Baseball

It probably helped that Fernando Tatis Jr. went 1-for-12 at the plate for the span of this series, but the Cubs were able end this first of two west coast road trips on a higher note than how they started. After getting the doors blown off of them in the first game thanks to not being able to outhit their pitching woes, the Cubs were able to beat on the Padres this week, holding them to only one run in the final two games of the series.

More importantly and amazingly, they were doing this without some of their best players—most notably absent this series was Javier Baez, who was on a roll offensively in the last Padres series. Jason Heyward has had no hits since returning, and the Cubs are still without Nico Hoerner, as well as David Bote, if that still matters to any of you. And the injuries keep on coming, as it was announced Adbert Alzolay would be added to the 10-day IL after an ugly start to this series.

Despite these obstacles, the Cubs came through offensively and were able to hold it together defensively to get the job done, even getting the win over Yu Darvish, who for all intents and purposes should still be pitching on this team. As we like to say here, the indignities never cease. Let’s break these games down.

June 7, 2021
Cubs 4, Padres 9
WP: Weathers (3-2) LP: Alzolay (4-5)
Box Score

Considering the Giants series we just came from, who could’ve guessed the Cubs’ starting pitcher would collapse in a game again? Alzolay allowed the Padres to get up early in this one, allowing two Padres runs in the first two innings of the game and having to throw over 50 pitches to get to the 3rd. By the 3rd inning, he had struck out Fernando Tatis Jr. for the second time of the night, along with Eric Hosmer, but a walk and a home run right afterward put the Cubs in a pretty dicey 4-0 hole.

After only two singles in the first three innings, the Cubs’ bats woke up just in time for a rally to make the game a one-run contest. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo singled, and Patrick Wisdom walked to load the bases. Jake Marisnick, back in the lineup playing his first game in almost a month, hit a single that scored Bryant and Rizzo to make it 4-2. Ian Happ decided to come up and bunt for some reason, getting out at first but advancing the runners. Sergio Alcantara, the knockoff Baez replacement whenever he is needed, was able to RBI Wisdom on a sac fly, and then it was 4-3 Cubs.

Alzolay then proceeded to put up a four-pitch walk to start the 4th inning and Rossy yanked him. Alzolay was not happy with his performance, throwing his glove in the dugout and looking pretty pissed. Soon after the game it was announced he’d be put on the 10-day IL for a blistered finger. It was a tough outing for the young pitcher who is currently the only bright spot in the Cubs’ rotation that exists at all, but he’s gotta be better than tonight if the Cubs have a chance at the division or the playoffs.

The Dodgers scored two runs in the 6th and piled on three more in the 8th inning, allowing them to run away with the game. Rex Brothers, in to relieve for Alzolay, allowed no hits in his inning out, but Keegan Thompson allowed a hit that scored the runs in the 6th inning and Cory Abbott’s 1.1 innings at the end of the game allowed four hits and three runs, only one of them earned. The Cubs scored a measly run in the 7th inning thanks to a solo homer by Ian Happ, but other than that the Padres were able to successfully come out on top this game.

June 8, 2021
Cubs 7, Padres 1
WP: Davies (3-3) LP: Lamet (1-1)
Box Score

For once during his tenure with the Cubs, Zach Davies didn’t look half bad on the mound as he faced his team of yore. Despite this, the Padres’ starter in Dinelson Lamet was pitching well also, and we went the first three innings with no score. However, Lamet collapsed to start the 6th inning, giving up two singles and a double to score Joc Pederson and Kris Bryant, added onto the solo homer he gave up to Willson Contreras in the 4th. His reliever could only get the first out of the inning before allowing Patrick Wisdom’s 8TH DINGER IN 15 GAMES to blow the game wide open, 5-0 Cubs.

Certainly Zach Davies is no Yu Darvish, and I don’t think anyone else complains about that more than I do. However, Davies pitched a full 6 innings, allowed only one hit, walked only two batters and had 4 strikeouts. It was the lowest number of hits he’s allowed in a game all season, and by many numbers it was the best game he’s played generally since his season debut on April 4. Credit where credit’s due here.

The Cubs were able to score two more runs in the 7th inning to make the game really over, and thanks to our trusty bullpen the Padres never really got back in the game offensively. Andrew Chafin, Tommy Nance, and Alec Mills all pitched one inning each. Chafin had a strikeout and only allowed one hit, while Nance had two strikeouts and no hits at all. Alec Mills, making his first appearance on the mound for the Cubs in nearly a month, allowed the only Padres run of the game after walking two batters and letting Ha-Seong Kim hit a double. However, two strikeouts later he was able to end the game for the Cubs.

June 9, 2021
Cubs 3, Padres 1
WP: Brothers (2-0) LP: Darvish (6-2)
Box Score

The Cubs are finally looking back to their winning form, able to win the series against the Padres despite having to face old demons and current elite pitching by Yu Darvish. It was Jake Arrieta who was up to the task of battling against him, and this game was a pitcher’s duel all the way until essentially the 7th inning, where the Cubs took the lead on an RBI double play by Rizzo. The other two runs were scored by solo homers for the Cubs, with Joc Pederson doing it in the 4th inning and Sergio Alcantara doing it in the 8th inning.

