View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003



August 2017



Thank Goodness There’s a Rubber Game

Written by , Posted in General

The series against the Nats was one that, on paper, seemed to be one of the tougher matchups for the Cubs, even with the knowledge that they wouldn’t be facing Max Scherzer.  Saturday’s game, in which they drew ex-just-about-every-teamer Edwin Jackson, seemed like it would be a rather easy W to drop in to the calendar–even before the first inning.  When the offense logged 4 runs on 5 hits–including new Cub Alex Avila‘s first homer with the team–in the inning, you almost wanted to breathe a sigh of relief…surely, if they can hang 4 on Jackson in the first, they were on their way to a romp, John Lackey‘s issues with longballs aside.

But, that’s not the way things have gone for the 2017 Cubs.  Jackson settled down to get through a full 5 innings, all the while striking out 8(!) Cubs, giving up only one additional hit, and not walking a guy.  Yes, Edwin Jackson went 5 innings without walking a guy.  How many times did he do that while we were paying an arm and a leg for him?  I’m guessing somewhere in the vicinity of 0.

The first inning run bug once again appears to be biting the Cubs starters, after starting well out of the break in that facet of the game; the last 3 or 4 games, though, have seen runs coming across for the visitors pretty consistently again.  Its hard to say why even the better arms in the rotation are getting touched up, but it’s something that definitely won’t fly if/when October baseball rolls around.  End of the day, though, Willson Contreras did enough for the Cubs to win, while playing left field, and the Cubs remain half a game up on the Brewers in the division (no thanks to Tampa Bay).

Putting All Your Catchers In The Same Lineup

I get that you don’t want to sit Willson Contreras right now; he’s pretty much the Cubs only significant offense recently.  I also understand you want to get Avila some time behind the plate, learning the staff, so on and so forth.  But putting both guys in the lineup in the game game is playing with fire–see the Kyle Schwarber injury last year, and understand at the same time that the Cubs don’t have another Willson Contreras down on the farm.  Sure, Contreras is an improvement over Schwarber in LF, and its hard to see Schwarber being used as a backstop right now in any event other than an emergency (it’s likely Maddon doesn’t either, as he was the first pinch hitter off the bench batting in the 5th and he did not stay in the game). You end up locking both guys into the game on top of that, unless you want to end up one bad route or slide away from using, I don’t know, Justin Grimm as a catcher.

Rizzo, Rizzo, Rizzo…

The Nats’ 4th run came around as a result of a throwing error to finish a double play, charged to Javy Baez.  It wasn’t the most horrible throw, but at the same time, Rizzo got leather on the ball.  He gets it if he’s willing to take his foot off the bag, and either keeps it to runners on 1st and 3rd with 2 out, or you get Bryce Harper in a rundown between 3rd and home (which gives you a good chance of ending the inning).

Minor (League) Matters

Triple-A: Iowa v Fresno (W, 6-1)

Seth Frankoff gave Iowa a good start, 5 innings of 1-run ball, but would wind up with a no-decision as he ended up leaving with a deficit.  Victor Caratini got Frankoff off the hook with a 2-run shot in the 6th off Fresno’s starter, who left without recording an out in the 6th; this would end up being the difference in this one.

Double-A: Tennessee v Pensacola (W, 6-2)

Tennessee took a 3-0 lead in the 4th when Yasiel Balaguert scored on a Trey Martin single, and from there the Smokies never really looked back.  Pensacola closed the gap with two in their half of the 7th, but Tennessee responded with two of their own in the home half of the frame.

A-Adv: Myrtle Beach v Salem (W, 4-3)

A nice day for the Cubs’ organization, with yet another win by a farm team.  The Pelicans took a 3-run lead in the 1st, before letting Salem nibble away before tying it in the 4th. DH Jesse Hodges knocked a solo homer in the 6th to break the tie, and the Pelicans held on for the W.

Class A: South Bend @ Bowling Green (L, 8-0)

South Bend gives us our first L of the day in the organization, and also the first road team of the day.  Bowling Green scored in 4 of their 8 offensive innings, while the SB-Cubs managed only 6 hits on the day.

Short-A: Eugene @ Spokane (In Progress, Eugene trails 8-7, Top 5)

A game in progress, but I did want to check in on Cubs’ first rounder Brendon Little, making his second start for Eugene tonight.  It’s…not pretty, folks.  He was pulled after giving up 6 runs in 1.2 innings, with 7 hits, 1 walk, and 1 lonely strikeout.  He’s sporting a 17.36 ERA in 4.2 innings total, something that hopefully improves.  That said, Eugene aren’t going quietly into the night in the northwest, as the gap is down to one run in the 5th.

  • Junior Von White

    Theo and Jed must be thinking “Genius Joe is finally understanding our secret recipe for succes: playing as many catchers in one game as possible! We are so happy to have made the Avila trade so that he, Contreras, and Schwarber can all play at the same time.”

    I simply do not understand Joe’s dislike for good defense. I’m almost expecting a Schwarber-Zobrist-Contreras outfield in the future.

