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

Amazingly, the Cubs were able to string together two wins in a row — something they haven’t done since August 17-18, and July 25-26 before that — and were pretty close to winning a third game in a row, which they haven’t done since June. It was good to finally watch some exciting baseball, despite it all being for naught and against another sub-.500 team. Players like Patrick Wisdom and Ian Happ are producing offensively to mask the fact that our pitching is filled with question marks whose futures as elite MLB starters seem dubious at best. Let’s break the fun down, shall we?

August 23, 2021
Cubs 6, Rockies 4
WP: Rodriguez (2-2) LP: Bard (7-6)
Box Score

Once again, the Cubs proved they can for some reason only win when Kyle Hendricks starts, despite Hendricks not getting the win and not looking too good for this start. The Rockies quite quickly started wracking up the runs, scoring three in the 1st inning alone. Hendricks allowed three singles, a double and a walk in that inning, which certainly wasn’t his best work. However, he was able to steady himself for essentially the rest of his start, allowing “only” five more hits in his next six innings and striking out six batters.

The Cubs looked dead offensively for a large portion of this game, finally scoring a measly run in the 6th inning thanks to Frank Schwindel singling, Ian Happ doubling, Wisdom walking to load the bases, and David Bote scoring Schwindel despite hitting into a GIDP. Because of course he did.

Despite things looking bleak for most of this game, and things not looking better when Hendricks allowed one more Rockies run in the 7th inning to make it 4-1, the Cubs rallied amazingly starting in the 8th inning to take the game back. First, three walks in a row from the top of the order loaded the bases. Then there was a pitching change that ended up not helping the Rockies at all, as the pitcher, Carlos Estevez, immediately gave up a single, another Bote GIDP (we can’t make this up) and a double by Michael Hermosillo to let the Cubs tie the game and light up Wrigley Field for the first time in what seemed like weeks.

The game wasn’t over though: after Codi Heuer was able to hold off the Rockies in the 8th with no hits and a strikeout, Manuel Rodriguez was able to do the same to put the Cubs up in the 9th. Jason Heyward, with one of the worst batting averages and OPS on the team, came up to pinch hit and was able to single on the second pitch he saw. After Matt Duffy, pinch hitting for Rodriguez, struck out predictably, it was Rafael Ortega who was able to hit the two-run walk-off bomb to end the game. Despite the game not really mattering, Wrigley hadn’t been that loud in a long time.

August 25, 2021
Cubs 5, Rockies 2 (F/7)
WP: Heuer (5-2) LP: Gomber (9-8)
Box Score

Even more impressive than winning one game for this team is winning two in a row, but that’s exactly what the Cubs did—granted, it was only a seven-inning game, meaning there were less chances for things to go horribly wrong, but the Cubs were still able to get it done.

Despite a plethora of Cubs hits this game (eight is now a plethora), the runs all came from homers thanks to David Bote, Austin Romine, and Patrick Wisdom, whose three-run blast probably broke someone’s windshield on Waveland. Other than that, hits were pretty much had by all, with only Rafael Ortega, Matt Duffy and Andrew Romine going hitless this game. Yes, even starter Zach Davies poked in a single to start the 3rd.

Speaking of the 3rd inning, that was the last time the Cubs allowed a hit; for the next four innings, the Rockies’ bats were just about dead, getting shut down by a combination of Zach Davies (wha?), the bullpen, and the Cubs’ defense.

Codi Heuer came in at the end of the 5th and made things look easy out there; despite not striking anyone out, it didn’t take him long at all to goad the Rockies into initiating contact for easy outs. Though he has a 4.15 ERA for the year, it’s actually a 1.35 ERA with the Cubs so far, which is pretty impressive considering the literal whos this team has been trotting out behind him for almost a month now.

Adam Morgan got the save, and like Heuer strikeouts also do not seem to be his thing. However, Wisdom fielded the final out in left field to take the Cubs home with their second win in a row! The bar is incredibly low!

August 25, 2021
Cubs 10, Rockies 13 (F/10)
WP: Bowden (3-2) LP: Jewell (0-2)
Box Score

Despite coming back three times in the second half of yesterday’s doubleheader, the Cubs collapsed — likely of pure exhaustion — in the 10th inning after the game had stretched to four hours and a slew of players had played 17 innings of baseball in one day. Jake Jewell, the eighth Cubs pitcher of the day, gave up four runs in the 10th inning on three hits and a walk to finally end our suffering.

Despite being down two runs early thanks to Justin Steele giving up a walk and a homer, the Cubs were able to very quickly make up for that in a 2nd-inning rally that consisted of five singles, a double, and Ortega stealing home that made the game 5-2 Cubs.