Like I said, it was a pitcher’s duel, and though Yu Darvish played the longer game, he was the one with the loss. Veteran Jake Arrieta only pitched five innings compared to Darvish’s seven, but he allowed only one run to Darvish’s two runs despite Arrieta allowing one more hit. The Cubs bullpen, and I know I sound like a broken record, got it done. Rex Brothers got the win with two strikeouts in his inning in the 6th. Tepera and Kimbrel also allowed no hits, despite Kimbrel having 0 strikeouts to close the game — very uncharacteristic of him.

The Cubs were intentionally sitting some important players this game in order to give them two days off before a big series this weekend against the Cardinals. In doing so, some younger players in the pipeline were able to show their skills, and Alcantara was certainly one of them again today with his important run and keeping things together at shortstop as Javier Baez took this series off. Additionally, we saw PJ Higgins catching for Willson Contreras and Rafael Ortega in for a stint. Props to these guys for sliding in and not being horrific — hell, even contributing at times.

Like I said, the Cubs have a day off tomorrow and then they come back to Wrigley where they will face off against the Cardinals for the first series at 100% fan capacity. The Cardinals have dropped a bit in the standings since we last played them, being 3.5 wins back of the Cubs and first place. Don’t look now, but the Cubs and the Brewers are neck and neck at the top of the Central Division, so any wins we can get against the Cardinals will be important, especially since the Brewers get the much easier matchup this weekend against the Pirates. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

The good times can never last long for this Cubs team, and after watching this series against the Giants, who are as of today the best team in the MLB, one thing is for certain: we need a starting pitcher to make that jump up to be in the elite group of the best teams in the league. And if I recall correctly WE HAD ONE. So thanks, Ricketts family.

Another series starts tonight so let’s get this review of mostly terrible games over with.

June 3, 2021
Cubs 2, Giants 7
WP: DeSciafani (5-2) LP: Davies (2-3)
Box Score

The win streak can’t go on forever, and the Cubs reminded us of that. Our bats got stymied, only getting five hits all game. The two runs we garnered were in the 3rd inning to take the lead and it was on a 2-run homer by Joc Pederson.

Just an inning later in the 4th, the Giants tied it up, and the inning after that consisted of Zach Davies getting pulled after allowing two singles and a walk in a one out situation. The highlight of my boyfriend’s night was listening to me say “he’d have to hit a 3-run homer here to blow the game open and he won’t” while listening to the game on the radio and then five seconds later Brandon Crawford hitting a 3-run homer there to blow the game open.

The Cubs wouldn’t come back, and there were plenty of fielding errors and poor pitching for everyone involved that the game was over by the end of the 5th inning. Zach Davies still sucks, if you’re wondering, playing only 4.1 innings and allowing 8 hits and 4 runs. The bullpen was also uncharacteristically bad, allowing three runs and two walks. Brad Wieck pitched the 8th, however, and allowed no hits and had a strikeout.

June 4, 2021
Cubs 5, Giants 8
WP: Menez (1-0) LP: Arrieta (5-6)
Box Score

At first it seemed like things would be better this game, especially when you start things off with a two-run homer by Kris Bryant. However, Jake Arrieta did the equivalent of spitting up all over himself in the 2nd inning, allowing—count ‘em—6 total runs in those two innings. He ended his outing at the end of the 2nd inning after throwing 58 pitches. It was obvious Rossy really didn’t want to pull him early; multiple mound visits were made to try to slow things down, but it didn’t matter because he just kept getting hit off of. After a 2-out, full-count situation, the Giants put the nails in our metaphorical coffin with a three-run home run to make it 6-2 San Francisco. The Cubs would never get the lead back. It came out after the game that Arrieta had food poisoning before his start and that’s why he did so poorly. Again, if we had a solid starting pitcher, this wouldn’t have been as big a problem as it was.

Then it was Keegan Thompson’s time to shine. Things couldn’t get any worse, right? He allowed two hits and two runs in his two innings out. He walked two batters, but he also struck out five. During this time, the Cubs tried to make it close by scoring two runs in the top of the 4th, thanks to a walk by Patrick Wisdom who was batted in by a Joc Pederson home run. However, in the bottom of the inning, Thompson gave up back-to-back home runs and a walk before he was able to strike out three batters in a row to end the inning.

The Cubs were able to score one more run in the game in the 5th inning, after a Giants throwing error allowed Willson Contreras to advance to 3rd base and Javier Baez batted him in while grounding out himself. Winkler, Wieck, Nance and Maples all pitched one respective inning out of the bullpen, and they allowed two total hits between them, two walks, and three strikeouts.

Because the fun can never end, there was also an argument caught on camera between Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras in the dugout of this game. I feel like everyone has talked this story to death, so I’ll skip over it for the most part. I’d be pissed off too if I was losing big games like this in this capacity.

