Baseball

Though the series started on a positive note, things sort of ended with a flop as the Cubs continue to struggle offensively, along with rolling out shaky starters who you can never completely trust to hold it together for a quality 5-6 innings. I’m not sure what exactly I expected out of this series, but I was certainly hoping for at least a split — obviously that didn’t happen as the Dodgers starters were able to shut down the Cubs offense for the most part. Let’s break these games down.

June 24, 2021
Cubs 4, Dodgers 0
WP: Davies (5-4) LP: Buehler (7-1)
Box Score

I must say, I was not confident in Zach Davies’ abilities at the posting of the last wrap, but he was finally able to put up a good game today — a combined no-hit game, in fact — against the Dodgers, and against Walker Buehler, whose ERA was over 1.00 points higher than Davies. However, he gave us a quality start of 6 innings, being a big part of the no-hitter tonight and striking out four batters. He also walked five people, something he definitely needs to work on, but it was all in all a solid outing for him.

Meanwhile, on the offensive front, our home-run-happy Cubs continued to hit some home runs, if you can believe that. Javier Baez started things off on the right foot in the 1st with a solo dinger, and then in the 6th Willson Contreras hit a home run of his own, scoring Bryant, who walked to start the inning off.

An offensive rally began in the 7th inning when Jason Heyward was able to hit a single, dashing to second base after an ugly Dodgers throwing error. He had two hits this game after being quite invisible offensively for most of the season.

Eric Sogard, the king of singles, was able to send Heyward to third base. And once again, the pinch hitters put up a hit, as Jake Marisnick hit for Davies and was able to poke one to the outfield, scoring Heyward. Pederson was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but after that a Bryant strikeout and a double play against Baez ended the inning.

Teamwork makes the dream work, as Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin both threw an inning each to keep the team no-hitter intact. Once again we were all blessed to watch a Craig Kimbrel save unfold before our very eyes, and there was a celebration abound as the Cubs threw the first combined no-hitter in MLB since 2019. Congrats to all.

June 25, 2021
Cubs 2, Dodgers 6
WP: Treinen (2-3) LP: Tepera (0-1)
Box Score

This game didn’t go nearly as well, as Jake Arrieta starts are wont to go these days. However, it wasn’t Arrieta on the hook with the loss this game, and he was able to stay in the game for 5.0 innings, which is…progress? He allowed five hits, three walks and two runs in his time on the mound, however, which can definitely be improved upon. He allowed a single in the second inning, and a steal and two groundouts that advanced a baserunner made it 1-1 at the bottom of the 2nd. (Kris Bryant hit a solo dinger during the second at-bat of the game.) Then Arrieta allowed a homer to start the 3rd inning to make it 2-1 Dodgers. A walk and a double put runners in scoring position, and an intentional walk loaded the bases with two outs, but he was able to lineout to end the inning.

Arrieta allowed no more runs in his time on the mound, but tonight the bullpen was not as sharp as it usually is. Keegan Thompson and Andrew Chafin combined to allow no hits in the 6th and 7th innings of the game, but it was Ryan Tepera and Tommy Nance who collapsed in the 8th inning, allowing two homers and four runs total between the two of them. Definitely a forgetful ending to this game, for sure.

June 26, 2021
Cubs 2, Dodgers 3
WP: Price (3-0) LP: Thompson (3-2)
Box Score

It was Alec Mills’ time to start in the rotation, and he only threw four innings, giving up hits almost immediately and wracking up eight total on the night. Two doubles in the bottom of the 1st put the Dodgers ahead immediately, and a wild pitch by Mills advanced Max Muncy to third base. It just took another single for the Dodgers to make it 2-0.

However, Mills gave up no more runs for the next three innings, thanks in part to Willson Contreras making one of a few highlight-reel plays for him this game. In the 2nd inning, he was able to catch Chris Taylor stealing third, getting the ball to Patrick Wisdom to throw him out. This inevitably saved the Cubs a run that would’ve put them in a 3-0 hole, as a groundout right after this ended the inning.

