Baseball

Now that we have over a week of baseball under our belts, the Cubs have begun to fall closer to where they were expected to be—tied for 2nd (with the Pirates?) in this shitty division with a 5-4 record. The Pirates no longer seem like the world’s easiest team to beat, and the Rockies look to have only about 3 men that can definitely be counted on for offense, so any Cubs issues with pitching seemed to just level themselves out in the end as the team went .500 overall this week.

While I’m still not inclined to say the offense is “fixed”—Coors Field is a hitting anomaly, after all—it still seems like the Cubs are getting the runs and offense they need from players across the board. I’m hoping that some of the dicey pitching we saw was also a Coors Field anomaly, though whenever we can get some of our regular guys healthy again, both in the rotation and the pen, would be incredibly helpful. To the bullets!

  • Kyle Hendricks didn’t look too good against the Pirates, allowing 7 hits and 6 runs in 3.2 innings, taking the loss for the team. He threw way less strikes than he did on Opening Day, and his number of swinging strikes between those two outings plummeted from 17 to 6—yikes. Though weak contact is Hendricks’s whole MO, we need all the strikes we can get from him now with the Cubs field being bereft of Gold Glove defensemen. He’ll be on the mound again tomorrow and hopefully give a better performance.
  • Seiya Suzuki’s two solo homers on Tuesday were the sole reason why the Cubs didn’t get swept entirely by the Pirates. If the team hadn’t signed him, this season would be a lot bleaker. But other teams have begun to catch on, especially to the fact that Suzuki absolutely refuses to swing at anything outside of the zone, and when he does swing, he’s dangerous. The Rockies intentionally walked him twice this series in big situations with runners on base, and his next at-bat last night after being intentionally walked gave him his 4th home run of the season. He’s no secret at the plate around the MLB, but that doesn’t seem to stop him from getting on base. Keep ‘em coming.
  • I was ready to throw the book at Patrick Wisdom, but it looks like he’s just going to continue to be his incredibly streaky self. He started out the season with only 1 hit in 23 plate appearances and a .048 batting average, but then racked up 6 hits in the final three games against the Rockies to bring it up to .233. If Wisdom can carry on his more recent streak of hitting well, that would be great, because when he’s not on it’s painful to watch, especially when he’s making mistakes in the field as well, which happens more often than any of us would prefer.
  • Any time Jonathan Villar did anything at shortstop on Thursday I just wished Javy Baez was back—did you ever really appreciate the crazy plays El Mago would make before he left? While Javy is a tough act to follow, sometimes Villar just couldn’t make those plays you took for granted. His one error of the season so far came at short on Thursday—it seems like 2nd base is where he should be playing from now on. He also had 8 hits this weekend while not even playing last night, which makes any smaller defensive fumbles easier to turn a blind eye to for now. And yes, those hits were still at Coors Field, and things could change at the drop of a hat, but for now it’s too early for me to judge him.
  • Kris Bryant had 5 hits this series, all of them beauties. They could’ve been for the Cubs. I miss him. Fuck Ricketts.

Next up this week the Cubs will play three games against the Rays and Pirates, two teams who are either at or just a hair above .500 this season. The Rays lost their weekend series against the White Sox, though their one win last night was a 9-3 crushing. Other than the Sox, the Rays have had what would seem like an easy schedule to start the year with games against the Orioles and Athletics, and yet are still coming out the other side at only .500, so that’s where that team’s at. Since we last saw the Pirates earlier this week, they won 3 of 4 games against the Nationals.

Go Cubs go!

Baseball

In a series of come-from-behind wins and no thanks to any of the starters, the Cubs swept the Pirates in a bunch of very close games over the weekend to extend their meaningless win streak against more minor-league-caliber teams to six.

Obviously, this is not something to get overly excited about. If you’re keeping the Pirates in these games as much as the Cubs were, your team has some real issues, and it’s still unclear if the solutions for those issues are still in-house. Personally, I’m not convinced the starting pitching is yet, but what do I know? I’m just a blogger.

At least Frank Schwindel is here to save us.

Let’s break these games down.

September 2, 2021
Cubs 6, Pirates 5 (F/11)
WP: Heuer (6-2) LP: Howard (2-3)
Box Score

Keegan Thompson was given yet another start, and pretty quickly gave up a three-run homer for the Pirates in merely the 1st inning. The Cubs were able to get two runners on in the bottom of the inning, mirroring the Pirates, except two strikeouts for the Cubs ended things with no runners scoring.

Luckily for us, the Pirates ended up choking in the 7th inning, with Robinson Chirinos and Sergio Alcantara getting a respective single and double. Then Rafael Ortega hit a three-run homer to tie the game. Then not long after that Ian Happ hit a two-run homer to take the lead. (Now it’s time for you to realize that Ian Happ is still 5th on this team for batting average, third in OPS, and third in slugging on this team despite only getting hot for like a month. And he is still training Willson Contreras in all of those stats, who just came back from injury. It’s really something.)

A pinch-hit single to right field in the top of the 9th ended up tying the game for the Pirates, which means we were forced to watch even more of this than we bargained for. It took almost two more innings before the Pirates completely blundered the game in the most hilarious possible way, as Ian Happ hit an infield pop fly and Pirates’ second baseman Wilmer Difo dropped the ball to score the winning run on second base.

