Baseball

Yesterday was likely one of the hardest days in Cubs history. The trade deadline we’d had circled on the calendar finally happened, and despite knowing for months exactly what was gonna happen, it didn’t make saying goodbye any more painful.

Jed Hoyer sent away not one, not two, but ALL THREE of the core players from the 2016 World Series team that had expiring contracts after this year, over the last 48ish hours. He also sent away the three key pieces that made the Cubs bullpen so nails during the start of the season, and also Jake Marisnick and Trevor Williams, if you got attached to those guys. (I didn’t.)

Despite knowing it was coming, it’s still extremely difficult to say goodbye, especially because fans aren’t sure if there will ever be another Cubs team like the 2015-2017 teams. There may not be, and the future is now filled with question marks and unknowns for Cubs fans. Hatred toward the Ricketts family for not adequately building around for the core post-2016 is now the norm for any North Sider, and distrust that he will be able to build a core that strong again is certainly rampant throughout the fanbase.

There are many players to say goodbye to, so let’s get going.

Joc Pederson – Though he was sent away a while before the trade deadline, he deserves a space in this eulogy just like anyone else, I guess. He was our starting left fielder for the first half of the season, and though he was overly hyped to begin the season thanks to a crazy spring training, his offensive numbers were just about always in the top five of Cubs players: runs, hits, doubles, triples, and RBIs — he’s there for all of them. (Granted, the team’s offense overall this season has for all but one month been in the bottom of the league standings, but at least he was trying.)

Pederson now plays for the Atlanta Braves, where he has 17 hits, 2 homers, and a .288/.333/.441 slash line in 14 games, because of course he does. Pederson was always going to be short-term, signed on a one-year prove-it deal, so Cubs fans can say goodbye and good luck to the outfielder as he continues his MLB career elsewhere.

Andrew Chafin – Though shaky early on, allowing eight hits in April, Chafin quickly turned into a bullpen staple and was continually relied upon to get outs, arguably a little too much. He ended his Cubs career with a 2.03 ERA out of the bullpen, pitching almost 40 innings and allowing only 21 hits and 9 runs. As a native of my home state who played baseball at my college, Chafin was a favorite player of mine the last few seasons. I wish him all the best as he…attempts to make the playoffs with the A’s, I guess?

Ryan Tepera – Another bullpen staple was moved mid-game Friday across town to the White Sox, to the behest of many angry people on Twitter. (There were a lot of them yesterday.) Although Tepera didn’t do too well in his White Sox debut yesterday, not being able to get any outs and allowing a run, Sox fans will soon come to like him as he had a 2.91 ERA for the Cubs over 43 innings pitched. If you need an inning from him he can usually provide one without giving up any runs in the process. In fact, prior to yesterday’s game, he hadn’t given up a run since June 28, right before he was put on the IL.

Anthony Rizzo – Despite being out of Friday’s lineup for a “scheduled rest day,” the announcement that he had been traded — to the damn Yankees, of all teams — still felt like your guts were getting ripped out when you heard the news.

Like many sportswriters have pointed out before me, Rizzo will never have to pay for dinner in this city for as long as he lives. For nine years, he was the face of the greatest Cubs run in history. He caught the final out, hit 242 home runs (6th all-time for the club), drove in 784 batters, got MVP votes in five straight seasons, is a four-time Gold Glover, and appeared in three straight All-Star Games. This doesn’t even get into his charitable foundation, all the money he raised and all the smiles he put on children in hospitals all across Chicago.

Although his WAR suggests he’s on the decline, and his back will likely continue to keep him out of the lineup for short stretches, Rizzo is a veteran presence and a shakeup the Yankees infield probably needs. He also slashed .248/.346/.446 this season, better numbers than the rest of the Yankees’ first basemen this season combined. Take care of him, Yanks. We’ll miss him.

Craig Kimbrel – Moved on trade deadline day to the White Sox to join Ryan Tepera, Kimbrel was another pitcher acquired by the Cubs who started things off quite rocky but ended up straightening the ship, being incredibly reliable when called onto the mound and continuing his hall of fame career with the Cubs.

