View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003



April 2017



Organizational Recap: Cubs Offense Bails Out Starters … Again.

Written by , Posted in General

Just because the Cubs were able to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series doesn’t mean they need to recreate that stress and anxiety for Cubs fans so frequently in 2017.

The Cubs hitters found themselves in an early three-run deficit before launching three homers (and a well-placed bloop) to even the series at one against the Boston Red Sox with a 7-4 win at Fenway.

When the Cubs are trailing this season, the offense is first in the league in RBI (50), tied for second in the league in home runs (14) and third in the league in average (.283). Not bad for a first-place team.

Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero each hit home runs to fuel the comeback, but it was Kyle Schwarber’s bloop into center field that gave the Cubs the lead for good in the seventh. It was a great piece of hitting for the struggling (.211) lead-off hitter who had to reach low and away for the go-ahead knock. The more confidence for Schwarbs the better.

It was great to see both Schwarber and Zobrist (.214) have offensive progress. Now Javy Baez (.203) needs to show some improvement along with them.

For Starters … How About Some Consistency?

Starting pitcher John Lackey surrendered two third-inning home runs, one each to Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez, but battled through six innings (and another curse-laden exchange with an umpire) to get the win. His performance has been the typical scrappy outing most Cubs pitchers have showcased in 2017.

A 13-10 record on the last day of April is definitely a positive with the way the starting rotation’s performance has fluctuated thus far. All five starters showcase ERAs higher than 3.50 and three (Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and Lackey) have ERAs higher than a 4.50. Overall, the starters’ ERA is 4.34, good for 22nd in the league.

Particularly frustrating is the pressure the Cubs starters are putting on the offense (as mentioned above). Cubs starters own the worst first-inning ERA in the league at 9.39, including MLB-worst marks of eight home runs allowed and an opponent-batting average of .330. Maybe a little bit is a lack of focus. Maybe a little bit is that they are the World Champs and everyone is going to bring their best against them every night.

This, too, shall pass. This is a quality group of starting pitchers. When they click along with the offense, the wins will come much easier than they have recently. If not, let’s call up Dylan Cease (kidding … I think.)

Belief in the Bullpen

Though still a little skeptical because I am stubborn, I was one of the naysayers of the Cubs bullpen early on in the season, but the group has really righted the ship to close out April. It all starts with Hector Rondon owning the eighth-inning role – after a rockier start to the year, he now owns a 0.96 ERA leading into an unhittable closer in Wade Davis, who notched his sixth save of the season in 10.1 scoreless innings. In the scoreless-inning club, too, is Carl Edwards Jr. with nine clean frames.

Koji Uehara (1.86 ERA) threw a scoreless inning of relief on Saturday, and Mike Montgomery (1.88 ERA) endured some early struggles to become the strong lefty option out of the pen Cubs fans knew him to be last year. Only Justin Grimm, Brian Duensing and Pedro Strop still make our stomach muscles twinge a bit when they enter the game.

Funny Cubs Tweet of Day

Ian Happ/Duane Underwood Jr. for Sonny Gray/Sean Doolittle.”

On a weekend when Chicago football fans are complaining about bad trades? Really?

On Deck

Game: Chicago Cubs (13-10) at Boston Red Sox (12-11)

Game Time/TV/Radio: 7:05 p.m. CDT/ESPN/Radio 670 The Score

Starters: Kyle Hendricks (2-1, 4.50 ERA) vs. Eduardo Rodriguez (1-1, 3.12 ERA)

Class AAA – Colorado Springs SkySox at Iowa Cubs: Postponed due to Inclement Weather

Recap: Finally, someone slowed down Ian Happ. Congrats, Mother Nature. He’ll take you yard tomorrow.

Class AA – Tennessee Smokies 6, Mississippi Braves 3

SP – Duane Underwood Jr. ND, 5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

RP – James Pugliese W (2-1), 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K

3B – Jason Vosler 2-3, HR, RBI, R

C – Erick Castillo 2-4, HR, RBI, 2 R

CF – Jacob Hannemann 1-3, 3B, 3 RBI

Recap: Underwood followed up a strong start earlier in the week with some struggles in the second and third innings. He allowed seven hits and struck out five. He was the benefit of home runs by Vosler and Castillo. Vosler now has five home runs and 14 RBI on the season.

