Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 6, Brewers 2

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 4, Brewers 1

Game 3 Box Score: Cubs 7, Brewers 2

I think I dislike this team more when they beat the shit out of opponents now than I do when they lose.

Because that looked effortless. That was a display of what we thought/think is the gulf in class between these two teams. The Brewers, especially after the injuries they’ve had, can’t come close to the starting pitching the Cubs have. We saw that in ways last weekend as well. So they scored five runs, and only three of them off the Cubs trio of Quintana, Hamels, and Darvish.

But the difference is the Cubs offense treated the Brewers starters, except for Gio Gonzalez because of course, as they’re supposed to be treated. And the only difference is that they were at home instead on the road, which you’ll never convinced me should be that big of a factor and is just something weird. The Cubs came into this one game ahead of the Brewers and they’ll leave it four ahead now, which for a team like Milwaukee that has about two starters right now is a little more than it sounds.

Especially today, when the Cubs were happy to just take things to the opposite field and take their walks and get the hits they needed to make this one pretty uncompetitive after the second inning. Hell, they even got good bullpen management today with Chatwood getting the old school save, something we haven’t seen enough of.  Fuck, they got seven runs today with no Bryant or Contreras. IT COULD NOT BE ANY SIMPLER, LUANNE!

So why is this so hard? Can’t you do this most of the time? Fuck, even three more weeks of play like this probably wins the division as long as you don’t vomit blood the rest of the year. It just can’t be that complicated.

Anyway, to it…

The Two Obs

-Of course, it can’t all be roses with the Cubs. Contreras’s injury hangs over all, and that looks to be of the three-to-four week variety, maybe more if you want to be safe. We saw this injury make the 2017 season end something of a slog. While Victor Caratini has been serviceable, this is where you fear he’ll be exposed.

It would be easy to rant and rave about the Cubs having three catchers not a week ago, and Maldonado at least gives you the defense. But there’s not much you can do about that now, and Kemp probably gives you the same value. Hell. Taylor Davis can catch the ball at least.

The Cubs could more easily survive if Bryant was healthy, which one day off isn’t going to make him. And now there’s less chance of an IL stay for him to try and get healthy. Rizzo’s four hits today are how you make up for it, Castellanos helps, and Schwarber binge wouldn’t go amiss either.

-I was not a fan of Maddon’s handling of the staff on Saturday, but he got away with it. In the sixth, after the Cubs were never going to get more than five out of Hamels, he sent out David Phelps to deal with the top of the Brewers lineup. It went about as well as you would have thought, though it’s not like Cain crushed his infield single. To me, that’s the big point in the game there, and the thought should be by the time the top of the lineup rolls around again it’s the 9th and Kimbrel is dealing with it anyway, or it’s the 8th and Kintzler is. And to be fair to Phelps, Braun’s RBI single was a piece of shit desperation heave that the other nine times out of ten is an out. Still, I’d rather have Wick or Ryan working through the top of the lineup and then Phelps dealing with the top, and I don’t really care what inning it is.

-Everything Castellanos hits has been a line drive of late.

-Why did it take this long to just let Heyward bat leadoff? I know he’s hated it in the past but he seems amenable now and well, look how it’s going.

-Quite the world when Ian Happ is considered a defensive replacement.

Onwards…

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Cardinals 2, Cubs 1

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 2, Cardinals 0

Game 3 Box Score: Cardinals 8, Cubs 0

Here’s what will definitely happen. Either in the postgame tonight or before the game tomorrow, Joe Maddon will tell the press that the Cubs have to get back to grinding out at-bats. They have to dig out some offense. They have to fight through this. And then they won’t, which either means Joe is telling them this along with whatever hitting coach they’ll fire this time around as a smokescreen, and they’re not listening. Or he’s not even bothering to tell them and is going straight to the press, because he knows and the players know he’s getting punted no more than five minutes after the final out of the season.

Here’s what very well might happen. The Cubs will peter out somewhere, either after Game 162 or in the Division Series or coinfli flip game after the balloon-handed nature of both the Brewers and Cardinals gifts them a spot somehow. And either Theo Epstein will find out the purse strings are still being yanked by the Ricketts and he’ll walk, or he’ll hope letting Maddon walk is enough of a cover again to mask that his system has produced exactly his dick in his hand since 2016 or so.