June 5, 2021
Cubs 3, Giants 4
WP: Gausman (7-0) LP: Stewart (1-1)
Box Score

Things continued to be more of the same for the Cubs again this series, as they were the ones to go ahead early in the game, this time through a home run by Patrick Wisdom, before pretty promptly coughing it up thanks to the starting pitching. This time it was Kohl Stewart starting because why not at this point? How much worse could he be than the rest of the rotation? He only went 3.2 innings while giving up 7 hits and 3 runs. After allowing a solo home run in the 3rd, he allowed a walk, two singles, a sacrifice bunt and another single in the 4th inning to let the Giants take the lead 3-2, which they once again would never surrender to the Cubs. He was replaced by Tommy Nance in that inning, who was able to get out of it without another Giants hit.

The rest of the bullpen did well, with Winkler allowing the only other run of the game; it was a double that scored a batter who walked earlier in the inning. The fun news out of the bullpen today was that we saw a NEW PITCHER CALLUP in Cory Abbott, who pitched two innings and didn’t look half bad. He only allowed one hit and one walk in his time up, and he even struck out a batter. Tepera closed things out, allowing no hits.

Obviously, the damage had already been done. The Cubs tried their best to rally in the 9th inning, where Rizzo was able to capitalize on a Giants fielding error to allow Bryant, who was able to stay on base after a challenge, to score. Baez had also singled, and with two outs Baez and Rizzo both stole bases to get into scoring position. But Jason Heyward, finally activated after his injury and playing today, unfortunately grounded out to end the game.

June 6, 2021
Cubs 4, Giants 3
WP: Hendricks (7-4) LP: Cueto (4-2)
Box Score

The Cubs at least were able to win one, coming from behind to win a close game, but it looked a bit dicey at first. Kyle Hendricks gave up a solo homer in the 1st inning, and then allowed a single, a walk, and another single to allow the Giants to go up 2-0.

Patrick Wisdom was the offensive hero tonight, as he launched yet another homer in the 2nd inning to put the Cubs within one. However, the bottom of the inning saw Hendricks give up two doubles to give the Giants a 3-1 lead. Ian Happ and catcher PJ Higgins were able to make a huge throw to home plate afterward, however, to get the tag at home and end the inning with minimal offensive damage.

Patrick Wisdom homered, again, in the 4th inning and scored Happ, who doubled earlier. But the 5th inning was when the Cubs really became the Cubs. Kyle Hendricks hit a double, which was truly astonishing, and then Rizzo singled and Baez reached first base on a fielder’s choice, scoring Hendricks to make it 4-3 Cubs.

Additionally, Hendricks lasted 6.1 innings on the mound, allowing 7 hits and 5 strikeouts. 6.1 innings out of a Cubs starter is rare these days, and the defense was obviously solid behind him. The bullpen was back to being nails, allowing only 2 hits in 2.2 innings. Kimbrel came in to get the save — with two strikeouts, of course.

The Cubs certainly didn’t look as sharp for this series as they had in series past, but hopefully today’s win will allow them to turn things around as they go back to face the Padres again this week, this time in San Diego. The Padres just split a series with the Mets but got walloped yesterday 6-2. They are also still sporting a 14-player injured list, making their lineup about as easy as it gets for the Cubs to play against.

It should be noted the Cubs are a bit injured too, as Joc Pederson got hurt again this series, Baez exited last night’s game with thumb soreness and may or may not be in the game, Marisnick and Hoerner are still out with hamstring injuries, David Bote’s still out, and Trevor Williams is still recovering from his appendectomy, although the rotation wouldn’t be much better if he was still on it. The Padres, however, don’t have SECRET WEAPON NL PLAYER OF THE WEEK Patrick Wisdom, so they should fear us. All jokes aside, we should absolutely be riding Wisdom as the hot hand until his numbers come back to earth along with the rest of this team. 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

The Cubs took two out of three against a Tigers team that is really bad at fielding and similarly bad at hitting, besides yesterday’s game, which they won in extras. The Cubs also saw the return of most of their important players from the 10-day IL, including Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ and Jake Arrieta.

However, Alec Mills was placed on the 10-day IL today with a strained lower back. Mills is the go-to inning-eater in the bullpen when the starter collapses and needs to be pulled after three innings, which happens more often than any of us want. So pitching could be a bumpy ride over the next week and a half. Luckily, the Cubs are about to play four against a bad Nationals team before they face the first-place Cardinals, so hopefully we can rack up some more wins there.

May 14, 2021
Cubs 4, Tigers 2
WP: Arrieta (4-3) LP: Skubal (0-6)
Box Score

The Cubs came into this game much healthier than either series that came before this. Jake Arrieta pitched his first game in two weeks and looked pretty solid doing it. Hoerner was finally back in the lineup, despite not getting a hit or walk this game. Luckily, the Tigers are atrocious on the field, committing multiple errors that allowed some other Cubs to get on base and score runs.

First it was Kris Bryant making the Ricketts’ trade bait dreams come true to open up the game with a two-run homer in the 3rd inning. Then Rizzo doubled to score Jason Heyward, who had hit a double earlier to get on base. Finally, a Baez popup that for all intents and purposes should’ve been an out ended up getting dropped by the Tigers fielder, allowing Bryant to score that same inning after taking a walk.

Arrieta pitched pretty well up until the 6th inning; he had allowed 2 hits, 1 strikeout, and 1 walk up until then. The Cubs defense was good behind him as always, making double plays every time a Tiger made it on base. That is, until the 6th inning when Arrieta allowed back-to-back solo homers, the first one to Jake Rogers whose mustache rivals anyone’s in the league, and Robbie Grossman, who hit his third homer of the year.