Class Advanced A – Lynchburg Hillcats 11, Myrtle Beach Pelicans 3

SP – Justin Steele L (1-2), 4.1 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

LF – Daniel Spingola 2-4, 3B, 2 RBI

RF – Eddy Martinez 1-4, R, RBI

SS – Trent Giambrone 2-4

2B – Bryan Flete 1-3, 2 R

Recap: Steele was off today, allowing six earned on 10 hits and raising his ERA to 3.74 on the season. This is really the only hiccup this far – just a blip on the radar, a bad night.

Class A – South Bend Cubs 4, Fort Wayne TinCaps 1

SP – Dylan Cease ND, 4.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 10 K

RP – Matt Swarmer W (2-1), 2.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K

LF – Kevonte Mitchell 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI

SS – Isaac Paredes 1-2, R, RBI

C – Jhonny Pereda 1-3, RBI

1B – Vimael Machin 1-3, R, 2B

Recap: Cease is getting nastier with each outing. His first inning resulted in three walks and his lone run on 32 pitches (he picked off his only other walk). He finished with 91 pitches on the day and tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts. His ERA now sits at 1.90 for the season. Advanced A is calling – how tough would be Cease/Steele/Thomas Hatch back-to-back-to-back be?

  • Doug S.

    Home plate ump seemed to change his mind a lot about what was a strike. Lackey – clearly unhappy early and let the ump know it. That may have bought him some fringe strikes later. Lackey may be his own worst enemy.

    The announcers and our recapper credited Schwarbs with a nice piece of hitting on the reach bloop. I would call that generous. Meanwhile the Schwarbs LOB # grows. Many of you guys have suggested moving him down the order. Agree.

    Some of you have also suggested the off day platoon in CF play left. Bingo. Jay seemed good out there

    Nice to see closer Davis zero’d in. Bit of a fielding gaff, but he looked good. Nice win by the guys.

  • Dork

    Good points above – all on the angst but the bullpen has been one of the most solid parts of the team.

  • Doc Raker

    If Maddon leads off Schwarbs tonight against a lefty he should have his head examined. It should be a righty dominated line up with Rizzo staying put and Schwarbs hitting 9th if he must be in the line up. This is a good day for Ceasar to start in the OF.

    Maddon frustrated me with his moves yesterday, I didn’t understand why Maddon took JJ out of left field and moved Zo to left, I thought it was a defensive downgrade, until Zo hit the home run and then I said to myself, “Self, Maddon must of known Zo was going yard.” Who would you rather have in LF for a defensive replacement, Zo or JJ?

    • Zorb.. Jh Jh’s arm is atrocious.

      • Doug S.

        True, but that’s usually where your worst OF’s arm plays. I know, I was one. For defense I’ll take JJ. Welcome back Frankenswan.

      • Doc Raker

        You don’t need an arm in left field in Fenway, the Green Monster is 30 feet behind 3rd base.

    • Sherm

      Schwarber is leading off – and 4 lefties in the starting lineup, including Jay. Might as well trade Szczur. They don’t use him and other teams need help due to injuries.

      Not sure why Baez and Szczur would both sit vs a leftie starter…

  • Bruce Fritz

    Fun game yesterday, despite the pitching struggles. I guess 4 errors by the Sox will help…

    Kept hoping for a Schwarbomb to help him shake off the slump but no luck

  • Bryzzo1744
  • Bryzzo1744
  • Bryzzo1744
  • Sherm

    So. No game plan or pre-game conversation about how to pitch Hanley?

    And by the way? Mendoza is still awful.

    • I thought they were firing people at ESPN. Not her? (I’ve got Pat and Coomer on XM.)

      • Sherm

        XM – great idea. I’m on it. She’s giving me a headache. I like Boone but the imbalance is too great…

  • Sherm

    The Cubs need an OPENER.

    A new pitching specialist who pitches only the first inning.

    The Near-starter then comes in and pitches from second inning on…

  • Doc Raker

    Lefty pitcher. Why isn’t Ceasar starting? Why isn’t bAez starting? Why is Schwarbs still leading off? Maddon has become an idiot.

    Can our starters ever get threw the first inning without giving up the lead?

  • Doc Raker

    Mendoza said the Ramirez 440 foot home run that went over the 30 foot green monster was a line drive.

    Mendoza likes the way Bryant bends his legs in his stance to get low, she thinks that is good for him because all the best softball hitters she has ever known have the same stance.

    • Sherm

      She also used the expression “barrel on ball” so many times that it started to make me uncomfortable.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      Has that line drive hit the moon yet?