Thompson didn’t have a good outing by any stretch of the imagination, getting pulled in the 2nd inning by Ross after throwing only 54 pitches and allowing four hits and three runs, one of which a homer. Adrian Sampson, Scott F-Ross, and Adam Morgan all had good outings, allowing no hits combined for 6.1 innings and eight (!!!!????) strikeouts.

Rowan Wick, surprisingly to nobody, blew the save with the three hits and two runs in the 9th inning. Let’s not use him as closer again, shall we? He was soon replaced by our new regular closers, Manuel Rodriguez and Codi Heuer, who were able to help the Cubs close out the game with a W.

September 3, 2021
Cubs 6, Pirates 5
WP: Megill (1-0) LP: Miller (0-1)
Box Score

Things got a little wild this game with ump calls, rulebook headscratchers, and the like. Not to mention the Cubs defense was not good. However, they were able to pull out their fourth straight W, albeit against dumpster fire teams.

It was also unclear whether who was actually in charge of the ball club halfway through the game since Ross tested positive for COVID-19 before the game and Andy Green got ejected for absolutely handing it to the umpires in a socially-distanced manner. Hats were thrown to the ground and everything. The clown show here never ceases.

Things started out okay, as the Cubs got five runs on the Pirates in three innings—and none of those were homers, surprisingly. Singles and walks galore were given out by Pirates starter Steven Brault, who gave up seven hits and five runs in his four innings pitched.  By the end of this game, the only batter who didn’t get a hit was Jason Heyward. No surprise there, am I right?

Despite the five-run lead, the Cubs predictably blew it, specifically by allowing two Anthony Alford home runs in two innings. Alford’s career slash line is .168/.225/.309, by the way. So that’s pretty bad. Wisdom had a good catch in the 5th inning to stop a hit, but other than that the defense was atrocious. He also errored in the next inning, and Andy Green got ejected after we all watched one of the worst throws from Sergio Alcantara I’ve ever seen. Green argued interference, was ejected, and then promptly blew a gasket on the field in the most hilarious way possible, because once again, nothing matters.

After Alford’s second homer that knocked in three runs to tie the game, it was thanks to Frank Schwindel’s solo dinger in the bottom of the inning that the Cubs were able to get out of this one with a win. Perhaps we didn’t deserve this one.

September 4, 2021
Cubs 7, Pirates 6
WP: Effross (1-0) LP: Stratton (5-1)
Box Score

The Cubs didn’t exactly deserve this win either, but when the Pirates closer just about hands it to you in the 9th inning you don’t refuse it.

The Cubs started out in the hole after Kyle Hendricks gave up a solo homer in the 1st. Hendricks only gave up three other hits until the 5th inning, where things went completely off the rails. A walk, a single, two walks in a row, and a hit by pitch ended Hendricks’s day as he let the Pirates tie things up there.

Ian Happ had a nice double in the 4th inning that barely stayed fair, and it became one of many hits and on-bases in the 4th inning as the Pirates proved themselves to be defensive disasters. By the end of the 4th, Happ, Contreras and Wisdom scored to make it 3-1 Cubs before Hendricks allowed the game to get tied up.

Outfield catching was the name of the game today. Rafael Ortega was able to save another Pirates run or two in the 2nd by making a crazy diving catch in the outfield to end the inning with no additional scoring. Happ later decided that defense was his specialty by catching an otherwise foul ball in the 5th inning, but unfortunately the pitching performance for the Cubs in that same inning made it all for naught.

Down 6-3 by the bottom of the 5th inning, Schwindel hit a solo homer to make the deficit just a bit smaller. No more offense was seen until the Pirates utterly choked in the bottom of the 9th inning, giving the Cubs the walk-off win thanks to hits by Matt Duffy, Alfonso Rivas, Ortega and Schwindel again getting the winning hit after the Pirates’ first baseman whiffed on the tag.

September 5, 2021
Cubs 11, Pirates 8
WP: Alzolay (5-13) LP: Howard (2-4)
Box Score

Once again, the Cubs went down early in the 1st inning thanks to a Pirates solo homer. It became the first in a series of back-and-forth half-innings where the teams were trading leads with each other. Matt Duffy and Jason Heyward, two extremely unlikely duos, hit solo homers in the 2nd to take things back, but the Pirates ended up scoring four runs on Zach Davies in the 3rd to put them back on top. He still sucks.

The Cubs came back after this inning and ended up scoring 5, with Schwindel and Happ getting hits, Ortega and Wisdom with walks, and Matt Duffy with a three-run homer. The 4th was a scoreless inning, but the Pirates ended up tying things up with a litany of hits in the top of the 5th after Davies was yanked for Rex Brothers. Brothers gave up three walks and a sac fly, which was infuriating to watch. Then Manuel Rodriguez threw a wild pitch after replacing Brothers so the Pirates could tie the game, though putting him in that bases-loaded situation certainly wasn’t a recipe of success for him in this outing. We’ll let it slide.

The Pirates scored another run in the 6th to give them the lead, but it was Schwindel who continues to crush every ball that comes his way, this time with a grand slam in the 7th inning to give the Cubs the lead for good. He scored Robinson Chirinos and Ortega, who walked, and Rivas, who singled, to win this one.