The rest of his start, Mills walked two pitchers and allowed three singles. It was once again Contreras keeping the Cubs in the game, picking off Chris Taylor yet again at third base in the 4th inning. Anthony Rizzo hit a solo homer the half-inning before, and it was Contreras’s defensive ability to allow the Cubs to tie the game just a half-inning later on two doubles from two players who’ve been a mess offensively all year: Jason Heyward and Ian Happ.

Heyward continued to produce, even hitting a solo homer in the top of the 7th to give the Cubs the lead…or did he? Not according to the officials, who decided to overturn the call on the field with no evidence that the ball went foul, and when the video review was similarly inconclusive, the overturned call stayed. Umps explaining calls to fans when?

That didn’t keep Heyward from being productive that at-bat, though, although the single he hit was much less than productive than the go-ahead homer would’ve been. The Cubs weren’t able to score in this situation, though, and it ended up being a game-deciding call, as the Dodgers walked it off in the 9th inning with a solo home run. This was definitely a game stolen in part by umping, and those are always tough ones to swallow.

June 27, 2021
Cubs 1, Dodgers 7
WP: Kershaw (9-7) LP: Alzolay (4-7)
Box Score

This game wasn’t stolen by umping by any means. Unfortunately, Adbert Alzolay had a tough night, as the game went off the rails in only the 2nd inning, when he loaded the bases through only walks and hit-by-pitches and then let Zach McKinstry hit a grand slam to make it 4-0. Javy Baez made a fielding error to allow Mookie Betts to reach after his at-bat and then Cody Bellinger hit another two-run homer in the same inning to make it 6-0 Dodgers. Alzolay was pulled after just three innings.

Baez tried to make up for his fielding gaffe by hitting a solo home run in the 4th inning, but by that time it didn’t seem feasible that the Cubs could come back from this. It would be the Cubs’ only run during the game, and one of only four hits—the other three came from Joc Pederson, Eric Sogard and Patrick Wisdom.

Tommy Nance and Rex Brothers came out of the bullpen to give guys like Tepera and Chafin some time off. Nance pitched three innings, allowing only three hits and striking out five batters. He gave up a run in the 6th inning to make it 7-1 Dodgers after allowing a Mookie Betts triple, but other than that he had a pretty good outing all things considered. Brothers pitched the other two innings and allowed no hits for the Dodgers.

The Cubs’ next couple of games couldn’t be more important as far as late-June baseball is concerned; they’re heading to Milwaukee to start the week with three games against the Brewers. Since the Cubs have been sliding, the Brewers are now 2.5 games ahead in the standings with a 43-33 record, first in the Central. If this team has a prayer of winning the division, they need to win AT LEAST two out of three to stay in the mix. Otherwise, the Brewers could easily pull way ahead of the entire division. (The third-place Reds are already 6 games back.)

From what I’ve seen, unfortunately, I just don’t think the Cubs can do it — not with this rotation and the offense in the freezer, falling back down to 28th in the league with a .224 team batting average. The Brewers have won five in a row (granted, against garbage teams like Arizona and Colorado), and they have solid pitching to go with it. Not only do they boast starters like Brandon Woodruff with a 1.89 ERA for the year, but they also have two other pitchers, Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes, who have a better ERA than Kyle Hendricks, who leads Cubs starters with a 3.84 ERA. Plus, the Brewers have Josh Hader, another incredibly talented closer like Kimbrel. It will be a tough test for the Cubs — let’s see if they survive. 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!

Baseball

The Cubs, a team that is not exactly outstanding while healthy, suck even more when they aren’t healthy. This series they played almost entirely without their two best hitters in Jake Marisnick (on 10-day IL thanks to yet another in a long line of hamstring injuries) and Kris Bryant (who was sick both games). Without them, the Cubs went on to get outhit by the 2nd-worst hitting team in the league, losing both games by just a single run and very impressively going 2-for-24 this series with runners in scoring position. But what else is new?