When coming over from Boston in 2019, Kimbrel was shaky, posting a 6.53 ERA. Everyone shuddered when Maddon would put him on the mound that year; I know I was. However, Rossy had confidence in him that the fanbase didn’t have, and he was eventually right on that one for once. He posted a 5.28 ERA in 2020, allowing nine runs in eighteen appearances, but has returned this season to a form that he’s never really been before. His 0.49 ERA is astounding considering the team behind him, and his best ERA since his MLB debut for the Braves in 2010, despite having only half the number of appearances for Atlanta that year.

He’s also only allowed six runs total in 39 games he’s appeared in. The Sox are getting an amazing, hall of fame closer, making their pitching even more dangerous, as Kimbrel continues to climb up the all-time career saves list. (371, for those counting at home.) Best of luck.

Javier Baez (and Trevor Williams) – Baez is on the back of my jersey, and it’s because he made the game so excited to watch. He kept you sitting in front of the TV during the 3-hour slog that baseball games can sometimes be; his defensive plays often had you doing double takes, asking how on earth did he do that? His baserunning was magical, and the 140 homers he hit for the Cubs, his .262/.303./.474 career slash line for the club, and the ridiculously high 900 strikeouts were just another unique dimension to his on-field play.

Javy is going to be sliding over to second to play with Francisco Lindor on the Mets after Lindor returns from injury soon, and they will probably make some crazy highlight-reel plays together that will make you remember the good old days. He’s going to love playing with him, the Mets will likely offer him a bigger contract than the Cubs, and life will move on. I truly wish him all the best and hope he thrives there, as it’s certainly what he deserves.

As for Trevor Williams, his quality starts were few and far between for the Cubs, only three out of thirteen total. It probably wasn’t helped by his bout of appendicitis a quarter of the way through the season that shut him down for all of June. I’m sure his father is bummed Williams is leaving Chicago, but hey, New York’s…kinda fun too, I guess?

Kris Bryant – The prized trade chip — one who never wanted to leave the Cubs. When KB was drafted, he zoomed right through the minors and spent no time immediately becoming one of the best players in the league, winning NL Rookie of the Year and NL MVP in his time with the Cubs, a feat no other Cub has done.

Though he has dealt with injury issues throughout his career, his statistics over his seven years in the MLB are still really impressive: his .279/.378/.508 slash line, 160 homers and 465 RBIs were a huge part of what made the Cubs elite, especially in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. His career WAR is, boy howdy, 27.6. He was on a tear this season as well, hitting 18 homers and 51 RBIs despite some nagging injuries; his RBI numbers this year especially are on track to be better than he’s had throughout his entire career. For a lot of this season, Bryant was carrying the Cubs offense on his back.

Now he heads to the San Francisco Giants to chase another ring and hopefully beat down the Dodgers in the process. He wanted to stay in Chicago, and it was quite sad to see videos of him sitting in the dugout Thursday and getting the phone call Friday before the game. Bryant should’ve been a Cub for life because he was such a special one — for God’s sake, you could ask him to fill in at pretty much any spot on the field and he wouldn’t break a sweat. Hopefully he gets the money (and another ring?) that he deserves during his time with the Giants.

Jake Marisnick – Hoyer threw this one in at the end just to mess with us after all the other franchise-altering damage had been done. Marisnick played fine for us over his 65 games this year, never truly horrific in the outfield and putting up middling offensive numbers compared to the rest of his career. He’ll likely be remembered with a passing shrug by Cubs fans; now he’ll be with the Padres trying to chase a playoff spot. Say hello to Darvish for me.

We have some horrific baseball in front of us for the next few months, Cubs fans. I’d be lying if I said I even turned on yesterday’s game, though tonight’s showed a bit more promise. The good news is that former Cubs will likely be seen dotted throughout the playoff race, although you’ll have to decide which of the Yankees, Giants, White Sox, or Mets are the lesser evil when the playoffs do roll around. (I guess I’ll be cheering on the Sox for my colleagues’ sake. Let’s not spread the bad vibes across town, shall we?)

We now enter the great unknown; who knows what’s coming up next for the Cubs. I may as well stick around to see what happens. I hope some of you will too. Go Cubs go.