Really, what this road trip has shown is that there has been a systematic failure at pretty much every level of this organization. On the biggest swing of the year, the Cubs best players all went turtle. None of them have hit. And you’d be tempted to say that’s just the vagaries of baseball, except we’ve been talking about this in some fashion for two months. Baez was dominant in the season’s first two months by actually occasionally taking a walk and going the opposite way almost as much as he pulled the ball. So he’s going to spend six weeks swinging at everything and trying to pull everything. Contreras is going to swing at the first pitch he sees. Bryan is going to have to gut out an injury that clearly should have him on the IL because the bottom of the roster is non-existent. If Addison Russell didn’t suck out loud, they could go without Bryant for 10 days. If David Bote didn’t suck deep pond scum they could go without Bryant for 10 days. But they do, so he has to play and do a pretty mean David Bote impression for six games. Anthony Rizzo is nowhere. All when they have to be here.

This team doesn’t fight. They don’t dig deep in close games and find a way to get on base, to score, to win. They find ways to lose. And maybe that’s just what happens when a team thinks no matter what it does the bullpen is just going to blow it anyway. There’s no gumption about this squad.

But why should there be? They heard their GM say that there would be changes, that production would be all that mattered. And then nothing changed. No one’s on alert. Addison Russell got another chance. So did Bote. So did Almora. So did Schwarber. Who’s on edge?

But then why would this team feel their front office and ownership is fighting for them? They watched the same team basically come back, the one that wasn’t quite good enough last year. The Cardinals added Goldschmidt. The Brewers added Grandal. The Phillies added Harper. The Braves added Donaldson.

Here’s an exercise for you. Go and watch two interviews with the Astros right after they got the news their team had traded for Zack Greinke. See the bounce. Do you think any Cubs were doing that when finding out about Castellanos and Phelps? Castellanos is only here due the failure of multiple players, not to boost something that already is working.

This team plays entitled. Like nothing will happen. Because really, it won’t. This is all set up to burn down after 2021 anyway, and everyone in the organization looks like it’s just going to sit around waiting for that.

The urgency, the desperation, the fight, the want-to, whatever you call it, you find it on this team. I can’t. They accept what’s happening to them because that’s been the nature of the whole operation. Oh sure, they’ll get wins when Hendricks or someone else tosses a gem, or Kyle Davies places a “HIT ME” sticker on a barely-fastball. And this doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t win the division, based on the aforementioned nature of their competition.

Well, maybe not “win’ it, so much as just open the front door and see that it’s been left there so they might as well take it inside. That’s what the Ricketts Family, Epstoyer, Maddon, and everyone have created here. And there’s no reason to think it will change.

This team isn’t going anywhere. Someplace might land on them, but it will still be standing still when it does. And that you can believe.

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Brewers 3, Cubs 2

Game 2 Box Score: Brewers 5, Cubs 3

Game 3 Box Score: Cubs 11, Brewers 4

Whatever hopes I had of the Cubs turning into an actual plus team, or at least one that can fake it, pretty much died this weekend. That doesn’t mean they can’t win the division. They still very well might, and I am tempted to say probably might. They could even win a series or two in the playoffs. Stranger things have happened.

But that’s just it. I’m now sort of relying on the “stranger things have happened” portion of my baseball brain/fandom. This was a chance for the Cubs to play like the big boys they claim to be. They didn’t do it. And there are just enough flaws0–the bottom half of the roster and the bullpen–that can’t be entirely fixed before the trade deadline and will just keep the Cubs from ever ripping off 14 of 17 or something like it to put this division to bed.

It’s going to be the drunk sex-est version of the last two months possible. Let’s run it through.

The Two Obs

-Let’s start right at the headline of the weekend and that’s Joe Maddon’s handling of his pitching staff. Now, according to any spreadsheet or analysis, pulling Hendricks after five on Friday is actually the right move. The value of one more inning out of Hendricks, the max you would get, is not equal to Kyle Schwarber taking that AB which essentially became a leadoff one after Bote homered with no outs. In a vacuum, or usually, that would be the right move.

Usually.

However, that doesn’t factor in the utter shambles the pen is right now, and Joe’s plan to get 12 outs involved absolutely nothing going wrong. With this bullpen. It’s the same thing that got Joe in Game 163 last year (what is it about the Brewers?). Normally, not letting your starter see the lineup for a third time, as Joe chose to do back in October, is the right call. But that assumes you have anyone who can consistently get outs from the pen, which you don’t have. In this case, the actual tools at Joe’s disposal outweigh what the “right” call is.

