Baseball

If you thought the Cubs were just gonna step onto Wrigley Field against the first-place team in the entire MLB, featuring Kris Bryant, and look like a competent team, you would be sorely mistaken. The Cubs’ recent good fortune came at the hands of other disgraceful teams in the MLB, and now that they faced off against a World Series contender we all saw that just about everyone at every position won’t be good enough to make up a playoff team next year, no matter what anyone else may try to tell you.

To turn into a playoff team next year means just about everything has to go right, AND the Rickettses need to open their checkbooks to sign some stellar pitching. Who knows to what extent—if any—the Rickettses will feel like paying players next year. And I would well and assume KB, Baez or Rizzo will NOT be signing with this team next year; Bryant’s tribute video and ceremony all but cemented that with all the absurdity that happened there.

And so this might be the caliber of team we’re stuck with for the foreseeable future and it’s not gonna a fun experience, as this series showed. Sorry you had to watch it; at least we won that one ring that one year, huh?

September 10, 2021
Cubs 1, Giants 6
WP: Doval (2-1) LP: Megill (1-1)
Box Score

There were farcical shenanigans going on before the game even began, with the Ricketts family doing everything to honor Kris Bryant for the fans, except for, y’know, signing him to a contract, which would just be too expensive. It also seemed to be too expensive to have someone iron out the creases of the World Series flag they gave him after his tribute video, which is similarly absurd. Congrats to Kris Bryant for successfully extricating himself from this dreck.

As for the game, Kyle Hendricks was the starter who did all he could and then some to keep the Cubs in this game, pitching six total innings and allowing only one run, four hits, and four strikeouts. A solo homer from Frank Schwindel in the 4th inning put the Cubs on top for exactly 1.5 innings before a couple of hits against Hendricks in the 6th allowed the Giants to tie it.

In the 7th inning, it was Trevor Megill out of the bullpen who then allowed three straight hits, one of them a home run, to bring the Giants back on top. They of course would never give the Cubs the game back. Despite Trevor Megill getting yanked, his replacement, Michael Rucker, also gave up a home run to make it 5-1, and then a single and sac fly in the 8th made the game its final score of 6-1.

September 11, 2021
Cubs 4, Giants 15
WP: Gausman (14-5) LP: Davies (6-11)
Box Score

This game was such an utter disaster that I don’t even want to talk about it. Zach Davies still sucks, by the way.

September 12, 2021
Cubs 5, Giants 6
WP: Webb (10-3) LP: Steele (3-3)
Box Score

At least we saw some fight in this one. It was young, still relatively-inexperienced Justin Steele vs. Logan Webb, one of the best pitchers in the NL. Though they pitched almost the same amount of innings (Webb’s six against Steele’s five), Steele gave up almost twice as many hits. However, the rest of their pitching stats were strikingly similar with the same amount of walks, runs and Steele just having one less strikeout. Not that it means anything.

In the 4th inning, Ortega was able to get a triple after the Giants’ Austin Slater completely missed catching the pop fly at center field. Schwindel RBI’d him in, and then Ian Happ later in the inning hit yet another solo homer to breathe a little bit of life into the Cubs. Unfortunately, it would only be one half-inning later when Steele gave up a two-run homer to make it 5-2 Giants.

In the 5th inning, yet another goof by Slater gave David Bote a triple, after he and Kris Bryant collided while both trying to catch the fly ball, which meant neither of them caught the ball. Nick Martini drove in Bote to make it 5-3, but still the Cubs continued to be a step behind the Giants offensively.

Things got heated up in the 7th inning when the Cubs hit themselves into a bases loaded situation down only one run and with only one out, thanks to hits from Bote, Robinson Chirinos, Schwindel and Happ. But Tyler Rogers, the Giants’ pitcher out of the pen, was able to pitch his way out of it with two straight strikeouts to keep the Giants’ lead. His pitches were beyond nasty and difficult to predict where they’d land, especially when it was Contreras, 0-3 on the night, and Alfonso Rivas that were tasked with getting a hit off of him. Plus, Codi Heuer’s wild pitch the half-inning before had allowed Bryant to score and give the Giants 6 runs and the win over the Cubs.