    • Michael S.

      Ahh, the old ‘No Singles’ defense! Beat the other team down by making them run the bases all day!

  • Brad Lyerla

    JVW, you said it. If you review Joe’s remarks during the run last year, he often spoke of the importance of defense. I think he meant it. But this year the offense has been so anemic that Joe seems all too ready to fill out the lineup card with lesser defenders in order to try to generate some runs. I sort of get that, but Joe has gone overboard.

    In particular, I really dislike Schwarber in left field. I guess he is a great club house guy. I see why the Cubs want him on the squad. But man, oh man. Go to a game and watch him carefully for a while. He looks so uncertain out there. So out of place. (Imagine a cartoon bubble above his head: “I hope he doesn’t hit it to me.”) Despite recent performance, Schwarber is an extraordinarily talented hitter, but he belongs at first base or DH.

    Speaking of first base, what is with Rizzo lately? I am with Michael there all the way too. Rizzo’s defense is not awful. But it is disappointingly mediocre. He was not the best defensive first baseman in the league last year. But he was a lot better than this year.

    • Junior Von White

      Right on. I would (and have) also argue that the misplacement of defenders contributes to the lack of offense. Schwarber is out there hoping nothing comes his way and is too rattled about playing out of position that it messes with his hitting and overall approach. The same can be said about others when they have to play out of position (see Zobrist, Ben).

      I’m not saying it’s ALL because of that, but it certainly doesn’t help.

      • Brad Lyerla

        I agree that there can be a connection and it looks like there is with Schwarber. Though Zobrist is not phased by how he is being used, in my opinion. He is not super athletic. But he is steady enough and he is still selective at the plate.

        On the flip side, I wonder if Bryant took some pride in his unusual versatility last season. Does he miss that?

      • Michael S.

        If my memory serves me right, it always seemed like Bryant’s bat went dead when he was out in left last year…at the start of the season in certain of it, but not sure if that lasted…

      • Sherm

        Agree 100%. If defense mattered to this team? Almora would be in CF almost every day, and Jay (who has been productive offensively) would be in left. Almora is a great CF. Jay is good, with a very weak arm. Do you think the pitchers don’t KNOW that Schwarber is out there in left? Do you think there’s a pitcher on the team who doesn’t think (inwardly) about that? Yes, he homered today. So with the defensive misplay, today was a push, maybe. He doesn’t homer everyday.

        To me – Schwarber’s bat looks much slower than when he came up two years ago. I wonder if the weight training hasn’t slowed him down considerably. It doesn’t matter if you can hit it 550 feet – there are no extra points for distance. I liked him better as a quality hitter with a great sense of the strike zone (that’s gone, too) and power just because.

        Ron Darling is outstanding. I had the game today on TBS and was thrilled to be able to see it. Until I wasn’t. But Darling calls it like he sees it, and it’s very refreshing.

        Once again, Maddon looked confused. One thing he’s not confused about, though, is the “Easy Rider” West Coast trip coming up. I never thought I’d say this – as I was so happy when they hired him – but I’m tired of his schtick. They won’t fire him. Not for a while, anyway, but I’d seriously consider firing the batting coaches. As a team, the approach is pathetic, they strike out too much, are awful in the clutch, and always seem to be completely without a plan – every at bat, and every game.

        I really don’t think this team makes the playoffs.

      • Where did they find an entire offensive coaching staff to all live by the same game plan: “hope we hit some home runs and hope the other team doesn’t. Go team!”

      • Doc Raker

        If Almora is in CF and JJ in left field Lester has a 1,2,3 third inning and gets into the 8th inning, maybe even through the 8th inning making this a very different game.
        The added pitches thrown by your starter for not getting outs you should get is a profound disadvantage for a team with a struggling bullpen like the Cubs. The Schwarber error and home run is not a push, it is advantage Nationals. The Difo triple over JJ head to start the 3rd inning was a play Almora makes EASILY. This allowed the Nats to get into the Cubs bullpen sooner than they deserved to.

    • Allan Birmantas

      I like Schwarber’s glove better than his bat. An outfielder who can’t hit his weight, does not help the team. I t6hink he really needs a full season of AAA ball.

      • Eddie Von White

        I hate his glove, see: dropped ball, run scored, right now.

      • Michael S.

        Beat me to it.

      • Karen Hirsh

        I have said many times Schwarber needs to be traded to an American League team as a DH or send him to Iowa. He needs go. I see he is in the lineup today. What a mistake.

      • Eddie Von White

        And then he hits a homer.

      • Karen Hirsh

        One hit out of 7 or 8 times at the plate doesn’t do it.

      • Doug S.

        Glove better than bat???
        I need help.