Baseball

Luckily for us, we will no longer be subject to the bad baseball that the Arizona Diamondbacks have brought to us over the past few weeks. Despite the blowout on Saturday that we’d all rather forget happened, the Cubs otherwise made quick work and picked up two wins against Arizona this weekend.

It doesn’t really matter for us at this point, however, as we continue to move about our lives alongside a baseball season that no longer matters. We continue to enjoy what is likely some of the final games of Kris Bryant, Craig Kimbrel and perhaps others in a Cubs uniform as the trade deadline looms like a dark cloud over fans and all of the Cubs baseball writers. But hey, David Bote’s back! And he hit a home run! These are the silly things we get to grip onto post-deadline, are you excited?

July 23, 2021
Cubs 8, Diamondbacks 3
WP: Davies (6-6) LP: Gallen (1-5)
Box Score

The Cubs never cease to get their offense going during games where nothing matters anymore. In this case, it was the start of this series against the D-backs where the Cubs scored more runs in the first half of the game than they had scored in the last two games total against St. Louis.

Also amazingly, the Cubs didn’t wait until the tail end of the game to start producing. In the 1st inning, they scored three runs against the Diamondbacks after Bryant and Anthony Rizzo were both walked. Javy Baez homered easily to send all three home for a commanding lead to start the game.

The bottom of the 3rd was a bit of a disaster for the D-backs, as their starter Zac Gallen walked Bryant (again) and gave up a single to Rizzo that sent Bryant to third base. They ended up getting him out at the plate when Baez hit a ball to third, but it ended up not mattering. Matt Duffy, newly activated from the IL, walked to load the bases, and then Gallen threw a wild pitch to send Rizzo home. Nico Hoerner singled to score Baez and Duffy, and although he ended up being tagged out at second to end the inning, the damage had already been done. The D-backs would never recover. The Official New Backup Catcher (according to the Marquee announcers, of course) Robinson Chirinos had a solo homer in the bottom of the 4th to make things 7-0 Cubs.

Zach Davies pitched an okay game, which is not hard to do against the D-backs, who got 7 hits off of him and managed to score 0 runs. He also struck out eight batters in his 5.1 innings out, and with the Cubs going nuts offensively earlier in the game it would be enough to put him in line for the win. Not sure why he was put into the 6th inning after he was already at 100 pitches but keeping pitchers in for just a bit too long is Rossy’s favorite thing to do as manager.

Davies was replaced by Adam Morgan, who immediately gave up a double to score two runs that Davies had allowed on base earlier in the inning. After a quick mound visit, Morgan was able to reel it in and strikeout the next two batters to limit the damage, and it certainly helped that Chirinos hit yet another home run in the bottom of that inning as well; he went three for four today and had a great game.

Keegan Thompson threw the final three innings of the game and looked pretty good doing it, allowing only one hit, a solo homer. He also had two strikeouts and only walked one player. He got his first big league save of the night also, an accolade he well deserved. He is one bright spot in the lineup that I’m excited to keep watching in the future.

July 24, 2021
Cubs 3, Diamondbacks 7
WP: Kelly (7-7) LP: Chafin (0-2)
Box Score

After putting on a good performance the day before, the Cubs got domed by the D-backs for this game, because of course they did. They had a 2-0 lead going into the 5th inning but ended up squandering it quickly and not getting the lead back.

It was in the 3rd inning where Alec Mills (a pitcher, you say?) doubled, Rafael Ortega singled and Bryant walked to load the bases. Baez grounded into a double play to make it a two-out inning but not before Mills was able to score. In the 4th, a solo homer by Willson Contreras made it 2-0 Cubs.

Mills pitched into the 5th inning before things started to go haywire, as he walked the first batter and later gave up a home run that tied the game. A double and another walk later put the Cubs in a dicey situation, but Anthony Rizzo was able to field a ground ball to end the inning. Mills got pulled by Ross before the 6th.

Dan Winkler made it through the rest of the 6th as relief with no issues; instead, it was Andrew Chafin, who can usually be relied upon to get outs, getting the loss tonight and having the bad game. In the 7th, he walked the first two batters and then gave up a single to give the D-backs the lead. A double given up after that ended Chafin’s day, as it became 5-2 Diamondbacks. Ryan Tepera was put in and was able to get three straight outs, two of them strikeouts, to get out of the inning.