So things don’t go right, everyone throws too many pitches, and you have to use Strop. Who can claim he’s healthy all he wants but it’s pretty clear he isn’t.

-Then again, we’re not talking about any of this, probably, if Eric Thames is rightly rung up. Check out #3 here:

Or there was a pitch to Hiura before that that was a strike. If I want to be Sammy Sunshine, then the Cubs take two of three and we don’t worry so much. On such margins…

-Let’s skip to today and then get to the rest. Still up four runs, Joe pulled Q to get to a pen that just set the season on fire again. Yes, it was a bad 5th inning, but it’s not like Q was getting whacked around. The walks were bad, but he had gotten Saladino to strike out, Cain to lazily fly out, and Yelich’s double was off his fists and simply flared out to the right spot. Yes, you’ve got the off day tomorrow, but you still need innings from your starter. Joe got away with this, but had it gone balls-up it was not hard to see Joe looking for a job by Tuesday.

-Of his last eight outings, Cishek has only managed a clean one in two of them (no hits, no runs). He’s going to be toast earlier this season than last because Joe goes to him five times a week. Using him in the 8th last night was inexplicable, and Wick getting the Cubs out of it only made it more so. Yeah yeah yeah, not wanting to toss an untested kid into big spots and all that. Well that’s if the rest of your pen isn’t disgruntled clowns. He’s here, he has to pitch. This isn’t so hard.

-Right, to Kimbrel. I feel like anything this season we’re just going to have to live with, given the weird build-up for him. The dude probably hasn’t had March-June off since he was like eight years old. Most of the time he’ll look fine if not great. But there are going to be spotty outings, and that’s even with ceding the fact that sometimes the reigning MVP will just do that to you sometimes.

-Maybe moving out of the leadoff spot leads to the Schwarber binge. Maybe it’s too much pressure. That’s two high-leverage situations he finally homered in, so that’s a whole thing. That second homer is a juiced ball joke there, as that was a defensive swing. Then again, so was Yelich’s last night, so it giveth and taketh away.

-The importance of walks and hustle. Happ extends two innings for Schwarber. Contreras beats out some shoddy Brewer defense before Caratini’s homer. At least this was the kind of shit the Cubs weren’t doing earlier.

-Bryant looked terrible the past two days, and it would be a major surprise if he escapes an IL stint to deal with the knee that’s bothering him.

Hey, it could all still look ok with a sweep of the Cardinals. Onwards…

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

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 6, Padres 5

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 6, Padres 5

Game 3 Box Score: Padres 5, Cubs 1

Huh. The Padres scored five runs in every game. Only won one. That’s weird, right? Anywho, the temptation is to bitch that the Cubs didn’t get the last one of the homestand to make it a glittering 8-1. But 7-2 is way beyond acceptable, Morejon and Quantrill were absolutely dealing today, and sometimes you’re just not getting it. Considering the Cubs came out on the right side of a couple one-run decisions in the first two games, you’re probably due for a clunker. What’s really important is what comes on this roadie, as it’s one of the hottest teams in baseball followed by your direct competitors. We’ll take 7-2 on that too, thanks.

Let’s clean it up.

The Two Obs

-Still, today was frustrating because once again, the back half of the bullpen cannot keep the Cubs within a run. They probably weren’t going to score off Yates today anyway, but you’d at least take your chance. The impulse to lambast Maddon for bringing in Carl Edwards Jr. in a high-leverage situation right in the middle of it is understandable, but there really wasn’t anyone else. Cishek and Kintzler had to be down for the day. Strop most likely. Kimbrel would never be used there. Brach and Ryan had already gone. Your only other choice is Chatwood, and he’s no sure thing either.

And the time for babying Edwards is over. Either he’s a guy who can handle this or he’s not and we can all move on with our lives. Judging by the fact that his fastball was barely touching 92 today, I know which way I’m leaning.

-While on the pen, Strop gave up another lead on this third best pitch, a two-seam fastball that doesn’t do anything. Sometimes I wonder if two-seam is just the label they’re putting on a splitter that doesn’t do shit, but either way Strop needs to lose this pitch. Hitters have been losing it for him enough. His four-seam isn’t overpowering but he at least spots it well, and he should be going down with either that or his slider. He doesn’t need a starter’s repertoire.