Adbert Alzolay collected the win as he once again came out of the pen for 1.2 innings and threw pretty good ball. I am now firmly in the camp that Alzolay maybe just doesn’t have that starter ability, and he should be kept in the pen where he is serviceable and (the Ricketts will hate this one) you’ll definitely have to spend some big bucks on some actual starters if you REALLY want to accelerate the rebuild for next year. But that’s just me.

Starting shortly, the Cubs will probably get shellacked in a series against the Cincinnati Reds, who are currently half a game back of the Padres for the final wild card spot and dammit, Cubs, just win to make things a little more difficult for the Reds, okay? The Padres are also playing a relatively bad team in the Angels, but everyone is fully aware that Shohei Ohtani can simply  will that team to a win whenever he wants to turn on his god-tier playing status. Hopefully it will be something worth watching, as the Cubs work to be playoff spoilers. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: White Sox 3 – Pirates 6

Game 2: White Sox 4 – Pirates 3

 

If there were ever a series that perfectly encapsulated the occasional drudge that is the middle of the season in Major League Baseball this one was it. The White Sox offense has had a “Not Interested” sign in the window for a little over a week now, and it showed. With only Yasmani Grandal willing to work a few counts into his favor, the Pirates pitching staff (Team ERA 4.75, 7th worst in baseball) consistently put Sox hitters behind in the count where they were immediately in defense mode, generating weak contact.

The Sox offense is clearly pressing right now, and with runs at a premium the onus is going to be on the pitching staff more than ever before in the season. With a few exceptions, they answered the bell in this two game stretch, definitely giving the team a chance to win both games. They’re gonna be needed until the hitters get back to where they need to be, or reinforcements arrive via trade.

To the bullets!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

Game 1

-Adam Frazier had himself a nice audition for Rick Hahn in game one, going 1-3 with a dinger off a hung changeup from Lucas Giolito in the 3rd inning. He also made a few slick plays in the field. I understand his career wRC+ is 105 (which is still good) and he’s outperforming that by +21, but the eye-test is very strong here. He may turn into a pumpkin, but odds are better with him keeping this up than, say, Eduardo Escobar. Get it done, Rick.

-Yasmani Grandal was the lone bright spot for the White Sox offense today, pinch hitting for Zack Collins in the top of the 2nd, and jumping all over a meatball of a sinker from Tyler Anderson. The shot gave the Sox a 3-2 lead, which they would hold for approximately 4 minutes because…

-It was Garret Crochet’s turn to implode in a high leverage relief role. His fastball was about 6 mph slower than his average of 98.8, and had less than zero movement on it. 92 mph fastballs up in the zone have a tendency to be hit a lot, and that’s what happened here. The 4 runs he gave up were on a whopping 10 pitches total, as the Pirates jumped all over his shit. I don’t really understand his usage this season, or what the Sox ultimate plan for him is going forward.

-On the plus side, we had a Yermin sighting in this game as he singled in the 7th pinch hitting for Lucas Giolito. Baby steps for the Yerminator.

-The White Sox now lead all of baseball in errors, so they’ve got that going for them.

Game 2

-Dylan Cease was not his sharpest today, but he was able to scatter the 7 hits and 1 walk he gave up over 6 innings so I suppose you could consider this a bounce back performance from the beatdown the Astros gave him over the weekend.

-LaRussa turned once again to Ryan Burr to help get Cease out of a jam in the 6th, which he did by getting Michael Perez to line out to Jake Lamb in left. He’s now thrown 8.2 innings without giving up a run, which is something few in the Sox bullpen can say. The underlying metrics aren’t great, but given the inconsistency around him, TLR may as well ride the hot hand.

-Codi Heuer can’t get anyone out right now, and shouldn’t be trusted with anything more than mop up duty at this point.

-Aaron Bummer and Liam Hendriks both looked deadly today, pitching 2.2 innings total without allowing a baserunner. Bummer came in for Heuer in the 7th when he gave up 3 straight hits and cleaned up the mess. More please.

-Yasmani added 2 more RBIs to his total with a 2-run double laced into left-center field in the top of the 5th. With the Sox offense scuffling right now, it’s the perfect time for him to heat up.

-TA looked a little more himself in this game, going 2-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Happy Birthday indeed.

 

Next up is a 4 game stint back at The Down Arrow vs. the Seattle Mariners. This brings another potential audition for a trade candidate as Hahn will get to watch Mitch Haniger all over the M’s outfield. While the M’s aren’t really in the playoff picture just yet, they’ve gone 8-2 in their last 10 games and are over .500 for the first time since the first week of the season. Their pitching outside of Yusei Kikuchi isn’t anything to write home about, but they can definitely hit the ball up and down the order. I’d be happy with 2 of 3, and that should be considered the bare minimum to pull outta this dive.

 

Let’s Go Sox.

Baseball

I have returned from the boonies of southern Ohio, where I was constantly asking other people for their phones with better data than mine to check the score of each Cubs/Cards game. Two out of three wins ain’t bad for a Cubs team that was sitting at the bottom of the NL Central not too long ago. (Also, shoutout to the White Sox across town for slowing down the Cards enough this week so we could tie them for 1st place. Really couldn’t get a sweep there though?)

The Pirates are still garbage, despite the distant memory of them making us look like fools in the beginning of the season. The Cubs are finally on a roll and made this sweep look pretty easy, although that’s because it was for the most part. Let’s break these games down.