That was the end of Arrieta, who all in all had a good first game back. The Cubs bullpen was able to keep the lead, as we saw Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel for one inning each. They all recorded 0 hits, 0 walks, and 4 strikeouts between them to get the W. Kimbrel had 3 of those 4 strikeouts to shut down the Tigers entirely at the bottom of the 9th.

May 15, 2021
Cubs 8, Tigers 9 (F/10)
WP: Fulmer (3-2) LP: Kimbrel (0-2)
Box Score

This game was much more of a back-and-forth affair offensively for both teams, especially since both teams’ starting pitchers got pulled in only the 3rd inning. The endless parade of bullpen pitchers immediately giving Tigers players runs, hits and walks made this game a tough one to watch.

The Cubs began the game strong, as leadoff hitter Joc Pederson was able to triple to start things off on the right foot. Kris Bryant was able to draw a walk immediately after and Anthony Rizzo was able to bat them both in with a double: 2-0 Cubs. But Trevor Williams did not have a good start to this day, giving up two doubles, a walk, a single, and a force-out that allowed the Tigers to score three runs. After allowing another hit and a walk in the 2nd inning, he was yanked for Alec Mills.

The Cubs were luckily able to make offense happen in the 3rd inning, as a single, double and RBI groundout helped the Cubs tie the game. Then Matt Duffy doubled to put the Cubs ahead, but it wouldn’t prove to be enough.

Mills wasn’t much better than Williams on the mound, as he allowed two singles, a walk and a wild pitch that ended up scoring a runner in a bases-loaded situation. The Tigers tied the game again with a ground-out RBI that put the Tigers ahead, making Rossy yank Mills. The replacement, Justin Steele, was also bad — shocker.

Matt Duffy came to save the day with a huge THREE-run homer in the 5th inning that put the Cubs back on top 7-6, and then we sat back and watched in horror as the 6th inning saw Dan Winkler unable to get 3 outs and get replaced by Rex Brothers, the fifth pitcher of the day. Then Brothers loaded the bases in the 7th and got yanked. Ryan Tepera played too, getting a strikeout and allowing a single for the Tigers to tie the game. Keegan Thompson pitched the 8th, getting three strikeouts to keep them alive to the 9th, and two more strikeouts to get them to the 10th inning.

It was Matt Duffy’s time to shine today, honestly, which I’m certainly not mad at thanks to his flat play lately. His hit in the 10th to put the Cubs up again was his 5th RBI of the game, leading all players on the field. Then, Craig Kimbrel came in to pitch, but he was unable to come in clutch for us like he has so many games before, letting the Tigers score two and walk off the game 9-8.

Throughout all of this, Ian Happ had no hits today and struck out twice on his first game back from being on the IL. He made plays he needed to make in the outfield, however, and would improve offensively in the following game.

March 16, 2021
Cubs 5, Tigers 1
WP: Hendricks (3-4) LP: Boyd (2-4)
Box Score

The Cubs’ pitching did not completely collapse like last game, despite Kyle Hendricks and his ugly track record of starts so far this year. After making it past the elusive 7th inning, he was able to pitch almost 9 innings and finish with 8 hits, 8 strikeouts and 0 walks. He was, as always, helped out by the defense behind him, who were pretty solid against the Tigers’ bats. The good defensive plays of the game included a double play and a Hendricks pick off in the 3rd, which you rarely see these days.

As for the offense, the Cubs were able to get ahead in the top of that 3rd inning, after Happ singled and Contreras walked. With some stellar baserunning, Happ was able to score from 2nd after Kris Bryant RBIed him in and grounded into a force out simultaneously. Javier Baez struck out swinging characteristically, however, to end that inning.

Happ doubled again in the next inning, scoring Duffy to make it 2-0 Cubs. In the 6th, Duffy hit yet another single, and a David Bote double scored him to increase the lead. Hoerner was able to sac fly Bote to make it 4-0, and then Happ hit a solo home run to make it 5-0 Cubs. Happ went 3-for-4 today, looking much better today since getting off the IL.

By the 9th inning, it was time to pull Hendricks, and Dan Winkler relieved him with no outs and runners on first and second. With the help of the defense and the hinderance of a replay review that said the third out was not an out at all, the Cubs were able to secure the win and hop the Reds for third in the NL Central standings.

Like I said above, the Cubs turn right around and play a four-game series against the Nationals through Thursday, as both Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber return to Wrigley for the first time in different uniforms — prepare yourselves for yet another montage video, as the Cubs marketing department is so skilled and experienced at making those.

Lester has started three games with the Nationals this season, going 5 or 6 innings each, striking out ten batters and sporting an impressive 2.25 ERA. In his last two starts, the Nationals have lost both games. Schwarber has a .213 batting average so far this year on a team that has trouble scoring runs. In Lester’s first start with the Nationals, Schwarber hit the 2-run walk-off homer to win the game for the team.

