Is This When the Cubs Turn the Corner?
For those playing along at home, Jon Jay is the winner of the daily contest, “Who leads off for the Cubs today?”. Jay brings a .389 OBP into the game so he is as good of a choice as any I suppose.
The Cubs had Jon Lester on the mound to try to salvage a split in the four game series against the Nationals and their starter, Joe Ross. The Cubs jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on hits from Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras but of course the Cubs gave up a run in the first as well. Things were pretty quiet until the bottom of the third when Ross led off with a double and moved to third on a bloop hit from Trea Turner.
Is it just me, or do the Cubs give up more hits against pitchers than any other team? I took five minutes from my busy day to try to research this but was unsuccessful in finding a good source. Anyone know where to find this information?
Back to the action. Lester struck out Ryan Rayburn and then Bryce Harper to get the first two outs. Ryan Zimmerman then hit a grounder to 3B Jeimer Candelario who threw a high ball to Rizzo at first who went up and was able to come down on the bag (without rolling his ankle) before the runner could get there. Crisis averted.
The game rolled along with both teams pitching well. Ross worked out of a jam in the 6th inning when Addison Russell swung at the first pitch and popped up to shallow center, stranding runners at second and third.
Candelario led off the seventh inning with his first career home run. I really liked that Contreras was the first in line to congratulate him. I think with a couple more years of experience, Contreras will be the de facto team leader. Maddon then decided to pinch hit for Lester even though he had only thrown 90 pitches. I made a note that I disagreed with the switch, not because I didn’t trust Carl Edwards to do the job, but because I didn’t trust anyone to bridge from Edwards to Wade Davis.
I was right but I was wrong. It was Edwards that stumbled today as he walked a couple batters and gave up a home run to Anthony Rendon, who is pretty quietly having a great season. The Nationals took a 4-2 lead and it seemed like the Cubs were going to drop a pretty big game, wasting a great effort from Lester.
I was curious on who was going to throw the 8th inning, expecting to see Justin Grimm or Koji Uehara. Surprisingly it was Felix Pena who came out and held the Nationals scoreless to give the Cubs a chance. Nice job by Pena, maybe he’s got a shot to be a nice bullpen piece yet.
The Cubs took advantage of the chance that Pena gave them. The Nationals gave Blake Treinen a chance to close the game since their current closer du jour, Matt Albers, had been used in three straight games. Treinen showed why he had lost the closer role earlier in the year as the Cubs had three straight hits after they had two outs. Javier Baez singled, advancing pinch runner Victor Caratini, and Caratini then scored on a single by pinch hitter Tommy La Stella. With runners on first and third, Jay hit a double into the right field gap scoring both runners.
Cubs closer Davis shut the Nationals down in order for his 16th save and gave the Cubs a wonderful split in the series.
- National lead-off hitter Turner had two more stolen bases but was thrown out trying to steal third base by Contreras. I don’t expect Contreras to complain about Lester’s time to home.
- More importantly to the Nationals, Turner was diagnosed with a broken bone is his right wrist after being hit by a pitch from Pedro Strop in the seventh inning.
- Dusty Baker was ejected for arguing a called third strike. Baker was upset as he felt that the batter had fouled the ball into the dirt. While I’ve never been a Baker fan, he was certainly correct in this instance. Not sure why that wouldn’t be a reviewable play.
- While I believe the Cubs will still win their division and make the playoffs, I would offer the Nationals Wade Davis tonight for either Victor Robles or Juan Soto and Carter Kieboom. This would be a limited time offer hoping that another blown save helps them realize they need a top closer to compete with the Dodgers and the Astros. If they bite, Edwards moves into the closer role.
- Uber prospect Eloy Jimenez was again named to the World team for the Futures Game that will be played on Sunday, July 9.
Around the League
- In a nice story at mlb.com, umpire John Tumpane is being hailed as a hero for helping prevent a woman from jumping off a bridge in Pittsburgh on Wednesday prior to umpiring that evening. In addition to Tumpane and one other man, the Rays’ manager of multimedia production, Michael Weinman, assisted the woman.
- Corey Kluber struck out 12 batters over eight innings to lead the Indians to a 5-1 victory over the Rangers. It was Kluber’s fourth straight game with double digit strikeouts.
- Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa hit two home runs to lead Houston to a 6-1 victory over Oakland.
- If SP Jimmy Nelson‘s 11 strikeouts weren’t enough, the Brewers hit six homers in a 11-3 thrashing of the Reds. Hopefully the Reds remain docile over the next few days.
Down on the Farm
AAA: Iowa (35-44) – The Cubs defeated the New Orleans Baby Cakes (dumbest name in the minors) 5-2 on Thursday afternoon. Casey Kelly picked up his fifth win of the season going 6 1/3 innings while giving up just two runs. Kelly may be in line for a look later in the year. Newly acquired pitcher Matt Carasiti (acquired for Zac Rosscup) pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save with the Cubs. Chris Dominguez was the hitting star for Iowa as he had three hits including his eighth homer of the year. The Kyle Schwarber watch continues. Schwarber went 1-3 with a single and a walk.
AA: Tennessee (40-36) – The Smokies defeated Jackson 9-4 on Thursday. Jason Vosler hit his 14th homer of the year, a three-run blast, in the eighth to help break a 4-4 tie. Ben Zobrist was 2-3 in his first rehab start.
H-A: Myrtle Beach (45-32) – The Pelicans fell to Potomac, the Nationals high-A team 5-1. Not much to report in this one, Potomac scored four in the first off Pelican starter Ryan Kellogg and never looked back.
L-A: South Bend (40-37) – South Bend lost to Fort Wayne 7-4. Starter Bryan Hudson had another rough outing as he gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings. One of my favorite lower level prospects, Vimeal Machin, hit his sixth homer and pushed his average close to .300. At 23 years old, it’s probably time to see if he can continue to progress at higher levels, I look to see him in Myrtle Beach very soon.
R: Eugene (9-5) – I stayed up long enough for Eugene to get their first hit. Unfortunately for them, it happened in the sixth inning. Vancouver was leading 1-0 after six innings.
The Cubs head to the launching pad in Cincinnati on Friday to open a three game series against the Reds. Mike Montgomery squares off against former Cub Scott Feldman (6-5, 4.07 era) in the opener. Wonder if Cincinnati would take Jake Arrieta and Strop for Feldman?