May 25, 2021
Cubs 4, Pirates 3
WP: Arrieta (5-4) LP: Cody Ponce (0-1)
Box Score

The Cubs started this game off with a spectacular passed ball by P.J. Higgins, filling in for the injured Willson Contreras. This happened after Jake Arrieta allowed a single and a double in the first two at-bats of the game. Another single allowed the Pirates to go up 2-0, and by the 2nd inning Arrieta still didn’t have a handle on things. He allowed a double, hit a batter and then allowed a single to make things 3-0 Pirates.

It was singlehandedly Joc Pederson who came to save the day for the Cubs. He hit two home runs, one a solo shot in the 3rd and one a two-run homer to tie the game. Then the old guard came up to bat to take back the lead, as Javier Baez doubled and Anthony Rizzo batted him in with a single.

Then, Nico Hoerner got hurt. It is yet another nasty hamstring injury for the Cubs, as the injury beast continues to ravage this team. Eric Sogard was his replacement, of course. Additionally, Matt Duffy also sat for this game for injury-related reasons, so you know that can only mean seeing even more fresh faces for this fielding group.

Shortly after this injury delay, Keegan Thompson went in to replace Arrieta after 5 innings pitched, 3 runs, a walk, and 7 strikeouts. Thompson threw 1.2 innings and looked pretty nice, allowing no hits and only two walks. Andrew Chafin immediately allowed a double but was able to get out of the two-out jam with a strikeout. Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel pitched the 8th and 9th innings, respectively, allowing only 1 hit between the two of them and allowing the Cubs to squeak past this one with a win, pulling one game behind the 1st-place Cardinals.

May 26, 2021
Cubs 4, Pirates 1
WP: Williams (3-2) LP: Crowe (0-3)
Box Score

This game was a duel of pitchers playing against their old teams, as both Trevor Williams and Duane Underwood Jr. saw significant time today. Pirates starter Wil Crowe only lasted 1.1 innings, where he allowed 5 hits and three of four Cubs runs on the day. He only had one strikeout to his name before Underwood Jr. was called in to take his place, playing the next 3.2 innings and only giving up one hit throughout that span.

The Cubs were able to get up big in the 2nd inning thanks to the aforementioned ugly pitching by the Pirates. Thanks to having Jake Marisnick, Jason Heyward and now Hoerner on the 10-day IL, the Cubs called up Rafael Ortega to play center field today, where he was walked by Crowe and then was sent home thanks to a two-run homer by David Bote. The Pirates then allowed two Cubs singles, got a flyout, and allowed a Kris Bryant single to score Sogard to make it 3-0 Cubs.

After this starter’s meltdown by the Pirates, the pitchers on both teams were able to limit runs. The Cubs didn’t only get one hit until the 6th inning, where a double and two singles scored Eric Sogard again, giving the Cubs another insurance run. Trevor Williams finally got a win against his former team, pitching 6.0 innings against his former team, allowing only three hits and one run, striking out 7 batters. His only run came in the 8th inning after he allowed a double and a single to start things off. However, a double play and a strikeout kept things from going sideways for the Cubs.

Tommy Nance pitched an inning today, doing pretty well with no hits, a walk, and a strikeout. The last three Cubs pitchers were able to all but completely shut down the Pirates, allowing only two hits total and striking out four batters. Craig Kimbrel was up to his old tricks, closing things up for the team easily.

May 27, 2021
Cubs 5, Pirates 3
WP: Hendricks (3-4) LP: Anderson (3-5)
Box Score

The Pirates tried their best to recover after their hilariously unacceptable fielding blunder in the 3rd inning, after we all watched decision making skills on the field that were so poor I hadn’t seen anything similar since playing tee ball. And that play alone certainly cost the Pirates the game — if they had just…stepped on first base, the Pirates’ three home runs later on in the game would’ve been enough to at least send this to extra innings. Ian Happ’s single, which was another fielding atrocity in and of itself, ended up scoring Javy Baez after he made MLB headlines with that baserunning, giving the Cubs a lead they would never give back.

In other news, Kyle Hendricks was at least able to play seven innings. He probably wouldn’t have played as long against any other team, but the Pirates are still on another level of horrific in our division and because of it Hendricks was able to comfortably give up six hits and three solo home runs without giving up the lead. Dan Winkler and Ryan Tepera were the bullpen appearances, striking out two, walking two, and only allowing one hit between them.

From a hitting standpoint for the Cubs, Kris Bryant is still playing at MVP levels, homering as the second batter in the 1st inning to start the game off on the right foot and grounding into a double play that ended up scoring Eric Sogard. In addition, Anthony Rizzo sat out his second straight game due to more muscular strain. One of the many new faces who have appeared recently to fill in the growing number of fielding gaps was Patrick Wisdom, whose full count solo homer in the 4th was overshadowed by the fielding debacle the inning before but was a pretty nifty one.

The Cubs play the Reds this weekend, who are at the bottom of the NL standings if you pretend the AAA-level Pirates don’t exist. The Cubs will need to rack up points against the Reds because they play the Padres next week who are 32-19 and atop the NL West. The Reds are similarly banged up with players going on IL and having knee surgeries and all kinds of tough stuff. In addition, the Reds will be giving a pitcher his big league debut tomorrow, so we’ll see him and hopefully not any more of Amir Garrett, because I’ve had about enough of him since the last series.

See you then, and go Cubs go!