Thanks to the lack of offense on the Nationals’ part, they sit at the bottom of the NL East with a 15-20 record, four games back of the first-place Mets. Their last series, a wild one against the Diamondbacks, saw the Nationals win 17-2 and then turn around to lose 11-4.

Although emotions may be running high for players in both dugouts this week, the newly-mostly-healthy Cubs will need to continue hitting well and making zero defensive mistakes to continue their climb back to .500. And maybe I shouldn’t even mention the fact that the Cubs need to see their starters play well while the team is without Mills. See you Thursday to wrap those games, and go Cubs go.

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.

Everything Else

It started out a complete disaster, but the Cubs were able to figure it out against the Pirates to start 2-1 on the year. The bullpen went from looking atrocious to making me feel cautiously optimistic. The hitting went from non-existent to being shouldered by the World Series champions who couldn’t be found offensively last season. We were able to rebound, so I’ll take it for now. Let’s look at each of the games:

April 1, 2021
Cubs 2, Pirates 3
WP: Howard (1-0) LP: Hendricks (0-1)

There is truly nothing better than starting the season off the Cubbie Way—playing like inexcusable garbage. Kyle Hendricks allowing a 2-run homer in the top of the 1st inning just for laughs. Throwing only three strikeouts in four innings. All Cubs fans were given a grim reminder of how bad our pitching could look like without Yu Darvish at the helm.

Joc Pederson had a great chance to show all Cubs fans what he could do with a bases loaded situation in the 1st, whacking the ball to left, but unfortunately the wind was not with him and he only ended with a sacrifice fly. Additionally, Willson Contreras had a very nice double steal play, and Anthony Rizzo was able to sac fly him home. Rizzo was responsible for one of two (2) total hits today for the Cubs, BUT WHATEVER YOU DO, RICKETTS FAMILY, DON’T RE-SIGN HIM.

By the 4th inning Hendricks was pulled, meaning we got to see a whole plethora of bullpen pitchers, which was a horrible experience. Brandon Workman started us off for the first time this season, where he was throwing 91-93 mph fastballs. And balls that hit the ground in front of the plate. And wild pitches. Eventually he got switched out for Rex Brothers because he couldn’t throw any strikes, but Brothers certainly didn’t look any better.

Jason Adam was next up in our bullpen as he attempted to fastball the ball past any Pirate up to bat. Even with that pitch hitting 95 mph, Jacob Stallings was able to figure Adam out as he was able to rope the ball to left, extending the Pirates’ lead to 4-2. Winkler had some time at the plate as well, surviving the longest out of everyone in the bullpen – a whole 1.2 innings! Chafin, Tepera and Mills also pitched, but at that point the game was literally at the 3-and-a-half-hour mark and you guys are telling me that you weren’t turning the channel to watch Yu Darvish and the Padres?

The Cubs did score another run thanks to the second of two (2) total hits from the Cubs—a Contreras sacrifice fly to send Bote substiution Eric Sogard home, but by that point it was too little, too late.

April 3, 2021
Cubs 5, Pirates 1
WP: Arrieta (1-0) LP: Anderson (0-1)

The Cubs offense looked a lot better Saturday, even without leadoff hitter Ian Happ out of the lineup because apparently, it’s better to shelter Happ from lefty pitchers than give him experience to help him improve against lefty pitchers. Love it.

Javier Baez was legitimately not pulling our leg about his need for crowds cheering and in-game video to help with his play. He had a huge game tonight unlike any we’ve seen from him for at least a year, with two hits, a run, an RBI, and 2 stolen bases.

Jake Merisnick, Happ’s substitute at center field, also had a great game offensively. He had a run, a hit, and a Baez sacrifice fly RBI, ending the day with a .250 batting average.

Heyward made me look like an idiot saying he wasn’t the player he once was, because he had a great game as well: 2 hits (one a home run), an RBI, and a .875 OPS. Finally, let’s even give Kris Bryant a hand because he was our other home run hitter of the game, also responsible for an RBI and leading the team with a 1.042 OPS.

To the pitching! Even though Arrieta was looking a little shaky at first, he was quickly able to bounce back and survived through 6 innings, twice as far into the game as Hendricks stayed in on Thursday. He struck out five batters and ended the game with a 1.50 ERA. He also allowed 6 hits, and though the Pirates would make contact off of him pretty regularly throughout the game, the Cubs defense behind him was solid and kept the Pirates to only one run.

Although Arrieta had a good pitching game, good Lord he is awful at the plate. Watching his first at-bat was an atrocity to my eyes. He was just so behind each swing and both times he put himself in a three up, three down situation. His second at bat he at least took a ball, but he was still so slow to swing, just going through the motions. Both of his strikeouts ended innings and it made me understand why people advocate for a DH.

We saw Workman again out of the bullpen, and he looked much better Saturday than he did on Thursday. He ended the top of the 7th with a wild pitch in the dirt again which bounced away from Contreras, but luckily the throw to first base made it in time, showing once again the Cubs’ defensive prowess against what is essentially a minor league team. Take the wins as they come, I guess.

Andrew Chafin looked better, too. In the 8th, he had 3 strikeouts to end the inning. Additionally, we saw the first appearance of Craig Kimbrel this season, who also had 3 strikeouts to finish the game. Even though the Pirates are projected to be the worst team in the entire MLB, hopefully both pitchers can continue to build off of these good outings.