The Cubs are off today, but will be back to take on the Phillies this week, a team currently mired in mediocrity. The Phillies most recently lost a series to the Rockies, and you have to be actively trying to be bad to do that successfully. Perhaps the Cubs can win some meaningless games here; perhaps not. See you then and 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

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 5, Giants 3

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 12, Giants 11

Game 3 Box Score: Cubs 1, Giants 0

And now back on top of the rollercoaster. The Cubs return home, where they’ve looked like a genuine class team all season, and though they did their best to drop one or two to the Giants, they also couldn’t break their own resolve. A resolve they only seem to have when donning the blue pinstripes. Still, they’ll enter the weekend in first place, no matter what the Cardinals do with the Rockies tonight. They won every type of game–a shootout, a pitcher’s duel, and your conventional one. Why does the rest have to be so hard?

Let’s…

-You wouldn’t suggest Cole Hamels is “back,” but he had at least enough stuff and enough savvy to kind of Forrest Gump his way through Tuesday’s opener. It was sort of the Jon Lester thing where you feel like he’s about to give at any moment, but gets through the inning and start simply because he wants to. After what he’d done his two previous you’ll take it, but we’d much prefer the dominating one from earlier in the season back.

-It had been a while since Rizzo had won a game for the Cubs on his own. You have to say though that a mark of a great player is that they’re still finding ways to help even when the power game goes. Rizzo has gotten on base consistently even if he wasn’t slugging, but a slugging binge is what the Cubs need.

-I was worried that with two recent starts for Tony Kemp that Joe Maddon had overreacted to two grounders that were outside Ian Happ‘s limited range during that collapse in Philly, but that fear has subsided since. And thank god for that.

-There isn’t much to say about Nick Castellanos at this point, but it is important to remember an unsustainable binge shouldn’t influence you or the Cubs on whether he should be re-signed this winter or not. There’s going to be a huge push to do so, and that may be the right decision, but just try to keep the whole picture in mind. He’s not a .400 hitter. He might be entering his prime right now and could be better than what he’s been before, but let’s try and keep reasoned here if possible.

-There is so much to say about Wednesday’s win I don’t know if I have time. We’ve been over Yu’s work, so we don’t have to go over that again. There were some curious decisions from Maddon, which he got away with because his offense decided they were going to win no matter what. He definitely got caught cold with how quickly it blew up on Darvish, which meant only Derek Holland was warming up. And when he got through two lefties who both got on, that meant he had to face a righty which he never should have to do. Secondly, Joe never seemed to realize that Little Yaz has been better against lefties than righties all season, even having Kyle Ryan deal with him today (which he also got away with).

In the 7th last night, Joe seems determined to make sure that Steve Cishek warms up and comes in double the amount now to make up for the appearances he missed while on the IL. Right into the fire. But there were runners on, lefties up, grounders needed, which is what Brandon Kintzler does. Cishek got out of it with only a sac fly given up, but you wanted things on the ground or Ks. Kintzler probably should have started the inning. Of course, Kintzler gets out of the 8th relatively cleanly. Coudl have used that in the 6th or 7th.

-Luckily, Kris Bryant is still a Cub. That’s three games in a week he’s pulled the Cubs’ ass out of a sling.

-Today’s game looked a lot like one where both teams played too late last night. The sun was the offensive MVP, and the Giants only real chance came after Castellanos got pretty dizzy chasing what would have been a homer from Crawford on 75 other home dates. Still, the Cubs got six outs from the pen to protect a one-run lead without needing Kimbrel or Cishek. That’s an upset.

-Those two outings were the best Kimbrel has looked since becoming a Cub. I won’t count on it to be a trend, as it’s just going to be a weird season for him given the preparation, but 98 MPH is 98 MPH.