Baseball

The notably-injured Cubs were able to win the season series against the notably-injured Pirates, and it was just a relief that the Cubs won this series considering the injuries effecting this team and the people playing in their place. Today the Cubs even tried to stage a mini-comeback to sweep the series, but Kyle Hendricks had just pitched them into a hole bigger than they could get out of. But considering all the mainstays of this lineup that are currently injured, we’ll take a two-out-of-three. Let’s break down each game.

May 7, 2021
Cubs 3, Pirates 2
WP: Davies (2-2) LP: Cahill (1-4)
Box Score

Well, at least the Cubs seem to be back on their winning ways, starting this Pittsburgh series off on the right foot with a win. This win was quite a weird one, though, as every hit of the game was a single, except for 1 Pirates double in the 9th inning.

The good news I have to share regarding this game is that Zach Davies didn’t play horrifically. Yes, he had one strikeout, but he was able to keep all contact pitching on the ground, allowing all five of his hits to be singles and allowing 0 runs in his 7 innings of play. However, the bullpen nearly imploded in the 9th inning, as both Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera allowed one run each for the Pirates late in the game to make things interesting at 3-2. Rex Brothers was put in on a 2-out situation with a runner on base, and immediately gave up a single and a hit by pitch to load the bases up by the end. He was able to get out of it with a fly out to end the game, but still, good grief.

Everyone hit today as well, most notably Joc Pederson, who was garbage offensively to start the season before getting injured for two weeks. Pederson hadn’t had a hit since April 18, although he was on the IL for most of that time. Today, however, he got back on his offensive game, being a direct part of two of the Cubs’ three runs today. Pederson scored in the 1st on a fielding error and he singled to drive in David Bote in the 2nd.

Offense was created all over the lineup, as the Cubs had 9 hits this game, 2 RBIs and a walk. The only person who didn’t really contribute this game was Jason Heyward, who was left on base once. Defensively, however, the team was solid, getting pitchers out of jams when they needed to. The Cubs put up no fielding errors and made two double plays today.

May 8, 2021
Cubs 3, Pirates 2
WP: Thompson (1-0) LP: Howard (2-2)
Box Score

The Cubs completed their season-high 5th-straight win in a very contact-heavy day, filled with fielding errors and not very many home runs. The Cubs’ first run happened on a bases-loaded Contreras hit by pitch (surprised?) in the 1st inning, but that small lead didn’t last forever. Ka’ai Tom was able to hit a 2-run homer to put the Pirates ahead in the ­4th inning.

Eric Sogard hit a sacrifice fly that tied the game, making up for his fielding woes, most notably in the 1st inning when he couldn’t keep the ball in his glove for a second base steal. In the 7th, a Matt Duffy hit to right field was able to score Jason Heyward, who had been on second base, at a play at the plate in which it was now the Pirates’ turn to drop the ball.

Ildemaro Vargas came in for Javier Baez halfway through the game, as Baez was feeling some back stiffness that the Cubs didn’t want him to play through. With so many of the usual suspects out, the utility guys had to step up again, as Sogard, Vargas and Marisnick were playing the field. Despite Sogard’s error early on, they all looked fine in the field, but batting-wise they were not helpful at all today save Sogard’s lone RBI.

Meanwhile, Trevor Williams had another 6-strikeout outing today, but he also allowed five hits, a home run, and two runs total. He played just four innings before the Cubs pulled him to see more of rookie Keegan Thompson, who played the next three innings. Although Thompson is good at keeping runs down, he still has yet to regularly strike out players, only having 2 strikeouts so far this year and none of them coming from this game.

Additionally, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel pitched the last two innings respectively, and both of them gave up a walk and no hits to win the game. Kimbrel gains his 6th save of the year and still touts an impressive 0.64 ERA.

May 9, 2021
Cubs 5, Pirates 6
WP: Anderson (3-3) LP: Hendricks (2-4)
Box Score

This game went right off the rails early, and it was thanks to the 1st-inning pitching of Kyle Hendricks, to the surprise of absolutely nobody. After allowing two singles, a walk, an RBI groundout and another single, the Pirates quickly went up 3-0 on two outs. Hendricks allowed yet another single before an ugly throwing error by Ildemaro Vargas, who is still in at shortstop for Baez, made it 4-0 Pirates pretty quick.

Hendricks got three batters out on 7 pitches in the 2nd inning, but that throwing didn’t last very long. It continued to be ugly in the 3rd as Hendricks gave up a single and a triple back-to-back in order to make it 5-1, and a big-brained throwing error by everyone’s favorite fielder, Matt Duffy, made it 6-1. We spent the first half of this season so far complaining about the incompetence of our starting lineup, but then when a solid 37% of your starting fielders are out with an injury, you suddenly see yourself wishing for what once was, even when it’s not the best.

Speaking of starters, Jake Marisnick, who is STILL near-top on this team when it comes to batting average and OPS, went down on an injury in the 1st inning, which is why Matt Duffy even entered the game in the first place. The Cubs are pretty banged up now, and losing one of their top hitters, even if it’s a “utility player,” is certainly not helping things in any capacity.

At least Joc Pederson is still on his heater. He batted in the Cubs’ only run in the 2nd inning, and he also had a single in the 9th that scored Anthony Rizzo and started a Cubs mini rally. Vargas’s double in the 9th will erase in my mind — at least for now — his bad fielding play earlier in the game as he RBIed Bryant and Pederson to make it 6-5 Cubs. However, it was Javier Baez who was chosen to pinch hit in this two-out situation, and he grounded out to end the game.

