Three Strikes – Happ Looks Solid as Starting Pitching Issues Persist
It would have been nice to take this series from the St. Louis Cardinals, but alas, the Cubs lost the rubber game of the series on Sunday by a score of 5-0. But hey, at least we aren’t amidst the hellish run of a couple weeks ago in which the starting pitchers couldn’t get through two innings and games were going as long as 18 frames. A semi-normal routine will do the Cubs a lot of good as they try to regain control of the NL Central this spring.
Kris Bryant should be good to go following his stomach bug in the upcoming series, and Jason Heyward is available to return from the disabled list on Tuesday. According to a few Cubs reporters, however, it is unlikely he will come back that soon.
STRIKE ONE – Starting Pitching Struggles Continue
Coming into Sunday’s game, Jake Arrieta was sitting on a 4-2 record with an ERA hovering around five. Unfortunately, he maintained that earned-run average as he exited Sunday’s game following the sixth inning after giving up four runs off of two two-run home runs.
Yadier Molina hit a two-run home run in the second, and Matt Carpenter homered against his college teammate for the first time ever when he hit his two-run home run in the third. It wasn’t a terrible outing from Arrieta—you’d like to get some run support—but it could have been better.
A lot of teams around the league are performing poorer than expected so far this year, so it makes one wonder who all will be willing to make some deals for starting pitching. I think it’s pretty clear that the Cubs need some help in the rotation. The question is: what are the Cubs willing to give up to improve the situation? Surely the club will not just be looking for an arm to get them through this season. After winning the World Series last year, one has to assume the Cubs will be looking for more long-term value rather than short-term value (especially considering it will cost a good prospect).
STRIKE TWO – Happ Looks Good!
When Ian Happ was doing so well in spring training, I was hoping the Cubs would find a way to get him on the major league club sooner rather than later, but knowing the Cubs lineup, I figured it would require one or more injuries to some starters.
Well, Heyward and Ben Zobrist dinged up the last week or so, it opened the door for Happ to get some experience in the big leagues. It has been really fun to watch him this weekend, with his home run on Saturday and his solid day yesterday, but I have to wonder how long he’ll be up.
I hope he stays up for good, but I am not sure what would happen otherwise to the roster. Would keeping Happ with the Cubs be as easy as sending Tommy La Stella down? Is that the best decision? Probably, because Happ affords some flexibility that La Stella doesn’t—he even made it over to center field late in Sunday’s game.
Who knows? Regardless, it has been fun to watch Happ the last couple of days, and I am interested to see how the Cubs handle him moving forward.
STRIKE THREE – A Word on the Slide Rule
On Saturday, the Cubs were burned by the MLB’s new “slide rule,” when Happ overslid second base. Breaking the rule resulted in an “out” call that kept the Cubs from scoring a run. So far this season, the new slide rule doesn’t seem to be called by umpires on the field as much as it is called by instant replay review when a manager decides to take advantage of the new rule he hates.
Why am I bringing this up in the Sunday recap when the incident happened on Saturday? Well, Sunday before the game, Joe Maddon had a few more (sarcastic) words to say about the rule. Jesse Rogers reports:
“I have some other additions to it,” Maddon said. “We should eliminate the head-first slide. That is a dangerous slide. Your hand could (get hurt), your eye could get poked out. All these different things can occur on a head first slide.
The job of a manager is to coach his players to play within the bounds of the rules of the game, no matter how stupid they are. Next time Joe challenges a play in which an opposing player who overslides a base, I’d like reporters to ask how he feels about the slide rule.
I get it. It’s a dumb rule. I wish it wasn’t a rule, but here we are. Let’s just adapt and move on.
The Cubs have the day off tomorrow before they begin a 10-game homestand against the Reds, Brewers, and Giants. I’ll catch them in San Diego over Memorial Day weekend whey they head out to play the Padres.
AAA – Iowa Cubs (15-20) Won 11 to 10
SP – Jake Buchanan – 5 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 K
2B – Chesny Young – 2 for 4, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB
AA – Tennessee Smokies (22-15) Lost 4 to 3
SP – Trevor Clifton – 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
2B – David Bote – 3 for 4, RBI
A-Adv – Myrtle Beach Pelicans (21-16) Won 7 to 0 & 5 to 4
SP – Oscar De La Cruz – 7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
SP – Casey Bloomquist – 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K