Onwards…

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Giants 63-62   Cubs 66-58

GAMETIMES: Tuesday/Wednesday 7:05, Thursday 1:20

TV: NBCSN Tuesday/Wednesday, WGN Thursday

MISSION REFUGEES: McCovey Chronicles

SERIES PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Giants Spotlight

Now that yet another nightmare road trip is over, the Cubs return to The Confines, where they’ll probably tease us by looking like an actual team worth giving a shit about fo six games. They’ll kick it off with three games against the walking anomaly that is the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants have convinced themselves, or maybe they have to convince themselves because there’s nothing else, that they’re still in this wildcard race. And technically they are, thanks to the grade-school basketball nature of the National League. They sit 3.5 games out of the second spot (the right to get domed by Strasburg or Scherzer on an October night), but have the Brewers, Mets, and Phillies to leap to get there.

And they’re there even though this team doesn’t do anything particularly well. The offense is second-worst in the NL, the rotation has to cling by its nails to maintain a middling status, and the bullpen has to save everything (which it can’t do as well at the moment after shedding some pieces at the deadline). They got here thanks to a ridiculous month of July where just about everything went right that could, except for that part where it carried delusion with it and may have stunted the whole thing for the next couple seasons.

The Giants are 8-9 in August, which is what they are. This is still the same team that stood 22-34 on June 1st, which is probably closer to the truth of what they are than a 19-6 July. It got a few spasms of usefulness out of some true nobodies like Yaz’s descendant, or Stephen Vogt, or now Alex Dickerson, Donovan Solano, or Austin Slater. None of these guys or the regulars are under 26 and none suggest this is something they can carry out for longer than a sneeze on the great timeline. But it was enough for Fairhad Zaidi to pass on the deadline for the most part, or fall asleep during it, or something.

Perhaps it being Bruce Bochy‘s last season Jewish mother-guilted Zaidi into at least making a half-ass attempt to get to a playoff spot, instead of Bochy having to serve out his last two months in the dugout watching an old, stripped, directionless club have its organs harvested. Or maybe that in combination with the weekend-detention nature of the National League led the Giants to believe something truly strange could really happen.

Either way, for this weekend, this is a lineup the Cubs staff should really buzz through, especially at home. There’s literally no pop here, as no one on the Giants have over 20 homers in a year where your neighbor who never wears sleeves and is always testing his boat engine has 25. And the Cubs will catch a break in that Madison Bumgarner will not pitch in the series, so the Cubs get looks at Tyler Beede and Dereck Rodriguez and his misspelled first name. Of course, they didn’t really do much with Beede back in San Francisco last month, though that was when the Giants swallowed a box of horseshoes and were still passing them. Shark will clean this up on Thursday afternoon, and generally the Cubs have had their way with him since he skipped town.

For the Cubs, it’s been something of a roster-palooza. The cadre of returning relievers from the IL has seen now both Albert Almora Jr. and David Bote punted back to Iowa to search for hard contact. It probably means more Tony Kemp than anyone should ever be comfortable with. Also Addison Russell to make everyone uneasy, but at least he can catch the ball on occasion. Cole Hamels will attempt to find the mechanics he left on the IL with his oblique, and there really aren’t too many lineups you’d choose over this Giants one to try and figure shit out against. Darvish and Hendricks just need to keep their recent form rolling.

Again, with the Cardinals and Brewers playing each other, the Cubs can make up ground on someone by treating this Giants team like the floating garbage ship that it really is. They’ll also, at least looking like, dodge Scherzer and Corbin on the weekend, so let’s do some things here.

Baseball

The Giants held all the keys, or marbles, or cards, whatever game we were playing, at the trade deadline. They had the most sought-after reliever in Will Smith. They had perhaps the most coveted starter in Madison Bumgarner. The Giants could have started planning for a future they’ve put off for years now, as the glow from #EvenYear has finally faded.