The Cubs next face Cleveland for a two-game series midweek. They are second in the AL Central, behind the Sox from across town, at an 18-14 record. Cleveland just finished up their series against the other Ohio team, the Cincinnati Reds, in which they went from allowing a no-hitter against Wade Miley to crushing the entire Reds team offensively 9-2. (Their third matchup got rained out.) Hopefully a days’ rest is what some of these Cubs need so we can see some regulars back in the lineup sooner rather than later, as it will probably be the key to beating Cleveland this week. See you all then.

Baseball

I talked earlier about the need for the White Sox to fortify the front end of their rotation earlier by adding Zack Wheeler via free agency. What if the Sox could accomplish the same thing without Rick Hahn having to spend nearly as much of Jerry Reinsdorf’s precious precious gold? I’m gonna propose something pretty wacky and radical, but it fits the Sox modus operandi perfectly, plus it gives Don Cooper his favorite thing in the world: a reclamation project.

Time to turn Chris Archer’s career around.

I know we here at FFUD talk a lot about pilfering from the Pirates stash of available players. Wes already did it with Starling Marte, I’m gonna propose taking Archer, and Adam has a plan to free Josh Bell from PNC Park that you’ll hear about tomorrow. The reason we’ve decided to raid the Pirates is twofold: They’re gonna rebuild again, and they have a history of being dumb. If Hahn can take advantage of both, he absolutely should.

Why Him?: Based solely on his stats from last season, one would think there really isn’t a good reason the Sox should be doing this. By any metric available, Archer had a terrible season, going 3-9 with a 5.19 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP and a ginormous 4.19 BB/9. His FIP was a career-high 5.02 which suggests he earned every bit of that ERA. Taking that into account the Pirates would not be dealing from a position of strength in trade talks, but why would the Sox want him?

This is purely a buy-low scenario for Hahn and the Sox. Archer has been an excellent pitcher in the past, and has pretty nasty strikeout stuff when his accuracy doesn’t abandon him completely. He’s only two years removed from a 10-win, 200+ inning effort with the Rays on a pretty terrible team. He also struck out 249 batters that year, the third season in a row of him having 230+ strikeouts. He also had a tolerable 4.03 ERA, which his 3.40 FIP suggests was aided and abetted by bad D behind him and playing in what essentially is the tip of a concrete condom.

His velocity still sits at almost 95 MPH on his four seam fastball, so there hasn’t been any losses there. The Pirates tried to get him to use a two-seamer last season to predictably terrible results. Once he ditched it and went back to the four-seam, his results in August were much better, as he had a 3.00 ERA in four starts that month. He also struck out 27 batters in those 18 innings before he was lifted with shoulder issues in the 4th start.

This is also the perfect time for the Sox to make a play for him, as his contract jumps up to $9 million from the $6.25 that it was two seasons ago. For a team that (based on what they’ve said publicly) is looking to shed payroll and enter a full rebuild mode $9 million off the books for minor league talent would most likely be fairly attractive. In addition to that, Archer has a team option for $11 million next season with a $250K team buyout, so the Sox wouldn’t be saddled with a shitty contract if Cooper isn’t able to fix him.

Why Not Him?: Archer was shut down at the end of August with shoulder inflammation, which is never good for a pitcher. In addition, it was never discovered what actually caused the inflammation so there is the possibility that there is something structurally wrong with his shoulder that the doctors have not been able to find so far. Also, he did just get his skull caved in for the first four months of the season last year, so there’s a lot of inherent risk in making this move.

How Much Is This Free Resort Weekend?: Here’s where it gets fun, because it’s probably not going to take a ton to pry Archer away from the Pirates. His career worst year pretty much seals that. In addition, the fact that the new GM has a chance to flip a player that the guy who had the job before him gave way too much away for (Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow? Holy shit, that really WAS a dumb fucking move. No wonder the guy got fired). Everybody likes making the guy who had your job before you look like a moron, so he can trade Archer to the Sox for some middling prospects as a salary dump. Perhaps Blake Rutherford and Luis Gonzalez would be enough to wet the whistle of the new Bucs GM, whoever it ends up being.

This is a pretty out-there idea but it fits the way the Sox like to operate. If the dice roll comes up eleven, the Sox could end up with the kind of guy who is a solid #3 starter for them at a very controllable price (which Jerry loves). If they make the deal and Archer is still getting shelled they can cut bait and only be out of $250K next season, which I’m sure they’d just trade to the Rangers with some international bonus pool money anyways. Let’s get weird, people!

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 82-74   65-91

GAMETIMES: Tuesday-Thursday 6:05pm

TV: Tuesday/Thursday NBCSN, WGN Wednesday

THE DAMNED: Bucs Dugout

SERIES PREVIEW

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Pirates Spotlight

Oh right, the Cubs have to finish out the schedule.

It’s hard to think of a more funeral dirge atmosphere than the next three nights at PNC Park, where the zombified Cubs will stand around and stare at the long dead and white flag waving Pirates. It’s hard to believe it was only 10 days ago that the Cubs throttled the Pirates so hard at Wrigley that you genuinely believed they were ready to close the season with a flourish. It seems like it was last season or even longer. But that’s all it was. Baseball can be so cruel.