April 3, 2021
Cubs 3, Pirates 2
WP: Davies (1-0) LP: Keller (0-1)

This game was Zach Davies’ Cubs debut since getting traded to us in exchange for Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini. He survived 5.2 innings and had 5 strikeouts, 3 walks and one home run allowed late in the 6th inning.

The Cubs’ offense continued to be good today, although that doesn’t really mean a ton when you’re playing the Pirates; it’s more like the bare minimum required of you as an MLB team. Kris Bryant RBI’d Ian Happ to score early in the first. Happ also had a nice solo homer in the 3rd. Joc Pederson, now the king of sacrifice hits, RBI’d Anthony Rizzo in the first as well when he grounded out to first base.

Ex-Cub Duane Underwood Jr., who embarrassed us completely on Thursday, collapsed completely by the bottom of the 6th, letting Bryant and Baez hit off of him. The Pirates’ fielders didn’t really help much either. Just like we remember the Pirates being.

Rex Brothers was a bit terrifying out of the bullpen, allowing three hits and a run, but luckily a Bote/Baez/Rizzo double play kept the Cubs in the lead by one run. The other bullpen pitchers, however, were actually fine. Winkler only played a third of an inning after Davies was pulled thanks to looking a little shaky his third time through the batting order. Winkler was able to get the final out of the 6th inning and gave up no hits or walks. Tepera played 1.1 innings and only allowed a walk; although hitters were getting contact on his pitches, the Cubs defense was able to bail him out.

Finally, Craig Kimbrel had another solid outing closing out the game with another three-up, three-down inning and two strikeouts. It gives him something to build on after his tough performance last season.

To wrap it up, I’m not sure what’s going on with David Bote. They made a huge deal about how it was DAVID BOTE’S TURN to play full-time at second base, but he’s only played one of the first three games to completion. Would like to see what happens when he’s in there a full game, honestly. Is Eric Sogard really any better?

With the season in full swing, the Cubs will continue their homestand with a 3-game series against the Brewers Monday-Wednesday. The Brewers just finished opening their season against the Twins, who beat them 2-0 yesterday and stomped them 8-2 today.

Baseball

Ah yes, spring is in the air and the days are getting longer. That means baseball is just around the corner — tomorrow, in fact. The Cubs are opening their season against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the 162-game march to October commences.

Everyone knows the rule that you can’t put too much stock on how players are doing during spring training, but that’s exactly what we’re gonna do here. The Cubs have been busy playing a month’s worth of spring training games to prepare for this season. Some players have looked good, some have looked bad. Some have looked healthy, some have been injured. Let’s break down the starter’s roster so you know what’s going on when the Cubs take the field, assuming you’re watching.

Starting Pitchers
Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, Trevor Williams, Adbert Alzolay

Ready to watch fastballs that aren’t really fast at all this season? Of course you are, you’re a Cubs fan.

Old faithful Kyle Hendricks will get the Opening Day start now that Jon Lester has moved on. While Yu Darvish was getting all the glory last season, Hendricks was another pitcher that the Cubs could rely on. Last season he had a 2.88 ERA, a shutout, and allowed 26 runs, all of them earned. His spring training numbers are a bit uglier; he had a 6.39 ERA but had two wins. He will be our best starter this season.

Jake Arrieta hopes to rekindle what he once was in his glory years with the Cubs, and Ross seems to trust that he will be better this year. He had a pretty average spring training, with a 4.08 ERA over 5 starts, allowing 19 hits and 8 runs during that span. Baseball Reference projects him to have a 4.67 ERA this season; though not stellar, that would likely be an improvement on his 2020 season and look similarly to his 2019 season with the Phillies.

Adbert Alzolay has also been a part of Rossy’s fan club. He has the fastest fastball of anyone at this team, clocking in at an average of 95 mph, which he throws about half the time. He also enjoys his slider, which he throws 40% of the time. This is a big season for Alzolay, as he is going from 4 starts last year (and 2 the year before that) to being one of the more regular starters. Can he hold up having 10, 15, 20, maybe eventually 30 starts a year? We are all about to find out together.

Bullpen
Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Workman, Andrew Chafin, Rex Brothers, Ryan Tepera, Jason Adam, Dan Winkler, Dillon Maples, Alec Mills

We’ve got some injuries in this area, as Rowan Wick and Jonathan Holder will not be ready to start the season. Wick was one of the best relievers on the Cubs last season with a 3.12 ERA across 19 appearances, so hopefully he will feel better soon. He has been working out with the team and “slowly returning to baseball activities.” Holder took some time off for a chest issue during spring training but is also getting back to throwing. He will likely start on the 10-day injured list this season.

If you’ve been kept awake at night this offseason wondering whether or not Craig Kimbrel will be a good closer in 2021, I am truly not sure what to tell you. He was injured/awful for most of last season until he got hot for the last month of it all. Now he’s back to letting 40% of the batters he faces get on base. And he has a 12.15 ERA in 7 games this spring training. But remember, spring training tells you nothing. Let’s try not to put too much stock into it. …Right?

