on this side would be prime evidence of that.