-Considering the conditions, the work the Cubs got out of Lester and Quintana is good stuff. They won’t go down as quality starts, but they were considering the environment.

-How nice was it to watch the other team kick the ball around to lose a game on Friday?

-I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the wind turn around like that instantly as it did yesterday.

-Looks like I motherfucked Anthony Rizzo just right. You’ll notice his grand slam came to left field, so in that sense, I’m a genius.

-It’s really starting to feel like we’re seeing the last of Albert Almora Jr. around here. He’s completely lost at the plate, to the point where even his plus-defense doesn’t cancel it out. We’ve had more than enough ABs in his career to conclude he’s just not going to be much of a hitter. Joe Sheehan can wail about his playing time all he likes, but a .666 OPS tells you everything.

-One thing I’ve noticed Maldonado does, and Caratini for the most part too, that Contreras doesn’t, is that he doesn’t drop his glove when setting up and always presents the target. Pitchers must love that, and should be an easy correction for Willson to make.

-Give the Padres two years and a clean bill of the health and they might muddle up this Dodgers nightmare the NL West has lived through.

Onwards…

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Royals 5, White Sox 2

Game 2 Box Score: Royals 11, White Sox 0

Game 3 Box Score: Royals 7, White Sox 5

Game 4 Box Score: Royals 6, White Sox 5

It’s one thing to get swept by the Athletics in their usual, second half surge (they made a movie about that kind of thing, remember). It’s another to get pumped by the bottom-feeding Royals for four. And it appears the players in the clubhouse are getting a touch restless, though hardly anywhere near a mutiny. The Sox never had much depth, and being relieved of Tim Anderson and then Eloy Jimenez for all but one game this series didn’t help. The depths of the rebuild are apparent now, after some exciting moments in the first half.

Let’s get through it:

-It probably deserves its own post down the line, but some of Giolito’s stuff has lost just a touch of shine. He put up a quality start, one should against the Royals, but of late his change doesn’t have as much fade or sink away from lefties as it did earlier in the year. It’s only a fraction, but that can make the difference between a whiff and contact, and as we know anything can happen on contact. 14 strikeouts in three starts is not embarrassing, but it’s a noticeable drop from the eight per start he had been averaging through May and June.

-Who knows what’s going on with Eloy, as I can’t say I’ve heard of a bruised nerve before, especially from a position player. Hopefully it’s just a couple weeks, as the Sox can’t keep losing guys who need MLB ABs for development. One fears Eloy might be headed for the DH slot before he turns 25, though.

-Much improvement from Dylan Cease, at least control-wise. He got eight ground-outs of the 18 outs he got, and seven more via strikeout. He wasn’t helped much by his defense clearly, and didn’t get any righteous BABIP Kung Fu Treachery. Only thre extra-base hits. His slider was the main whiff weapon opposed to his change in his debut. Baby steps to the elevator.

-Getting it upside the head from Glenn Sparkman, no matter who is in the lineup, isn’t really acceptable on any level.

-If you’ve had enough of Ivan Nova pitching against anyone but the Cubs, it would be very understandable. Also teams are slugging over .700 on Nova when they see him for a third time, so might be best to avoid that whenever possible, which is always.

-When you’re on your 10th starter of the season, your expectations can’t be all that high. Ross Detwiler probably met them. At some point you’re just too deep into the reserve.

“We need them. We’re missing them. But we need to deal with what we have here. Until the organization gives us a chance to bring the people up that can help us here.”

I don’t know if Jose Abreu is calling for Luis Robert to be promoted, but I certainly don’t know that he’s not either. You sort of wonder how long current major leaguers were just going to play along with service time manipulation, and you could read this if you want as Abreu starting to warm up to the idea of not. These guys know what Robert is doing in the minors. They know they’ve been eating it in the majors. Abreu has never played a game that really matters with the White Sox. He would be forgiven if he’s just a touch tired of it. He’s also got some leverage with his upcoming free agency, though it’s impossible to imagine the Sox just letting him walk.

But Abreu won’t be the last and it won’t just be the White Sox that have players speaking out about the mechanizations of their front offices. Everyone knows the drill now, and the next time a team tries to keep the next Robert or Bryant or Jimenez down just to delay a clock, it will not be shocking when players in that clubhouse start calling bullshit in the press and putting more pressure on GMs. Here for all of it, really.