Organizational Recap: Cubs Offense Bails Out Starters … Again.
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
On a weekend when Chicago football fans are complaining about bad trades? Really?
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?