Rex Brothers, a non-roster invitee, has found the good side of Rossy, even with his 8.10 ERA over three games played last season. He has been good during spring training, however. He played in 9 different games and has a 0.00 ERA over spring training. Let’s be cautiously optimistic?

Dillon Maples kind of sucked during spring training, but what else is new? He pitched 10.1 innings and allowed 8 hits and 9 runs, 6 of them earned. He has issues with control and seems to easily go from an 0-2 count at bat to walking the batter thanks to a HBP. In two appearances last season he gave up 1 hit and 3 runs for an 18.00 ERA. Ross says he’s throwing more strikes and will continue to improve.

Fielders
Anthony Rizzo, David Bote, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Joc Pederson, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward

This team needs to be nails defensively thanks to this wacky bullpen we are throwing in front of them. Luckily, defense is what the Cubs do well, most of the time.

I’m honestly not hating this outfield lineup at all. So far, Joc Pederson has been ripping it up offensively in camp, leading the entire team in hits with 17 and home runs with 8. If he continues go off like this during the season, he will be a great Schwarber replacement. Ian Happ also had a nice spring training, with 44 at bats, 14 hits, 15 runs, 2 homers, and a 1.002 OPS. Jason Heyward, not the player of yore, had 10 hits, 8 runs, and a .729 OPS, but hey, maybe those numbers will improve during the season.

Thought you’d be seeing Nico Hoerner at 2nd this season? You are incorrect. IT IS DAVID BOTE’S TIME, so he will be starting the season with the club. Expect Hoerner to come back up from minors regularly if anyone gets injured or things go sideways. The good news is that Hoerner crushed it during spring training, and Bote wasn’t too shabby himself. Hoerner had 16 hits over spring training and 2 homers for a 1.055 OPS. Bote had 14 hits, 3 homers, 7 runs and a .990 OPS. Neither of these numbers are bad. I think we have two great second basemen this season.

For some reason, the Ricketts family is not negotiating with face of the entire damned team, Anthony Rizzo, for a contract extension. Because reasons. Because money. Because the literal billionaire Ricketts family does not have money to sign an extension. Remind me why I watch this team again?

We’re all breathing a sigh of relief that Willson Contreras is still on this team. He is a rare catcher who is productive on offense and defense. He was also one of the better players at the plate for the Cubs last season, leading the team in runs scored and second only to Happ in hits.

Javier Baez is supposed to improve on this season now that he has the all-important video review at his disposal, but so far his spring training results are a little…meh. He did hit 2 homers, but he only had 9 hits in 52 plate appearances, making for a .184 batting average. Hopefully he figures it out and fast, because it’s a contract year, my friend.

I’d talk to you about Kris Bryant but he’ll be dealt by the end of this season anyway.

Bench
Eric Sogard, Jake Marisnick, Matt Duffy, and NEW SIGNING Tony Wolters

With Victor Caratini going the way of the western wind with our beloved Yu Darvish, the backup catcher role became whoever’s for the taking. Austin Romine, the veteran catcher, is currently sidelined with a knee injury (a recurring knee injury, so buckle up, everyone). We all assumed it would be PJ Higgins as the backup catcher while we wait for Romine to get better, but then just hours ago the Cubs announced the signing of catcher Tony Wolters, recently of Rockies fame.

Wolters’ numbers from last season kind of suck, but it seems like most teams are throwing those stats away and chalking them up to a weird year. He only had 10 hits all year with the Rockies for a .230 batting average. However, the rumor is Wolters is pretty good defensively, which is probably why the Cubs snatched him up. We love defense here, don’tcha know. His caught stealing rate is 32.8% lifetime, which is above the 27% league average. We’ll see how he fares as our backup.

Additionally, Jake Marisnick is an outfielder who, though missed some of spring training with an injury, came back and hit four home runs in only eight Cactus League games. Eric Sogard is a utility player who had 12 hits during spring training, along with a homer, for a .375 batting average. Maybe he can continue his hitting so his batting average improves on his abysmal .209 number with the Brewers last season season. Finally, Matt Duffy is another utility player who didn’t even play in the 2020 season. In fact, the 2018 season was his last season with major playing time, where he had a .294 batting average. He also has a track record of reliable defensive prowess, so hopefully that continues with the Cubs.

The season starts tomorrow. Check back to this glorious website after every Cubs series to get my thoughts on what’s going on. And if the Cubs bore you and you want to enjoy some exciting baseball, you can always turn on the Padres and root for Yu Darvish. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

During the ensuing clown show that was the Cubs offseason, the front office acknowledged they needed to sign a new pitcher to fill out their rotation. Wouldn’t it be good if they could placate the angry fans after trading away Yu Darvish for a bunch of question mark young players and letting two pieces of the 2016 World Series team in Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber walk? Killing two birds with one stone, the Cubs front office was able to calm the angry Twitter mob as best they could by signing Jake Arrieta to a 1-year deal worth a whole $6 million.

Jake Arrieta is a Cubs legend and a 2015 Cy Young Award winner – a season in which he posted a crazy 22 wins of 33 starts, a 1.77 ERA, four complete games and three shutouts, one of which a no-hitter. In three postseason appearances in 2015, he won two of those games, one of them a complete game shutout.