And they chose to do nothing.

Oh sure, there was some tinkering. Out went Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon, the latter another panic signing in an attempt to plug holes on the good ship Giant a couple years ago. In came Scooter Gennett to try and fill what had become a black hole at second base, though he seems to have been swallowed up by it as well. Still, no major shift. No groundbreaking on a new era for the orange and black. No shift whatsoever.

Which makes one wonder what the plan here is for GM Farhan Zaidi. These current Giants clearly have an end date, and that’s after the 2021 season. Both Brandon Crawford‘s and Brandon Belt‘s contracts are up then, and Buster Posey will only have one more year that can be bought out for just $3M. Right now the three combined for some $55 million on the payroll, which has been something of an obstacle as together they’ve been worth exactly replacement level this season. They’re not going to be linchpins of this team in their mid-30s in two seasons, that much is clear.

And perhaps the Giants didn’t feel they were going to get those pieces in return for Smith or Bumgarner. Smith is a free agent after the year, and as good as he’s been, two months of a closer plus whatever playoff games you only might get him into just isn’t worth all that much. Bumgarner is having a bounce-back season as he’s hardly walking anyone, but he’s a free agent-to-be with a ton of miles. And only a couple of contenders would have felt they needed another starter. The Phillies? The Braves definitely could but believe in their young rotation as well as being overly miserly, and made their move with Dallas Keuchel. Where the Brewers or Yankees were on this is anyone’s guess, but the Yankees probably figure they’ll be throwing their bullpen for five or six innings in every playoff game anyway. Houston opted for Zack Greinke, objectively the better pitcher.

Still, what are the next two years, then? The Giants prospect pool is filled with kids who are at least two or three seasons away from being anything on The Cove. Perhaps Bumgarner or Smith don’t get you the players to come up and fill in that gap, but they might get you closer. Or maybe the offers were just that bad and Zaidi figured it was better to try and miracle half of a playoff spot (the Giants are only 3.5 games out of the second spot but have three teams to leap).

The Giants aren’t totally out over their skis financially for next year. Yes, the core of those three parades are taking down the aforementioned $55 million or so, and throw Johnny Cueto‘s and Evan Longoria‘s paper on top of that and that’s $91 million for four players who are on the back nine of their careers and one pitcher coming off Tommy John. Not ideal.

Still, the Giants aren’t paying anyone else after that, aside from Jeff Samardzija. And they might be able to move him along, as he’ll only have 2020 left on his deal. None of their arbitration players are due for huge raises. And the Giants weren’t afraid to at least look like they wanted to throw money around last winter, making some kind of attempt at Bryce Harper to finally give them ANYTHING in the outfield, which they haven’t had since Hunter Pence died.

That didn’t work, and this free agent class isn’t worth putting too many eggs in. Gerrit Cole would help things, whether in combination with a returning Bumgarner or as a replacement. But there isn’t much to help the lineup. Anthony Rendon can’t be crowbarred in with Longoria at third, unless they move the latter to left field? And Longoria is still good with the glove. J.D. Martinez can’t play in the NL without being a danger to himself and society as a whole, though you’d be tempted to see if everyone can survive with him in left. Nick Castellanos isn’t a team-turner.

And should the Giants just lose Smith and Bumgarner in free agency, they aren’t going to have anything to peddle next year to try and fill the gap in their old era and new. Samardzija isn’t landing you much other than space on the payroll. Maybe if Cueto proves to be healthy, as he’ll have another year and an option year left on his contract. Perhaps that’s what the Giants are banking on.

But without a splurge, or something really creative, this team is kind of just floating there for the next two, three, or four seasons. Good thing the ballpark is nice.

