The sound you heard might have been the Cubs clicking. Maybe not, but maybe so. I’ll say this – if they’ve waited until now to kick it into gear…but start playing great? I can live with that. It’s not how you start.
I saw yesterday that the coaching staff had the team out early – for the second day in a row – to work on basic infield fundamentals, and baserunning strategy. Obviously, they read this blog. I mean, obviously. And it was with something close to disbelief that I watched the game and the OFFENSIVE strategy last night. But, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. First, in case you missed it – let’s recap the game.
Despite getting squeezed BAD by HORRIBLE umpire CB Bucknor, Kyle Hendricks was still excellent. I’ll venture to say that any other Cub pitcher pitches into trouble last night. Lackey probably snaps and has the first recorded knockout of an ump. Lester’s head would have exploded. Hendricks simply slowed it down a notch, and made the Braves miss. With that idiot behind the plate, I’d say he pitched a great game. The bullpen, despite Bucknor, didn’t falter. Wilson struck out the side in the ninth. Hell froze.
Cubs got a couple in the first – the most impressive coming on a shortened Javy Baez swing and a single to right field. For impact, and so that you don’t have to go back and read that again: a shortened Javy Baez swing and a single to right field. Yes. You read it right. And, it wasn’t the only time he tried to go that way. Seems like the high leg kick was absent yesterday. Hmmm. Kris Bryant, who broke it open with a 2 run homer in the sixth, also tried to hit the ball the other way earlier. Almora singled to right and flew out to right, twice. Rivera got an RBI by walking with the bases loaded. The offense was almost…clicking?
Ben Zobrist put down a beautiful bunt to move the runner in the fourth – it didn’t lead to a run, but it was well executed and a very productive out. If he knew how to run fast, he’d have probably beaten it.
Oh. And Jon Jay had four hits and scored two runs.
So, despite nine K’s, they were productive and effective last night. And I kept asking myself “what’s different?” And then it punched me right in the head. The top of the order. It’s being PRODUCTIVE. Let’s review. First three hitters: 7 – 13 with FIVE runs scored. Just typing that makes me weepy. That’s what “tops of orders” do. So why hasn’t the Cub machine being doing that? Ummm…because a guy hitting a buck ninety something has been there most of the year? It’s not rocket surgery. Jay gets on. Zobrist either moves him over or knocks him in. Bryant actually gets a few RBI’s. Cubs get a lead. The rest of the offensive follows suit. It happened all year last year. It hasn’t happened this year. Until NOW. Let’s HOPE it continues.
Defense. Normally steady Zobrist booted a ball at second. Only his second error of the year. It happens. I give him a pass. Led to an unearned run. Ian Happ looked like Ian Anderson in right field on one ball that should have been caught, but Hendricks pitched through that without harm. There’s gonna be another “oh” – wait for it…
Oh. ALBERT ALMORA IS A GREAT CENTERFIELDER. Not only did he make a fantastic diving (running in) catch to end an inning and save runs, but he effortlessly ran down two or three balls that would have been a lot more “exciting” with anyone else out there. If I were a Cub pitcher? I’d be begging to have him in the lineup every day.
Non game related stuff:
The Cubs are supposedly desperate to find a back up shortstop for Baez in case Russell is out more than a couple weeks. Maddon’s comment: “I really believe we have to keep Javy well. We really have to protect him Javy…I have to give him a day off now and then.” My response to that? He’s a young stud with a barrel of energy in the middle of a pennant race. He doesn’t need time off. He’s not Joe’s age. What did Javy have to say? “I’ll do whatever I can to help the team. Shortstop is my natural position. I’ve rested all year on the days I didn’t play – this is what I WANT – to play everyday.”
Other news – Justin Verlander WANTED to play for the Cubs. The Cubs couldn’t pull it off because they had given up their blue chip talent already. Unfortunately. He’d have been a great addition. A great competitor – and a big game guy. Astros just got a lot better for the stretch run. The Cubs did however, make an addition. They acquired Leonys Martin from the Mariners for absolutely no apparent reason whatsoever.
I saw a Len Kasper tweet that started with the word “goodbye” and I got really excited for a moment. But he was just saying goodbye to August, because, you know, months have feelings, too.
I don’t know if the minor leagues are even still playing. Nor do I care. So there’s your minor league “report.”
If you haven’t read and commented on yesterday’s GirlieView – go back and do it. NOW.