Oh sure, the Cubs could run the table here and the Brewers could get Sonny Gray‘d and Luis Castillo‘d in Cincy and suddenly the last weekend might matter somewhat. But does it? What would a miracle run get the Cubs? One more game with no Kris Byrant, a one-legged Anthony Rizzo, and a one-handed Javy Baez? There’s only so much one team can carry. It’s probably for the best if everyone just goes home.

On the surface, the Cubs have a question if Cole Hamels will make his start on Thursday. It probably hinges on whether the game is for anything, which it likely won’t be. But considering how bad Hamels has been while hurt, considering it’s the Pirates either way, and considering if it’s even a question, you can probably look for Alec Mills to take that start and Hamels to start looking up real estate listings in Orange County.

Anthony Rizzo probably isn’t far from being sat for the rest of the season either, though he will insist on playing until there is absolutely no point. Other than that, I’m not sure what to tell you. More experience for Nico Hoerner? A last chance to see Ben Zobrist? Likely Nicholas Castellanos too?

As for the “always could be worse” department, the Pirates are currently the whole thing. You saw them simply get bludgeoned at Wrigley. They followed that up by getting swept at home by the equally moribund Mariners where they scored six runs. They then got swept without every really breathing in Milwaukee, losing the first two games of that one by an aggregate 20-2.

This team clearly gave up somewhere in July, and yet they’ve let Clint Hurdle continue to mummy his way thorough this season. One relief pitcher went on the DL for good after punching another reliever. Then it turned out the reliever he was punching was a rapist. That’s just one story from the second half of the season, one in which the Pirates will end up losing more than 50 games.

Josh Bell has flattened out. So has Bryan Reynolds to a point. Joe Musgrove has been ok, but other than that it’s been a cavalcade of janitors and train-hoppers that have filled out the lineup and pitching staff. Where this team is going is anyone’s guess. Bell has yet to prove he’s someone you build around. Reynolds seems much more like a complimentary piece. There’s no one in the rotation with Taillon out until most likely 2021. There aren’t really any prospects to get excited about. It could be real ugly on The Confluence for a while.

The schedule says they have to do this. Expect the games to match. Almost there, though.

Baseball

It sounds funny now when you say the Cubs along with the Astros are something of the “model” teams are using to justify total tear-downs and rebuilds of their teams. But that’s still the case, though for how much longer one wonders. And the Cubs might not be the model anymore. The other thing is that it’s not going to work out as well even as it did for the Cubs. Look at the Phillies, who tried it and seem stuck in the middle forever. Not everyone gets the parade. And of course, the whole process can be used to cover up what is actually a simple “Producers” like tank to just cash checks.

The Pirates might be the prime example. This is an embarrassing end to the season for a team that just was never good enough because its management never tried to make it anything else. The cover story for them is that they’re still rebuilding from the ’14-’17 run, such as it was.

But did that really have to be? The Pirates watched the Cubs zoom past them, pinpointed by the wildcard game that Jake Arrieta and Kyle Schwarber essentially took from them. But over 162 games, those teams were exactly the same. Did they have to just watch instead of run with? They let Charlie Morton and AJ Burnett go their way, but they still had Jameson Taillon waiting and Tyler Glasnow not too far behind. But they added nothing to the lineup, and were caught standing still when everyone else was ready to move forward. It wasn’t attendance’s fault, as they drew three million fans the previous season.

No, what happened was ownership saw that it would take more money to keep up with the Cubs (and eventually Brewers and now Cardinals), and decided that it wasn’t worth it to them. Thanks to BAMTECH and other factors, they still get their money. So the Pirates of the middle of the decade were allowed to yellow, and that became a justification for trading Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen for essentially role players but no future stars.

The Pirates will claim that they’re remaking for a run in the next year or two, but what they’re really doing is just treading water and raking in the cash every MLB team gets before they even have to worry about gates and local television and the like. It’s a cover of a rebuild, but it’s hardly that.

There isn’t a team in MLB now that can’t afford to build a winner. The only team that might have that claim is Tampa, and they seem to come up with a contender every year anyway. But thanks to some teams that have found success going to the bottom to rise again, any team can use that as a life preserver when all they’re really doing is cutting costs. You’ve seen it in free agency the past two winters.

Until there’s a reason not to, this is the cycle the Bucs will stay in. Sure, maybe their system can produce a couple more players and Taillon comes back healthy one day and Musgrove really pops. And maybe they spasm a 92-win season or two. But as soon as that needs to be built upon and the foundations need to be paid, they’ll sink back into this, claiming a rebuild was necessary. It won’t be, but it’ll be profitable. Every team now can reach for “Springtime for Hitler.” The Pirates are just the best example.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Pirates 65-82   Cubs 78-68

GAMETIMES: Friday 3:05, Saturday/Sunday 1:20

TV: Friday/Saturday NBCSN, WGN Sunday

MOURNING THE DEAD: Bucs Dugout

SERIES PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Pirates Spotlight: Bryan Reynolds

The optimistic out there, and let’s face it, they still make up a large portion of Cubdom because they had to for so long, will tell you that returning home for 10 games is where the Cubs finally charge. They’ve been great at home all season, they’re playing two doormats before welcoming The Red Menace for a true NL Central Main Event, and if it’s ever going to turn around, it’s now.