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Giants 5, Cubs 4

Game 2 Box Score: Giants 5, Cubs 4 (13)

Game 3 Box Score: Cubs 4, Giants 1

It’s hypocritical after I got emotional after last night’s loss, and there was nearly a hole in my wall to prove it, but sometimes you run into a team that’s got a horseshoe up its ass for a period of time and there’s little you can do. Yeah, four runs isn’t a ton, but it’s also not a pittance. Really, as I went over in the Strop piece yesterday, one killing rally was started by Pablo Sandoval ripping a ball off his shoelaces, and another was ended by him doing the same. What do you do about that? You can rant and rave about more runs, and especially last night the Cubs probably should have found one more, but sometimes you’re dealing with forces beyond your capability. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

The Two Obs

-I’m going to motherfuck Alex Mills into a major league career. That change-up certainly plays at a major league level, but he’ll have to locate his fastball a little better because it’s not hard enough to not get killed when he misses with it (there’s a lot of negatives for you). Still, let’s all hope that’s his last start of the season.

-Am I living in a world where I have to accept Kyle Ryan is effective? His ground-ball rate since June 1 is in the high 60s, which is pretty obscene. These days with the pen, maybe it’s best to not ask too many questions because generally you’re not going to want the answers.

-Perhaps the main headline out of the series is that the Cubs finally punted Addison Russell’s ass back to the corn. Russell himself left them with no choice, or made his position untenable, not only through his play but also by admitting to being careless and rock stupid. I’m not sure the front office cares what the fans think, but I’m sure there were some curious looks from teammates when they read or heard the quotes about Russell not knowing or not following the signs. I’m going to guess they all know them.

All of it is an endorsement for Robel Garcia, who runs the risk of getting found out but can at least hit the ball damn hard. The defense is always going to be questionable, but for a third of the season you might be able to mitigate a good chunk of that through positioning. Hell, it’s what the Brewers did last year.

-I’m going to guess Bryant’s knee-knack isn’t that serious given the way he was paddling the ball all over the field this series.

-Almora had a homer today, and it would be nearly impossible for him to see Russell’s demotion and think he’s immune. He is hitting worse after all. I don’t know if Albert can save himself, and I don’t know that he will even be a Cub this time next week. It feels like he’s gotten pull-happy, but he doesn’t have the opposite field power of some, so I don’t know that being content dumping singles over the second baseman’s head is going to be sufficient.

-It’s just a touch infuriating to watch Chatwood gas the Giants with 97 MPH for four innings and wonder why he can’t ever get in a game. Yes, we know about how the control can go, but that’s not going to get better with use twice a month. Again, at least once a week Chatwood should be carrying multiple innings to save everyone else from exposure. I don’t know what’s so hard about this, but it clearly has never crossed Joe’s mind.

So the first part didn’t go as planned, but basically by coin flip. The Cubs still suck on the road, but now there’s no choice but to turn it up. The Brewers are vulnerable at the moment, and it’s time to stomp some goddamn authority or stop pretending you’re the class of the division. Let’s fucking go. Chimi-fucking-changas.

Onwards…

 

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 54-45   Giants 50-50

GAMETIMES: Monday and Tuesday 8:45, Wednesday 2:45

TV: WGN Monday, ABC 7 Tuesday, NBCSN Wednesday

THEY CAN’T AFFORD IT EITHER: McCovey Chronicles

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Alec Mills vs. Shaun Anderson

Yu Darvish vs. Madison Bumgarner

Jon Lester vs. Tyler Beede

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Javier Baez – SS

Kris Bryant – RF

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Robel Garcia – 2B

Jason Heyward – CF

David Bote – 3B

Martin Maldonado – C

PROBABLE GIANTS LINEUP

Brandon Belt – 1B

Buster Posey – C

Pablo Sandoval – 3B

Alex Dickerson – LF

Brandon Crawford – SS

Mike Yastrzemski – RF

Kevin Pillar – CF

Donovan Solano – 2B

 

The Cubs have been woeful on the road all season, coming into this one at 18-27. There won’t be time for that on this nine-game trip however, as the final six are against their closest competitors in the NL Central, and any spit-up there is going to make this season just about as urpy as it can get. Before they get to that portion though, they’ll have to deal with one of the hottest teams in baseball, and also one that’s on the precipice of a franchise turning sell-off, in the San Francisco Giants.