In 2016, Arrieta had 18 wins out of 31 starts, a 3.10 ERA and another no-hitter. These weren’t his 2015 numbers, but they still weren’t awful. Although his pitching was slightly underwhelming in the NLDS and NLCS of this year, he was able to come in clutch in two World Series starts, winning both of them and coming out of it with a total 2.38 ERA.

But if you’re reading this, you probably know all of these stats and remember them quite fondly. Here’s what Arrieta has been since then, however, since he left and went to the Phillies for three seasons. His ERA has been steadily declining with each year (3.96, 4.64, and 5.08 since 2018). He has pretty much split wins and losses in his starts and has thrown no complete games or shutouts since 2016. His 2020 stats were definitely not stellar, but it seems like Arrieta is hoping, like many players around the league, that last season would be an anomaly.

It is definitely fun to see Arrieta back with the club, and he will almost certainly be slotting in the starting rotation alongside Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies. Arrieta is also in the twilight of his career at age 35, and it’s safe to say his pitching decline is among us. However, I am cautiously optimistic that Arrieta improves some on his 2020 stats and throws a few good games for the Cubs as our third or fourth starter, especially if he’s behind a nails defense.

Is he Yu Darvish? No, but few are in this league. Especially if the Cubs are able to get their offense going this season, I think Arrieta at this price isn’t too bad of a signing.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 64-54   Phillies 60-58

GAMETIMES: Tuesday-Thursday 6:05

TV: NBCSN Tuesday and Wednesday, WGN Thursday

AND HIS HOUSE TOO: The Good Phight

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Phillies Spotlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feast.

 

Baseball

Fourth place is not where the Phitin’s thought they’d be at this point in the season. Behind the Mets isn’t where anyone plans to be, though trying to plan for what the Mets might be is like trying to chart a Dali painting. Yes, they’re only two games out of a wildcard spot, with only two teams to leap, and two very limited teams in Milwaukee and the Cardinals at that. But they must have thought before the season, after getting Bryce Harper to defect intradivisionally (we get to make up words now), that they were the favorite in the NL East, or at least poised to run with the Braves. They’re nine games back of that outfit, so it clearly hasn’t worked.

It’s a variety of factors. Harper has been merely good, not uplifting to an entire team. The pen has been pretty much a mess all season. The lineup hasn’t hit too many other places, though the acquisition of Corey Dickerson is meant to address that. Still, it’s hard not to look at what the rotation was supposed to be, what it actually is, and wonder if something is amiss.

Sure, betting on young pitchers is always a huge gamble. They get hurt, they lose control, they try things that don’t make sense, the learning curve is rock-wall steep. And they’re still getting good work out of Aaron Nola, though he’s fallen off from his second-tier in the league status of last year.

Still, when they drew it up in Florida in March, the Phillies were probably thinking Nola, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, a returning Vince Velasquez, along with Jake Arrieta would make for a pretty stiff rotation. Well, Arrieta’s elbow is currently a barroom brawl of various, floating entities and might put him on the shelf for the rest of the season. Pivetta couldn’t even make the team out of spring training, even though last year he had one of the best strikeout-rates in the National League. He came up in the middle of this season, couldn’t get anyone out, and is now being tried as a late-inning weapon in the pen, while also making way for human tub of cottage cheese Jason Vargas, whom the Phils picked off the Mets scrapheap. Clearly the Mets miss him.

Pivetta’s problem is he throws basically only two pitches, a fastball and a curve. And while he throws the fastball hard, nearly averaging 95 MPH, it gets hit a ton. Hitters are waffling it to a tune of a .732 slugging percentage. And his curve doesn’t generate that many whiffs, though it does get a ton of grounders. Pivetta would do well to throw it more often, seeing as how his fastball is consistently becoming something the FAA is aware of.

It’s been a similar story for Eflin. Until July 1st, Eflin was actually pretty effective, with a 3.34 ERA. Though he had a 4.44 FIP which suggested he rode his luck a bit, it didn’t suggest he would spend all of July decomposing into a puddle of sadness. Eflin’s ERA in July was 11.88, he walked nearly five hitters per nine innings, and he was giving up 2.70 homers per nine innings. Again, Eflin really only threw two pitches, though he had a two-seam and four-seam fastball. Whatever it was, along with a slider hitters tuned him up in July for a slugging percentage over .700 on all pitches. He’s now in the pen too for science experiment Drew Smyly.

Velasquez is now in his second season removed from a major injury, and the strikeout and walk numbers look pretty good. He’s been undone by some bad sequencing, with his left-on-base percentage criminally low for a second-straight season. But he’s still got an ERA over 4.00 and a FIP over 5.00, and mostly it’s because he’s getting hit hard when he gets hit (46.1% hard-contact rate). Again, V-squared only used two pitches mostly, a fastball and a slider. He spots in a curve here and there, but only about 7% of the time. Of late, like the other two, his fastball is getting mutated into some sort of element. He only throws his slider 20% of the time, but he might consider upping it.

That’s three young pitchers the Phillies were hinging on, as well as an aging Arrieta who everyone knew was a declining value bet, and it’s left them barely .500. Something has to change a bit.