Those of you like me can’t help but feel the winds of 2004. The Cubs returned home for four with the lowly Reds, still the wild card in their grip even after the disaster at Shea. They promptly lost three of four in the most pathetic way possible, and the season was over and basically the whole thing was broken for two more years. You feel a similar pivot point here, where if the Cubs don’t use these 10 games to springboard into at least a stranglehold on the wildcard spot, and really launching themselves up to and past the Cardinals, the effects could be felt for years.

So it starts with a team already frayed and dead, the Pittsburgh Pirates. They’re fighting with each other, they’re fighting with their coaches, they hate everything, they throw at people, but mostly they just want to go home. This season has been utterly miserable for them since like May 1st, the organization seems directionless, and any hope for the future is curbed by the knowledge that Bob Nutting won’t let that future happen.

Somehow, the Bucs have managed a 6-5 record in September, though it’s buffeted by getting four games with the similarly dead Giants. They lost two of three to the Cardinals last weekend, and that’s the absolute minimum requirement here. They’ll start with Steven Brault, who handcuffed the Cubs a couple weeks ago for seven innings, so get your bomb shelters ready for the hot takes that will be spilling should he do it again. James Marvel will only be making his second career start, and we saw how well that went with Bolanos in San Diego earlier this week. The Cubs have cuffed around Trevor Williams a couple times this year, so there’s your hope.

But mostly what the Cubs have to watch out for is their rotation disintegrating beneath Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks. Jose Quintana fell apart when Ben Zobrist couldn’t locate Nico Hoerner for the second straight night. Jon Lester has been more bad than good for months now and melted down against the Brewers on Sunday. The Cubs just can’t have any of that this weekend. They’ll have to duck around Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman, who are the hottest Pirates at the moment. Josh Bell clearly just wants the season to end, as he’s been average for a while now. But you don’t have to go far to picture him with a big homer somewhere over these three days.

The Cubs need their starters because we’ve seen the pen is still a mess without Craig Kimbrel, and it wasn’t all that orderly when he was around anyway. Once again, Steve Cishek has been turned into paste, and Wick has been adventure-prone of late (and is probably down for today after yesterday’s theatrics). Get runs off this team that doesn’t want to be there, and only ask your pen for six-to-eight outs or something. It’s not hard, but the Cubs have made it look exceedingly so for four months now.

These 10 games are about way more than the 10 games. The entire direction of the organization is in the balance. Maybe the Cubs will finally play like it, or we’ll know something has been truly rotten in Denmark for a while.

Baseball

Comparing hellish years for the Pirates is probably folly. Is this worse than winning 98 games and getting half of a playoff game? Or every season that’s come after it? Still, this one has particular sting, because not only have the Pirates been bad–last place in the division–but they’ve been startlingly unpleasant. Constant fights with other teams and themselves, capping off with leading, raging prick Kyle Crick (we’re a poet and don’t even know it) sending himself to the IL for the rest of the season in a fight with closer Felipe Vasquez. It’s one thing to be bad, it’s one thing to be no fun, but it’s another to be the former while trying to shard to be the latter. Penguins training camp can’t come soon enough.

Amongst the flood of horseshit baseball and horeshit people and horseshit tactics, there has been something of a bright spot. Bryan Reynolds led the NL in batting average for a long stretch, and has put up a pretty impressive season in left for his rookie campaign in The Confluence. He’s fallen off Anthony Rendon’s pace a bit, but has still managed a .326 average and a 137 wRC+ for a 3.2-WAR season so far. That’s something, right? It might ever so slightly soften the blow that he and the human thumbtack in the skin Crick were the return for team hero Andrew McCutcheon, no? Well, maybe not.

Reynolds has been good, but he’s probably been lucky too, and what that will translate to in the future is a hard guess. Reynolds has benefitted from a .404 BABIP on the season, which is absurd. It’s the highest mark of any qualified hitter in the majors, besting out Tim Anderson by nine points. And Reynolds doesn’t come with high-end speed that leads to beating out a lot of grounders that boosts a BABIP.

Reynolds carried a higher-than-average BABIP in the minors, so having a high number can be expected. In fact, he never had one below .376. Still, .404 is basically rude. Reynolds gets there by hitting the ball hard, but he doesn’t hit it as hard as most of the dominant hitters in the league. His 44.4% hard-contact rate is not even in the top-30 in baseball. His 23.8% line-drive rate is 29th. That’s good, but hardly dominant.

As you might expect, Reynolds can crush a fastball, which is how kids usually come up through the minors and arrive. He’s hitting .421 on them with a .726 slugging. Which makes you wonder why anyone’s throwing him fastballs at all at the moment, as he doesn’t have a .300 average on any other pitch and has been utterly helpless against sliders and change-ups, whiffing on over 40% of his swings against them. They’ll get there soon enough, y’think.

Going forward, Reynolds will probably have to add power to his game or the Pirates will have to find it in rarer spots. A left-fielder who only hits line drives puts a team behind the eight-ball a bit. He hasn’t been particularly good in left field either, and the Bucs might want to consider flipping him to right, which in PNC is the easier field to play. Would the Pirates ever swap their corner outfielders based on home or road? It’s the kind of outside-the-box thinking they used to specialize in, and then watched the rest of baseball catch them and pass them by.

This is what Pirates fans have to hang on to, which lets you know just about how bleak it’s been.