So yes, hottest team in the NL. That’s the Giants with their 14-3 record in July. But if you’re looking over this roster and thinking the only way this team could rip off 15 in 18 is by some serious voodoo and wiccan shit, you’re right! The Giants are 22-10 in one-run games. Sure, maybe having Will Smith helps that to close out games, but as we know one-run records are almost entirely luck, and the Giants have been getting all of it of late. Four of those last five wins were in extra innings, and they just came off a four-game series with the Mets that lasted 47 innings. So you might get the impression this pen is a bit cooked heading into this one.

On the sheets, this team isn’t much. The legends that brought it three parades five years are on the downside of their career, and that’s being kind. None of Posey, Crawford, or Belt have provided anything much more than average at the plate for the entirety of the season, but Crawford and Evan Longoria have provided a death rattle over the past month to help fuel this binge of empty wins. Longoria is on the shelf now with plantar fascitis, which is definitely a condition you want in an aging player. Of course, Pablo Sandoval wandered in from the buffet and has hit everything of late, because that’s how it’s going for them. One thing you definitely want to do is count on Sandoval to keep hitting.

The Giants have gotten a boost from retreads like Alex Dickerson and Stephen Vogt, but you know what those things are over a long enough timeline. Donovan Solano and Austin Slater are other whosits that have popped over the last little stretch, but counting on any of this to last much longer is definitely making fantasies out of clouds.

The rotation for most of the year has straight up blown chunks, with only Bumgarner carrying a FIP under 4.00. Jeff Samardzija still grinds and grinds and grunts and grunts his way to a 4.50 ERA if he’s lucky, but of late Tyler Beede has found some kind of formula. Shaun Anderson has not. The Cubs might be witnesses to Bumgarner’s final start as a Giant, as the deadline is only a week after his Tuesday start and he could end up anywhere before then.

The pen has been the real miracle-workers, with Will Smith perhaps being the most prized arm, reliever or starter, on the market right now. But Sam Dyson, Reyes Moronta, Trevor Gott, even Mark Melancon, and Tony Watson (another name on the block) have all been excellent trotting down from where they forgot to put the bullpens at Oracle Park (they seriously did). When the Giants decide to move along Smith and Watson and maybe others is when you feel this will all crumble for them, but you can’t hang onto relievers that can net as much as Smith can right now for some desperate chase for one more game. I mean you can, it would just be moronic to do so.

For the Cubs, a minor roster tweak as Carl Edwards Jr. was sent back to Iowa with Rowan Wick likely his replacement. What Edwards was doing up at all if one bad outing has his ass punted back to the corn is an open question, but one I’m not going to wade too deeply into as my blood pressure sucks anyway. If you feel this latest demotion finally ends any hope that Edwards can be part of the puzzle going forward, you’re not alone. Which means the search for more arms in relief has to be cranked up, because Cishek and Strop are creaky, Brandon Morrow might not even exist, and everything else is tossed into a wish-pool.

The season doesn’t hinge on this trip, but it’s close. If the Cubs can march through it like Sherman, they could give themselves a cushion in the division that feels and looks awfully nice. If they reinsert their thumb in their ass as they’ve done on the road most of the season, they could be staring up at two teams and be in for an awfully desperate and scrappy last two months. None of these teams are great, and though the Cubs might not be either they’re better than these three. They played like it on the homestand, now to take that show on the road.

Baseball

There will be no bigger name on the move in the next week or so than Madison Bumgarner. That’s what happens when you get tabbed a playoff hero, seen as someone who can still swing a playoff series (rightly or wrongly, and mostly wrongly these days), and also keep your name in the headlines by being a miserable son of a bitch. Bumgarner checks all those boxes.