Of course, the Cubs can’t always have nice things. Despite Justin Steele leading off with allowing two singles at the top of the 4th, he got two strikeouts in a row before Trevor Megill was trotted out in his place. Megill hit Charlie Blackmon with the ball to load the bases and then allowed Connor Joe With Two First Names to hit a grand slam that put the Rockies back in the lead, which they then extended in the 6th inning thanks to Rex Brothers being not as sharp as he usually is on the mound.

Despite it being 8-5 Rockies in the bottom of the 7th inning, Ian Happ’s three-run homer gave us extra innings of baseball, after Matt Duffy and Frank Schwindel singled. Happ had a pretty good game, despite his horrific bunting attempt with two runners on in the 9th inning being an incredibly questionable move. Although his batting average this season is still sub-.200, he has a .462 batting average and a 1.479 OPS over the past three Cubs series. His bat is sorely needed for the Cubs to even have a chance in the upcoming Sox series, so hopefully his hot streak continues.

Yes, the final White Sox series of the season is upon us as they continue to try and extend their lead in the AL Central as the playoffs draw near. Despite losing their last series against the Rays and allowing the Blue Jays to take two of their first three games in the current four-game series, the team will be tough to beat. I’m sure Sox fans will enjoy the welcome reprieve in their schedule to dunk on us. Hopefully the Cubs will continue the fighting spirit they showed this series to at least make the games competitive and interesting to watch. It’s really all that I ask. 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

It’s not good when a team like the Nationals, who also sold any good player that existed on their lineup over the trade deadline, ends up beating you in the series. We have some dark days ahead with this team.

In the meantime, Rafael Ortega has decided this is his team now, as he cements himself as the new leadoff hitter for the club while garnering eight hits and batting in eight runs this series, including today’s three-homer effort. That’s him being directly responsible for 57% of the Cubs’ total runs this series, if you’re keeping track. Despite considering him a below-average outfielder, he’s the only reason the Cubs were even kind of in this series at all, so he deserves some recognition.

Patrick Wisdom is also making some good plays at first base, since we all need some good news. Unfortunately, he was also a part of some ugly plays like in today’s game when the ball was hit right past him despite his diving effort to stop it from getting to the outfield. Hopefully with some more time on first base regularly he will get the hang of things and be more reliable there.

July 30, 2021
Cubs 3, Nationals 4
WP: Espino (3-2) LP: Arrieta (5-10)
Box Score

Yep, we’re back to playing Jake Arrieta now after trading Trevor Williams and until players like Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele are “stretched out” enough to start, as the Marquee announcers can’t stop reminding us. Arrieta, as usual, only pitched four innings and allowed 7 hits and 2 runs during his tenure on the mound. One of those hits was a homer in the 2nd inning that gave the Nationals the lead, and then an error in the 3rd inning gave the Nats the 2-1 lead, as the throw to first was unable to be completed on an infield hit.

Rafael Ortega started his tear in the 3rd inning as he doubled to score new full-time shortstop Sergio Alcantara, who doubled earlier in the game as well. However, the Cubs allowed a home run in the 5th inning off of new pitcher Michael Rucker, and in the 6th inning a fly ball to Ortega in center field went way over his head when he tried to catch it, allowing for a base hit and a 4-1 Nats lead.

The Cubs tried to get back in it in the 8th inning, when Patrick Wisdom was able to hit a ball past the third baseman into left field to score Ortega and Contreras. Despite Heyward singling in the 9th inning, the Cubs batted into a double play and a diving catch by the Nats’ shortstop kept Sergio Alcantara from extending the game.

July 31, 2021
Cubs 6, Nationals 3
WP: Hendricks (13-4) LP: Ross (5-9)
Box Score

Ortega again started things off in the 1st inning by singling; he then stole 2nd base when Ian Happ predictably struck out swinging. Wisdom then hit the ball to right field, the outfielder just missing the catch and giving Ortega the chance to score.

Kyle Hendricks, additionally, was the starter who won his 11th straight game for the Cubs. Things were a little tense to begin his outing, though, as he allowed a fly ball to Yadiel Hernandez, one that neither Happ nor Ortega could field properly, allowing the Nats to tie things up quickly. Luckily, Hendricks was all but nails for the rest of his time out, allowing no more runs and pitching for 7 full innings, ending the day with only four hits allowed and a walk with three strikeouts.