May 11, 2021
Cubs 2, Cleveland 3
WP: Bieber (4-2) LP: Alzolay (1-3)
Box Score

The Cubs’ injury woes only continued through this game, as Kris Bryant left mid-game and got replaced by Nick Martini after he was feeling “under the weather.” The lineup afterward (and the ensuing batting average of each player) was nothing short of horrific. I’m sure at the beginning of this season you were hoping to only watch Eric Sogard and Matt Duffy in intervals, in small doses, and only rarely on the field together. But for the last few weeks, they’ve been slotting in pretty much every day, at all sorts of positions, as Cubs players keep going down with injury.

And remember when it was DAVID BOTE’S TURN to be the full-time third baseman? It’s actually Matt Duffy’s turn now, everyone. Bote slotted in today as the DH, despite having a .184 batting average and gaining no hits. I guess that’s about the batting average a starting pitcher would have if the DH wasn’t a thing, so in that sense nothing was gained or lost with Bote as DH.

The Cubs of note who did good things this game included Willson Contreras, who singled in the 2nd inning to score Anthony Rizzo. After Cleveland homered in the 4th inning, Sogard made himself useful and hit a solo homer of his own in the 5th to put the Cubs back up. Unfortunately, at the bottom of the inning Cleveland hit a 2-run homer of their own to put the game away for good.

Adbert Alzolay continues to tread water in the pitching department; the team would like Alzolay to survive more than 6 innings during his starts, but he’s had yet to really do that this year. Granted, none of the Cubs starters have been able to do that this year, so we can cut him some slack in that regard.

Alzolay allowed no walks, but he also allowed five hits and the two home runs that won Cleveland the game. The Cubs then pulled him after the 6th inning to introduce Brad Wieck to his 13th inning over three seasons with the Cubs. (The team brought him up to help bolster the bullpen after Marisnick’s injury, opting to go for a short bench for a couple games while hoping Happ and Hoerner will be back this weekend.) Wieck pitched only one inning last season, but that earned him a solid 13.00 ERA on the year. Luckily, Wieck allowed no runs or walks, striking out one batter before handing the mound over to Rex Brothers for what ended up being the final inning for the Cubs, as Matt Duffy grounded into a double play to end the game.

May 12, 2021
Cubs 1, Cleveland 2 (F/10)
WP: Karinchak (1-0) LP: Thompson (1-1)
Box Score

Despite Kris Bryant being out of the starting lineup today, Cubs fans should have no fear; Javier Baez is here! Finally back after being out a few games, Baez characteristically struck out in the 1st inning as his “I’m back” gift to the fans. (Baez had only one hit today, but that was one hit more than six other players on the team.) Additionally, Eric Sogard started the day off strong with a fielding error in which he dropped the ball and allowed two runners to stay on base in a no-out situation. Will it ever end?

Willson Contreras and Joc Pederson could be found dragging the rest of the team’s dead weight offensively all game. Contreras had four hits, while Pederson had three hits and an RBI. The only offense for either team both came in the 6th inning, where Pederson was able to drive in Ildemaro Vargas for the Cubs’ only run. The lead didn’t stay around for long, however, as Zach Davies allowed two doubles to start off the bottom of the inning that scored Cesar Hernandez for Cleveland.

Zach Davies continues to try his best to impress Cubs fans with his pitching, but the fact of the matter is he’s just not Yu Darvish. He allowed five hits, a run and two walks in only 5.1 innings pitched. He also had four strikeouts, which I guess is better than none. After allowing Cleveland to tie the game, however, Justin Steele was brought in to close out the inning, as we got to experience some more of that Homegrown Talent the front office keeps trying to claim we have.

Steele wasn’t an eyesore, getting a strikeout, allowing a walk and getting another strikeout against the top of Cleveland’s batting order. (Once again, with a batting average ranked 29th in the league, that’s not exactly hard to do.) But Rossy didn’t push his luck, going with Ryan Tepera for the 7th inning, who also struck out two.

Andrew Chafin then pitched two innings of good baseball, striking out two batters and letting the defense behind him get the rest. His ERA is now down to 3.00 after this game. Rolling out the Homegrown Pitchers continued as Keegan Thompson was asked to do some extra innings pitching, and unfortunately things didn’t go well for him. After walking the first batter, Rene Rivera was able to sac bunt, putting two players in scoring position. Thompson intentionally walked Andres Giminez, loading up the bases, and in a two-out situation, Amed Rosario singled to walk off the game.