The first thing to clear up about Madison Bumgarner is he’s not THAT good. Through most of his career he’s been a low-level #1 or a high-end #2, which was fine when the Giants had Lincecum and Cain in front of him and worked out well when he did pitch like a celestial being for a few weeks in 2014. Since he came into the league, he ranks 13th in WAR, which is good but is also right on par with Gio Gonzalez and Anibal Sanchez and yes, Jose Quintanta (who has made 40 less starts than Bumgarner in that time). He’s not a Sale or Scherzer or deGrom or anything like that, though sometimes it feels like he’s billed as that because of 2014.

So what would any prospective team be getting from this Madison Bumgarner? One, it’s a healthy one finally, as MadBum only threw 241 innings the previous two seasons dealing shoulder problems caused and not caused falling off his dirtbike looking for various woodland creatures to cook over an open fire for dinner that week. Bumgarner has already thrown 125 innings this year, which pretty much matches last year’s total.

And those innings have been much more effective. He’s striking out far more hitters (9.10 per 9 vs. 7.57) and walking less (1.86 BB/9 vs. 2.98). His ERA is strangely worse but his FIP is much better. Also strange for a pitcher of Bumgarner’s age is that he’s gained some life on his fastball this year, averaging over 92 MPH on it for the first time in four seasons. That’s probably something to do with health. His curve is also getting more sweep, picking up horizontal movement without losing its tilt. It makes it more slurve-y, which isn’t ideal, and maybe why Bumgarner is using it far less than he did last year.

There are some warning signs with Bumgarner as well. One, his ground-balls are down measurably and the lowest rate of his career. Again, some of this is just because this is happening to most everyone, but a drop of five percent is more than one that can be dismissed as a sign of the times. And it’s been replaced mostly by line-drives, which is not good either. Bumgarner’s hard-contact rate is the highest of his career by a distance, and if he were to move to a park that didn’t require a bazooka to get a ball out of, that could turn into a real problem fast.

Recent outings only muddle the picture more. On the surface, Bumgarner has only given up three earned runs in his last four starts, But two of those comprised only seven innings combined, as rain shortened one start to two innings. The walks were non-existent, but there’s been a ton of loud contact in July (53%). Bumgarner has also lost a full MPH off his fastball in the month, which wouldn’t get anyone putting on their red shoes to dance the blues in excitement either.

The next question is what is Bumgarner worth. His contract being up after the season certainly lowers his value, and this is not Verlander or someone like that changing teams midstream. The Giants are probably dreaming about a package similar to Chris Archer netted the Rays last year, as Bumgarner is better than that. But it’s hard to find a teams as stupid as the Pirates again, and Archer wasn’t a free agent to be. That was two prime prospects, and any kind of bidding war probably inches the Giants toward that. What they may fear is a return that Cole Hamels provided the Rangers, which was a journeyman major leaguer in Eddie Butler, and a couple of lower-level lottery tickets that are nowhere near the majors. Bumgarner is younger and not struggling as Hamels was at the time, so the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

Then again, it becomes a question of do the Giants move him at all. Logic tells you there’s no choice to be made here, and their window has shut and whatever they feel they might “owe” mainstays like Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford are just going to have to wait a few years while they try and redo the supporting cast beneath them. And the way Crawford is playing these days, it probably doesn’t matter anyway. Still, the Giants are one of the hottest teams in baseball, and are somehow only 2.5 games out of the wildcard. Of course, if you have to go nuclear just to get to .500 and be within touching distance of a coin-flip game with four teams to leap still, that’s pretty much every answer you need on what you should do.

Bumgarner’s trade isn’t going to change the fortunes of the Giants as heavily as they might want. But it would certainly signal a change in direction for good, and put an official bow on their run. Even though those things are hard to quantify and shouldn’t matter, they make this kind of move hard to deal with for everyone. But nothing lasts forever, except the three flags in the outfield at Oracle.