The Cubs broke the game open in the 4th inning after a deluge of offense from some unlikely (and new) faces. David Bote doubled to start things off, hitting a ball to far left field. Later, Sergio Alcantara hit another ball to far left to score Bote, which the Nats’ outfielder also failed to catch. Andrew Romine (yes, older brother of Austin Romine, because Chicago sports teams can’t seem to stop acquiring brothers to put in the lineup together) had his second hit of the night, a double to score Alcantara. Then Ortega hit another home run, as he is wont to do these days, to give the Cubs a commanding 5-1 lead by the end of the inning. Jason Heyward even joined in on the offensive fun, driving in David Bote in the 7th to make it 6-1.

As soon as Kyle Hendricks was pulled in the 8th, Rex Brothers gave up his usual deluge: a double, a walk, a single, and another single to make it 6-2 Nationals. With no outs. So it became time to bring up Codi Heuer, the reliever from the White Sox we received in exchange for Craig Kimbrel (and really the only player we traded for who can currently play in the MLB). Heuer has a lot to prove among Cubs fans; he was okay in his rookie season last year but looks much worse this season, with a 5.12 ERA and his 22 runs allowed in 40 games started…yeeikes.

Despite being put in a bases loaded situation with zero outs, Heuer got the job done with the help of the defense behind him. He got the Nats batter to ground into a force out, as Bote threw the ball to Contreras to get the out at home. Heuer then gave up a sacrifice fly ball to center field, with Ortega making the catch. Then, he gave up a ground ball that was easily fielded to Wisdom from Romine. The Cubs made a successful double play to end the game with a win.

August 1, 2021
Cubs 5, Nationals 6
WP: Finnegan (4-2) LP: Rodriguez (0-1)
Box Score

Ortega started this rainy game off with a solo homer, because of course he did. A groundout and two strikeouts later, however, ended the inning with no more offense. Robinson Chirinos, the catcher of the day, had a line drive robbed by a Nats outfielder in the 2nd, and a strikeout after him by Alcantara kept the score 1-0.

It was not Adbert Alzolay’s day, as he had an especially difficult third inning. A single and a sacrifice bunt put a runner on second base. Then an intentional walk and a Josh Bell single scored two more Nationals runs. Josh Bell’s single was a nightmare, a catastrophe of epic proportions for the Cubs defense. The ball was hit to left, thrown to home by Happ to try and stop the home plate runner, but thrown wildly off base, so Chirinos threw to second, also off base, allowing Juan Soto to score also because nobody was covering home…I shudder just thinking about this play. We are bad. Let’s move on.

Another Nats single scored one more runner, a wild pitch advanced Yadiel Hernandez to second base, Luis Garcia was walked, and finally Alzolay was able to strike out Carter Kieboom to end the 3rd. Alzolay only pitched five innings, allowing seven hits and four of the six Nationals runs. He walked four batters and struck out four as well. But thanks to the Cubs not exactly giving up offensively, he was off the hook for the loss.

Bote had multiple grounders and line drives fly right past him at second base today, which is painful to watch. Josh Bell just one inning later in the 4th hit the ball right over him, scoring Rene Rivera to make it 4-1 Nats in a bases-loaded situation.

Romine got himself on first base with the 6th inning, and Ortega homered him home to make it a one-run game, the Cubs suddenly only trailing 4-3. Adam Morgan got the outs necessary in the 6th to keep things rolling, but it was Kyle Ryan who gave up a solo homer to Yadiel Hernandez in the 7th to extend the Nats’ lead. Ortega once again homered — his THIRD of the game, if you’re counting — to score two more Cubs runners in the 8th inning to tie it, putting the offense of his team solely on his back in amazing fashion and for now making up for his iffy play in the outfield.

Heuer was again put in for the 8th inning today, and gave up a single, a sac bunt and an intentional walk before Alcantara and Wisdom threw themselves a double play to end the inning. A bit of a shaky appearance, but don’t worry, this was totally worth Craig Kimbrel. Manuel Rodriguez, pitching in his second-ever MLB game, replaced Heuer in the bottom of the 9th, and he gave up a leadoff solo homer to Hernandez to give the Nats the walk-off win.

Life rolls on aimlessly for the Cubs as they face the Colorado Rockies this week, another garbage team who didn’t trade Trevor Story at the deadline and therefore threw their organization into even more internal turmoil than it was already in. The Cubs are still trying to find their footing post-deadline, so having another weak opponent is…good, I guess?

The secret to winning for the Cubs will probably be getting offense from people not named Rafael Ortega, but Ortega should continue his home run tear if he can help it. The lost season continues; see you soon. Go Cubs go!