Baseball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baseball

The good times certainly outweighed the bad if you were a Cubs fan this weekend. With Wrigley Field at 100% capacity and the fans going nuts, the Cubs seemed to get another rush of adrenaline that pushed them to winning an important series against the Cardinals. After Friday’s blip, where Kohl Stewart only went 4 innings, the Cubs starters were, dare I say it…good?

Both Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies went 6+ innings this weekend, giving the bullpen a needed breather to keep from tiring out as this full-length season continues. More big games from the starters, and the Cubs, dare I say it, look dangerous? More important games are coming up, and soon, so we’ll have to see how this team fares.

June 11, 2021
Cubs 7, Cardinals 5
WP: Nance (1-0) LP: Cabrera (1-2)
Box Score

Let’s be honest: the game didn’t start the way any of us wanted to, with the Cubs pretty much always behind on the score, as Kohl Stewart made his second start as a Cub and almost immediately started giving up hits. In the 2nd inning, a walk and two singles were able to score the Cardinals’ first run of the game, and they added onto that in the 3rd when a walk and two more singles allowed another run to score.

It took around half the game for the Cubs’ offense to show up, but I’d take that over them never showing up at all. The Cubs started out with a solo home run by Joc Pederson in the 4th, and by the top of the 5th the Cardinals had scored another run before Stewart was pulled for Keegan Thompson. A single by Nolan Arenado was all the Cards needed to make the score 5-1 Cardinals, but amazingly the Cubs came roaring back at the bottom of the inning with three runs of their own. Although Contreras walked and Jason Heyward (finally) singled, it was Sergio Alcantara, the second baseman for today, who was the hero of the inning. His triple scored two runs, and after a kind of hilarious Yadier Molina throwing error, he was able to score to make it 5-4.

Though by this time the inning ended with the Cubs behind, it was Anthony Rizzo in the 6th who hit a solo bomb to tie the game, and in the 7th inning it was Heyward again with a leadoff single, Jake Marisnick with a single, and Joc Pederson again being the catalyst for some runs as he hit a double, scoring both men in front of him. The Cubs ended the game offensively for both sides through a solo homer by Contreras in the 8th.

Once Thompson stepped off the mound, the Cubs only allowed one hit and one walk and had five strikeouts. The Cardinals tried to make contact on Craig Kimbrel’s pitches in the 9th inning but kept getting pop-ups that were easy plays for guys like Baez. Even when the first batter hit a ground ball off Kimbrel’s pitch, it was Baez who made a crazy split-second play to Rizzo to get him out quickly. Good work was done by all.

June 12, 2021
Cubs 7, Cardinals 2
WP: Hendricks (8-4) LP: Gant (4-4)
Box Score

The Cubs have done it again. In front of a rip-roaring crowd, it only took two innings for them to blow this game wide open. Kyle Hendricks was able to pitch 6 innings, a rarity these days for a Cubs starter, and allowed the only two runs the Cardinals would get all game. Those runs were both homers and came off of only three hits he allowed; he also had two strikeouts on the day.

The Cubs, however, had three home runs this game. The first one opened up scoring in the 2nd inning by Ian Happ that scored Willson Conteras, who walked earlier. Four straight walks (and one Pederson flyout) later, and the Cubs were up 3-1. Javier Baez singled to make it 4-1, and Rizzo got hit by a pitch which made the game 5-1 Cubs.

The team never looked back, despite the Cardinals hitting another solo home run to start the 3rd inning. A single and a walk put Hendricks in the diciest situation of the day, but he was able to get out of it thanks to the defense behind him getting lineouts and forceouts. Alcantara homered in the bottom of the 3rd, once again showing Cubs fans that he is competent on both an offensive and defensive level, but what call-ups haven’t been like that so far this season?

Maybe it was Trevor Megill, who didn’t have a good outing after being recently called up, trading places with Kohl Stewart for a reliever position. Megill only lasted 0.2 innings in the 9th and gave up one of only two bullpen hits of the game for the Cubs. He allowed two walks, loading the bases. The Cubs, not wanting to extend this game any longer than necessary, just decided to yank him and put in Craig Kimbrel, who was able to get the final out of the game.

June 13, 2021
Cubs 2, Cardinals 0
WP: Davies (4-3) LP: Martinez (3-7)
Box Score

The Cubs continue to dazzle, including on the starting pitching front, as Zach Davies went 6.2 innings of baseball where he gave up only 2 hits and 2 walks. Can I believe I’m writing these words? Not exactly, but I’ll take all the good that I can get for this team.

The Wrigley Field crowd cheered the whole way through (and made a very impressive beer snake in the bleachers) as the Cubs scored twice in the 3rd inning to go up on the Cards. It started out with Eric Sogard — yes, once again I’m amazed — hitting a double to start out the inning. He scored on a fielding error just two batters later, as Pederson was able to reach first. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo then drew back-to-back singles to make it 2-0 Cubs.

Baez was not playing today after likely reinjuring his thumb after running to catch a ball in left field during yesterday’s game. Sergio Alcantara once again filled in for him at short, making all the big plays at shortstop that were needed, occasionally in an impressive Baez-like manner. More please.

After Davies looked shaky to start the 7th inning in a two-out situation, Rossy decided it was time for the bullpen. Ryan Tepera finished out the inning, getting the forceout to strand a few Cardinals on base. He might’ve gone three-up, three-down in the 8th inning if not for an overthrow to first base by Patrick Wisdom. And Craig Kimbrel? Well, we’re all just glad to be watching his hall-of-fame career.

The Cubs immediately turn around to face the Mets this week in New York. The Mets stand at the top of the NL East, and with a 3-game margin. They have played less games than the Cubs have, but are still similarly matched in points percentage, .561 for them vs. .578 for us. The Cubs have quickly and shockingly turned their entire season around, and if they win some games against New York this week, that’s right folks — we will be buyers at the deadline. You won’t have to see Kris Bryant leave until the winter.

Knock on wood, of course.

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!