  • Doc Raker

    I always thought Rizzo’s defense was overrated, sure he makes great catches jumping onto the tarp bu he doesn’t make basic plays first basemans need to make. He failed to scoop several poor throws from Russsell this week along with clanking Javy’s double play throw yesterday. About Javy’s throw- it was catchable. The runner would have beaten the throw even if Rizzo caught it but the run doesn’t score if Rizzo catches. The ball hit the bottom of Rizzo’s glove, he was stretched out plenty, his glove was just set to high. It was a very catchable ball and it was Rizzo’s error, not Javy’s although it wasn’t a great throw. But that is the point: A major league first baseman needs to catch poor throws, he needs to save his infielders from errors. Rizzo fails to do that too often. He also backs up on simple ground balls and misses simple ground balls. Rizzo is not a gold glove let alone a platinum glove.

  • Doc Raker

    The TV feed replayed the Rizzo clank play several times and it clearly showed the ball clanking off Rizzo’s glove which Len and JD then said……………………….nothing. Len and JD ignored the clank play like good soldiers. Nothing to see here, stop showing the replays, move along folks.

    • Karen Hirsh

      Rizzo should have gotten the throw from Baez. The whole team is worse than last year. As I have often stated turn the mute button on since Len and JD know nothing.

  • Doc Raker

    When is the last time Rizzo went yard in a close game?

    • Eddie Von White


      • Sherm

        A Tuesday. (Probably)

        Have you noticed that although Rizzo chokes up with two strikes, he goes BACK to the end of the bat when the count is 3-2? I find that interesting. He obviously feels the count is in his favor at 3-2, but I’d say it isn’t ad in OR ad out in that situation, and personally would suggest he stick with the more flexible approach. He’s obviously strong enough to homer while choking up – we’ve seen it.

  • Doc Raker

    Montgomery should of never came out. Harpers hit was lucky, Montgomery would of got out of the 8th.

  • Brad Lyerla

    Now that the dynasty is clearly (if not officially) over, I want to remind everyone how great it was at Wrigley in the 70s. You could walk up the day of the game and there would be 20,000 seats available. Once you were in the park, there was lots of elbow room and you could move down into the boxes at will, after a few innings. That is, of course, if you were not in the bleachers. Out there it was crowded. In fact, based on how many people now claim to have been out there, there were at least 3x as many people in the bleachers most days as there were seats.

    But I preferred the lower grand stands. If the Cubs played poorly, as often was the case, then it would clear out early. They didn’t stop selling beer after the the 6th like now. So by the 7th inning, you might have your own personal beer man. Which was nice. Plus, there was Old Style and Hamms. Bud didn’t come until the 1980s. My first game after the deal with Bud was signed, we were playing the Cardinals. I told my friend Whiteford when he bought a Budweiser, “why don’t you just go throw your money into the visitor’s dugout.” He got the message. No more Bud.

    Now, of course, there is Budweiser and Goose Island. They are both owned by InBev a company based in Belgium.

    Anyway. Winning was great last year. But losing was great too. I could get used to it again . . . .

    • Doc Raker

      I dislike crowds also and enjoyed ending up in the first row of the box seats back in the pre-tourist days of Wrigley Field. But there is nothing like the roar of the crowd at Wrigley when the Cubs are in contention and someone does something great during an intense game.

      I remember in 1982, the Cubs were in last place and Dallas Green had just started to change the culture of Wrigley Field. I was in the bleachers and it was the beginning of August and the Cubs had a small winning streak going although still a second division team with no hopes of post season play. The PA announcer comes on and says, “Welcome to Wrigley Field, home of the winningest team in baseball for the month of August, Your Chicago Cubs.” The place went nuts.

      Old Style, Hamms and Schlitz, remember the Schlitz tall ship commercials. I was 10 years old thinking, “Those guys on the ships have a good time”

      I disagree that losing is great but I do like less crowds and less posers getting in my way.

      • Brad Lyerla

        Doc, I hated losing then more than I hate the crowds now. Just venting after a particularly annoying loss.

        Watched a few innings on TBS today. Ron Darling is even better in a two man booth, than the three man set up he does in the post season.

      • Doc Raker

        Darling is great, so is FP Santegelo with the Nats broadcast. You had three broadcasts going for yesterdays game, 2 were great and then there is Len and JD.

  • Doug S.

    I now feel your pain VFTBs. I’m in Salt Lake City tonight and want to watch a little Mets-Dodgers sans sound/Jessica. Not only is the game not on ESPN, it’s blacked out on my laptop and my phone. In Vancouver I’m out of market and get everything. In SLC I’m in market????…………….for what exactly?….

    • Bryzzo1744

      It’s not on ESPN? I just put on ESPN and it’s on there. It’s blacked out on MLB TV since it’s a national broadcast. I just tried to watch it on the app.

      • Doug S.

        CAPS to the rescue!!!………….thanks.
        Turns out I have 4 ESPN channels, thought I only had 3.
        So happy I may turn the sound on………..ok maybe not.
        Ignore market rant above.

      • Bryzzo1744

        Is one of them the ocho?

      • Doug S.

        Don’t know, but Jessica was just (silently) explaining some sort of batting technique holding up something you might club a caught fish with.

      • Bryzzo1744

        lol ESPN The Ocho is from Dodgeball, and tomorrow ESPNU will be ESPN The Ocho in ode to the movie.