Trevor Megill pitched 0.2 innings and gave up a walk and a single to put runners on first and second, where he was replaced by Rex Brothers. Brothers allowed a double and a home run in the 9th to complete the shellacking.

After a rain delay that lasted nearly two hours, Anthony Rizzo scored a run off of a double in the bottom of the 9th inning thanks to a wild pitch and some good baserunning. It wouldn’t be enough to score, and soon after that Contreras got ejected for arguing balls and strikes from the bench on Jason Heyward, having to be restrained by Ross as the frustration of losing to such a bottomfeeding team finally boiled over. It wouldn’t matter, as the game was already put away 7-3.

July 25, 2021
Cubs 5, Diamondbacks 1
WP: Williams (4-2) LP: Smith (3-7)
Box Score

Fueled by a pair of home runs in the 1st and a Willson Contreras walk, the Cubs quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead against the D-backs. Adding onto that, the newly-returned David Bote hit a two-run homer in the 4th inning, scoring Patrick Wisdom, who walked earlier. Despite the homer-heavy offense that made up the game, the Cubs were able to right whatever was wrong in the previous game in order to hold the Diamondbacks off the scoreboard and score a litany of runs on their own.

Trevor Williams had a quality start, a rare accomplishment for him. However, he deserves a pat on the back for his six strikeouts, no walks and only five hits allowed for the first 6.1 innings of the game. The bullpen also deserves a tip of the cap, as five bullpen guys pitched today, none of them going a full inning, and yet they allowed only two hits combined and one measly run that happened in the 9th. If you want to be nit-picky, it was Dillon Maples that could’ve been better; he walked David Peralta to start the 9th, and then a groundout moved him to second base, and a single drove him in. Maples hasn’t allowed two walks in an outing since May 30, so it will likely be something he can control moving forward. Kimbrel closed out the game and got the last out in the 9th, because of course he did.

The Cubs now move on to play the Reds this week, the final series before the July 30th trade deadline. The Reds themselves are barely over .500, 2.5 games up on the Cubs, but 6.5 games back of the first-place Brewers. They’ve only won three of their last nine games, although technically we’d be considered easy pickings for the Reds to try and gain on the Brewers in the division race, I guess?

The next time I write for you all, this team will look very different, as we likely move into a completely new era of Cubs baseball. Enjoy the players while you still can, and I’ll be back to wrap up this series and the subsequent trade deadline to assess the damage. See you all then. Go Cubs go!

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

This was an incredibly frustrating series as a Cubs fan, as it seemed like this weekend nothing went right. Davies and Williams threw clunkers, the Cubs can’t hit, the umpires gave us no help, Ross doesn’t know when to pull his starters, the defense gave up 13 runs to a team projected to be one of the worst in the league, and the Cubs now sit with a 4-5 record for 4th place in the Central. At least our bullpen was pretty solid?

In case you (correctly) traded in Cubs games this weekend to watch the Masters, here’s what went down:

April 8, 2021
Cubs 4, Pirates 2
WP: Arrieta (2-0) LP: Anderson (0-2)
Box Score

The Cubs went into this series with the lowest batting average in the league, and the lowest batting average for a team by far in recent memory. Despite this, the Cubs had an astounding 11 hits, a season-high for this team by four. It may be a season-high, sure, but for the league we are still sitting in the basement when it comes to hits and offense, so I’m still not impressed or satisfied with this number.

They got on the board early thanks to a Kris Bryant solo shot homer in the 1st inning, as he continues to make his trade value go up and up. Bryant had two hits, an RBI, and a .982 OPS for this game, one of his better outings so far this season.

The score stayed put until the fourth, where a couple of big hits off Arrieta helped the Pirates score 2. By the 6th, Anthony Rizzo hit a homer that allowed a Javier Baez run to put the Cubs ahead 3-2. Baez also had a hit in the 1st, two RBIs, and a walk — the walk being the most exciting news because he had seriously gone 100something at-bats without drawing one.

Arrieta was able to pitch through 6 innings thanks to a solid defense behind him cleaning up after any Pirates contact. By the 8th inning, Rizzo hit a solo homer to end the game 4-2, but whatever you do, don’t re-sign him. Totally not necessary.