The Cubs get yet another day off, hopefully to heal most of their starting lineup, and then they face the Detroit Tigers in a 3-game series in Detroit. The Tigers aren’t much better offensively than Cleveland, hitting at a .216 team batting average, good for 27th in the league. Their batting has allowed them to fall all the way to the very bottom of the AL Central, with an atrocious 11-24 record, despite being on a 2-game winning streak that saw them beat the Twins and the Royals.

Hopefully the Cubs come out well-rested, healthier, and ready to win a couple of games over the weekend because if you can’t beat the Detroit Tigers I’m not sure who you can beat. Go Cubs go.

Baseball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baseball

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

We know in one sport that the state of Wisconsin likes to hold itself up as a beacon of “the right way” and “what football should be.” It’s nauseating as fuck and hardly true, as the career of the greatest QB of all-time goes pretty much to waste. And really, their baseball team should be more of an example to others than that. At least in one sense.

Most teams, or owners to be precise, think the way to the mountain top is to dive for the valley first. Sell off anything that’s not nailed down, acquire prospects and pool money, get high picks in the draft, take three-four years, and presto. You’re the Astros or Cubs. It worked a couple times, so many assume this is the only way. Of course, owners like this plan because they can promise fans they know what they’re doing and the reward is coming while also getting to spend nothing for a few season and soak in the profits.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, and the Brewers have proved it. You can become a contender, such as the Brewers are, by just being shrewd and making your move at the right time. You don’t need a slew of top-three picks to reconstruct a system.

The Brewers have never really bottomed out this decade. Since winning the Central in 2011, they only had one truly bad campaign, which was in 2015 where they only managed 68 wins. Which is the season that got David Stearns the GM job and kicked Doug Melvin upstairs.

But Stearns was able to profit off the work Melvin had done before, as soon the system was producing Kyle Davies, Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson, Domingo Santana (before he returned to the Earth’s core, apparently), Josh Hader (the latter two in a trade with the Astros). Most of these players would form the backbone of the recent Brewers teams that have been so annoying.

And it was Melvin’s picks in the past that made up the haul for Christian Yelich from the Marlins, which of course is the biggest move of all. Stearns sensed there was something there for the Brewers have an 86-win campaign in 2017, and struck. He also signed Lorenzo Cain, who was a down-ballot MVP candidate last season. At no point did the Brewers have to spend three or four seasons making up the numbers, making players up, and making everyone in Milwaukee go do something else.

More teams should probably do this, because it’s less torturous. The problem is, the boom window might not last as long, and that’s what the Brewers could be finding out.

They have little option going forward but to keep going for it, as Yelich only has three years left on his contract (two years plus a team option that is most certainly going to be exercised). As we said with the Packers, you don’t waste a perennial MVPs prime. But Cain is aging quickly, the pitching staff is in shambles, and as they’re finding out this year, a team built on a bullpen has the rockiest of foundations.

They’re also not terribly young in the field. Keston Hiura and Yelich are the only regulars who matter that are under 30. and Grandal has a mutual option in the winter so he’s no guarantee to come back (though given how free agency went for him and many others last time, he may just take the security of a paycheck). So to suggest anyone other than Hiura or Yelich is going to be as good next year is the hilt of cock-eyed.

The rotation is probably priority one, as they can no longer know what Jimmy Nelson will be and Brandon Woodruff appears to be constructed entirely of matchsticks. This team could use Gerrit Cole more than just about anyone, but he’s headed straight to Anaheim when free agency opens. Anthony Rendon would be an upgrade on the corners, though that would involve moving Moustakas to either second or first full-time. And the former isn’t really an option thanks to Hiura.

It’s also a question of how high the Brewers can go. They draw well when they’re good, and they’ve been good the past three years. But they’re already on the hook for in the neighborhood of $160M next year, and it’s hard to see them going too much higher and anywhere near $200M next season or anytime soon.

You can rebuild by patchwork and creativity. But you don’t end up with quite the base. What the Brewers do going into next season will show just how sustainable, and attractive, their option for building a team is for others.