Craig Kimbrel is back to his ways of old, and it seems as though the disaster that was his 2020 season was far behind him. He came out with the save for the night, getting a huge final two outs of a huge bases-loaded situation he inherited in the 8th and putting down three batters in the 9th with a little help from the outfield.

April 10, 2021
Cubs 2, Pirates 8
WP: Keller (1-1) LP: Davies (1-1)
Box Score

This game has got to be the biggest disappointment of the entire year by far, maybe in the past two years. Certainly in my recent memory.

I am finding it difficult to express how ridiculous this game was. It all happened in one half-inning, where Zach Davies and the Cubs’ defense completely collapsed to the worst team in the league. I tried to give Davies his day on the mound — it’s not his fault he got traded for Yu Darvish, who had been the best pitcher in the NL, after all — but the 2nd inning was completely inexcusable and a total nightmare.

In the 2nd inning, Davies gave up 5 hits and 3 walks before he got pulled after his 10th batter of the inning for Alec Mills. Davies only had 1 strikeout. In addition to being unable to throw strikes and reduce the contact rate, all of the hits went right past everyone on defense.

By the time Davies was pulled in the 2nd, it was time to throw all of our bullpen pitchers into the fire. Mills and the defense kept things under control until the 5th, where Dillon Maples gave up a mighty unfortunate home run to dig our grave deeper to 8-1, and by this time all Chicago sports fans had turned to watch the Blackhawks beat Columbus.

In case you wanted to know how the rest of the game turned out, it was pretty terrible. The Cubs had 3 hits for the rest of the game. Jason Adam was able to get a lot of Pirates swinging at a lot of crappy pitches but was able to end an inning with three strikeouts. The Cubs in the 8th got rocked by a pitcher who throws a fastball 63% of the time, because it’s no secret our Cubs can’t hit a fastball if their lives depended on it. The only Cub that hit off him was Joc Pederson, who knocked in the Cubs’ second and final run. At least he can hit fastballs.

April 11, 2021
Cubs 1, Pirates 7
WP: Brubaker (1-0) LP: Williams (1-1)
Box Score

Although Trevor Williams had a good 1st inning, things started going haywire quickly in the 2nd. An overturned out call at 2nd base put the Cubs in a tie game situation with the dreaded runners in scoring position on second and third base, even after Javier Baez hit a home run the half inning before to put the Cubs up in the game. Williams was completely unable to throw strikes, and when he did throw strikes they were getting rocked to the outfield. He allowed 5 hits on the half inning, none of them home runs. He did try to end the inning on a more positive note with a pretty nice strikeout, but things wouldn’t get better from there.

The Cubs were able to make some magic happen in the 3rd after an Ian Happ single, Willson Contreras sacrificing himself to a hit by pitch walk for the 64th time this season, but none of it mattered because Anthony Rizzo grounded into a double play. Originally, Happ had scored on this play to make it 3-2 with Rizzo out at 1st, but the Pirates challenged their second call of the day for slide interference. He was kind of sliding into Kevin Newman when trying to get to 2nd and Newman had to jump over him to make a throw to first, which went right past Colin Moran. Who knew the rules of baseball?

Williams didn’t make things any easier on the Cubs in the 3rd inning, either, as he had only one strikeout and gave up a hit, an RBI, and two walks. More umpball confusion continued into the 4th as the umpire ejected…someone. We eventually learned it was catching coach Mike Borzello, but because umpires for some reason do not have microphones and are for some reason not forced to answer or explain any of their rulings or calls to anyone watching, this ejection was not immediately clear.

For the second Trevor Williams start in a row, Ross kept him in an inning too long. By the 5th inning, the Pirates had completely taken control of the game, getting three straight hits against him before he finally got pulled for Brothers. Brothers immediately got the two strikeouts Williams couldn’t get and ended the inning. Ross needs to get a lot better at managing his starting pitchers, because “squeezing all you can” out of Williams when he’s thrown three bad innings in a row is certainly not the answer. Know when to pull ‘em, Rossy.

The bullpen did well to stop the scoring until Ryan Tepera gave up a 2-run homer in the 7th, but by that time the game was over anyway.

The Cubs turn around and play three more games against the Brewers starting up tonight. The Brewers have won two of their last three games against the Cardinals since we saw them last week, and are sitting in 2nd place in the division. What could possibly go wrong?

Baseball

Maybe spring training was giving you at least some sense of optimism about how this year might be different. (Or maybe not, since the front office did things like trading Yu Darvish for nothing in return.) But this series against the Brewers showed us all that these Cubs haven’t really changed at all. The pitching and the bullpen were for the most part fine, but the Cubs’ lack of hitting, especially from their “core” players, was what screwed us over in the most important of times.

The Cubs are now a .500 team, putting us 3rd in the division, which is just about where we deserve to be. We will also be spending 6 of our first 10 starts playing the Pirates, one of the worst teams in the league, so our record may drop even more once we start going up against some better teams. Let’s break down each game, shall we?

April 5, 2021
Cubs 5, Brewers 3
WP: Williams (1-0) LP: Anderson (0-1)
Box Score

The first three and a half innings of this game was a pitching duel. The first baserunner of the game was an Ian Happ walk in the 4th. Next up was Willson Contreras, who knocked home his first hit on the season as a 2-run homer. Javier Baez and David Bote were able to solo homer later in the inning to make it 4-0, and suddenly the pitching duel was knocked wide open; the Cubs had figured out Anderson.

It only took a few innings more for the Brewers to figure out Trevor Williams after he walked or hit three batters in 1.5 innings. Williams was pulled to a standing ovation because a good hometown story where your boomer dad is stoked for you to be starting at Wrigley Field is the Cubbie Way. The fun quickly evaporated, however, as Jason Adam with two first names stepped in and immediately gave up a three-run homer that put the Brewers right back in the middle of this game, which was just grand. The Cubs got out of the shaky bullpen pitching with their on-field defense, somehow getting them out of this rocky inning ahead on the scoreboard.

It was suddenly Eric Sogard’s time to shine in the 7th when he was able to hit a triple and score Jake Marisnick to broaden the Cubs’ lead. If Sogard will continue making positive impacts on the field, I’ll stop making fun of David Bote for getting replaced halfway through every game.

Contreras and Baez both took nasty hit by pitches, which would soon be a pattern in this series. Baez went down because of his knee and Contreras got bonked in the noggin, shaking it off like nothing at all happened. Incredibly impressive. Hopefully Baez isn’t hurt now that he’s finally producing offensively, am I right?

Andrew Chafin was able to strike out his 4 batters in 1.1 innings pitched, and although Alec Mills only had 1 strikeout, the defense behind him was able to close it out and get Trevor Williams the win. This would be the only good game we’d see from the Cubs this series.

 

April 6, 2021
Cubs 0, Brewers 4
WP: Peralta (1-0) LP: Alzolay (0-1)
Box Score

This game was another example of how the Cubs have no chance if they can’t hit, because their opponents usually can.  Kris Bryant surprisingly had the only hit in this one, a double in the 4th. The Cubs just couldn’t figure out Brewers pitcher Freddy Peralta, who was throwing breaking pitches up the wazoo that nobody could hit. He ended the game with eight strikeouts.

This was Adbert Alzolay’s debut, who made the rotation cut after only playing in 3 games last season. It did not go well for him, as he had given up 2 home runs in the first 4 innings, giving the Brewers the 4-0 lead that would be the final score at the end of the game.

In the bottom of the 9th, Contreras was hit again on the shoulder and got understandably pretty mad about it. Contreras was hit by pitch something like 6 times in the last 11 games, and after getting hit the day before as well, you can’t blame him for being pissed off. If you’re gonna throw the ball inside at 94 mph, you should probably have enough control of it to not hit the batter, am I right?

We are somehow the 4th highest MLB team in reliever strikeout percentage, but it’s early. However, relievers Winkler, Maples and Tepera had eight strikeouts, one hit and three walks between them all. At least the bullpen had a good game because nobody else did.

April 7, 2021
Cubs 2, Brewers 4 (F/10)
WP: Hader (2-0) LP: Workman (0-1)
Box Score

This game was a starting pitcher’s duel, with Kyle Hendricks back in the form that we all assumed he would be for Opening Day. Woodruff for the Brewers was also pitching phenomenally, and the game was scoreless through 7 innings with only 5 hits allowed, two of them from Christian Yelich. Overall, Hendricks had 6 strikeouts, four hits and only one walk in his 6 total innings played, giving up 0 runs.

Lorenzo Cain was able to solo homer in the 8th inning after Hendricks was pulled for Alec Mills. Andrew Chafin replaced Mills in the 8th, immediately giving up a single, but was able to strike out the next two batters to keep the score within one. Luckily, in the bottom of the 8th Joc Pederson decided it was a good time to make his first hit as a Cub a home run and was able to tie the game at 1.

This game also had multiple fielding errors, with one of them coming from Baez botching a throw in the 10th inning, the time in which you shouldn’t ever be botching throws. Luckily, the runner, Avisail Garcia, was picked off and caught stealing, so it didn’t turn into an extra run. But this Cubs defense is the one part of the team that needs to be tight always; otherwise, we will definitely fall apart.

Lorenzo Cain decided to be the hero again in the 10th inning as he homered yet again on Brandon Workman to send three runners home, making it 4-1 Brewers. The Cubs actually had somewhat of a two-out rally at the end of the 10th, starting with a full-count outfield single by Jason Heyward. Willson Contreras was made to pinch hit on his day off, and when he was walked by the Brewers he gave the biggest bat flip for a walk I have ever seen. Marisnick pinch hit after him, getting walked also. But with bases loaded, Ian Happ unfortunately couldn’t deliver, as a pop fly to left field was caught easily by Yelich, ending the game.

The Cubs can’t taper out offensively if they want to continue winning games, but they already know that, I already know that, and you already know that. Luckily, the Cubs have another three-game series against the 1-5 Pittsburgh Pirates to hopefully pad their stats and give them some more confidence. Let’s get some runs.

Baseball

The Rickettses finally allowed Jed Hoyer to make some sort of “splash” this offseason by signing World Series champion Joc Pederson to a one-year, $7 million deal. And then, a few hours later, their splash was overshadowed by a blockbuster Nolan Arenado trade to our division rival. Cubs fans can never have nice things for long.

Pederson is here to essentially replace Kyle Schwarber, and besides them both being lefties, his numbers indicate him being pretty Schwarber-esque on the field. Schwarber’s batting numbers from last season are all a little bit better than Pederson’s, but Pederson also played 16 less games than the former Cubs outfielder. Pederson’s strike out percentage of 24.6% is slightly better than Schwarber’s 29.5%. His batting average is also better, comparing .190 to .188.

What might be slightly better news for Cubs fans to hear is that Pederson also went through a bit of a slump in 2020, like Schwarber. If you look at his stats from 2015-2019, the years he played over 100 games, he averaged 24.6 home runs and 57.4 RBIs. Additionally, Pederson also crushed it in the 2020 offseason with the Dodgers, with nearly all of his batting metrics getting better. His batting average went to .382, his strikeout percentage went down to 16.2%, and he had 2 homers and 8 RBIs for the Dodgers. I would assume his 2020 regular season numbers are just a temporary slump and he will continue to improve over a longer, slightly more normal 2021 regular season.

The Cubs were sorely lacking an outfielder before this signing, and it looks like your staple guys in the outfield for 2021 will now be Pederson, Ian Happ, and Jason Heyward, respectively. Doesn’t seem like an awful combo, if I say so myself.

While we’re here, let’s also touch on the Cubs’ new starting pitcher signing that happened this weekend. Welcome to the Cubs, Trevor Williams! This offseason has been a nightmare for us but at least you aren’t wasting away on the Pirates roster anymore, am I right?

Williams has inked a 1-year, $2.5 million dollar deal, according to SOURCES. Williams’ best ERA was coming up on three seasons ago, in 2018, where he was sporting a 3.11. Last season, his ERA was 6.18.

How much of this can you blame on the fact that he was on the most God-awful team in the league? Let’s give this guy the benefit of the doubt. His velocity numbers certainly haven’t decreased, and because we are owned by the Rickettses we didn’t pay out the nose for him. There aren’t really any more Yu Darvishes available in this league, and even if there were we’d trade them away for no return. Try to find the positives in this baseball offseason, I guess.