Davis, Cubs Blow Opportunity to Increase Central Lead
Well, give it to Wade Davis. When he blows up, he really blows up – he leaves little room for question.
The first blown save in 32 chances for Chicago’s All-Star closer allowed the second-place Brewers to steal a 4-3 victory from the Cubs at Miller Park. (Technically, it’s two blown saves, right?)
Alas, the Cardinals, too, lost on Saturday night – an 11-6 setback to the Pirates – to minimize the damage and drop the Cubs magic number to 4. The Cubs’ lead in the NL Central is 4.5 games over Milwaukee and 5 over the Redbirds.
Now … let the second-guessing Joe Maddon’s use of closers begin … again. Guess it’s that time of year!
Let me first say this – this is no time for panic. If Cubs fans learned anything from last year, it’s that this team can rebound from what would seem to be a crushing defeat. That said, this isn’t exactly how you want to go into a rubber match on the road against your rivals.
Let’s take a look at the decision that really spurned the loss, leaving your closer in the game right after he blew his first save in 32 chances this year. I’ll say this – Maddon has made greater head-scratching calls in his tenure as manager, and he likely was trying to show Davis that he gives zero bleeps about streaks or what they mean. This is why Maddon is so beloved in the clubhouse – it’s why he wouldn’t move or bench a struggling Anthony Rizzo in the lineup when the Cubs offense went missing in last year’s NLCS. He’s loyal through it all, and everyone has to live with it. We learned last year that it pays off in the end.
However, the decision does beg the question that perhaps bringing a razzled Davis back out in the 10th was fool-hearty when your very streaky team is in its most crucial stretch of the season. We know that unlike Game 7 of the World Series, both Carl Edwards and Mike Montgomery were unavailable because they combined to throw 3 innings of scoreless relief on Friday and Justin Wilson (more on him later) tossed 1.1 innings earlier in the game.
Who else was Maddon supposed to turn to that was better than his All-Star closer? It’s not like he rang up 40 pitches in 1.1 innings like Chapman became accustomed to doing during his stint as closer last year?
But I’m sitting here looking at the options – Koji Uehara, a back-to-back day for both Hector Rondon and Brian Duensing … anyone else? Sorry Justin Grimm and Carlos Pena, but no thank you. I’ll go with the guy whose confidence is mush at the moment.
Maddon went with who got him there, and that should have been Davis. And my guess is, with only those 23 pitches on Saturday, if the Cubs have a save situation today, Maddon will go back to the well and bring in Wade Davis. This is how he motivates this time of year … just as long as we have a save situation today.
My overarching worry that’s entirely illogical because of last year but entirely natural because of lifelong Cubs fandom is the confidence this win gives the Brewers (and the step back in confidence it takes from the Cubs). That said, I still bet on the world champs with Jose Quintana on the mound today. We need to get rid of those pits in our stomachs.
The magic number is still only four with eight to play. The numbers still add up. And Antonio Alfonseca or Carlos Marmol are STILL not the closers on this team. It’s gonna be OK.
Silver Linings for Today
• It’s official, Travis Shaw is becoming a Cubs killer. His 2-run bomb to win the game cements Jeff Blauser/Rob Mackowiak status on Cub-Killing.
• Hey, the guy’s been dumped on for his inability to find the strike zone since his acquisition from the Detroit Tigers, but on Saturday, lefty reliever Justin Wilson pitched like a boss. He opened the seventh with two Ks and looked pretty good doing it – given his pedigree, I’m OK with Wilson being our seventh or eighth-inning guy in the playoffs.
• The Brewers starting pitching has been damn good – though, outside of Zach Davies and today’s starter Chase Anderson, I have no clue who the hell some of these guys are. I thought Brent Suter played for the Blackhawks. I certainly think Suter and Friday’s starter, Brandon Woodruff, are not the caliber of playoff aces like Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw. So the fact that our offense is so lifeless against them is a little concerning, but I give the Cubs credit for scoring when it matters most in three straight extra-inning games.
• Quintana is 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA in three starts against Milwaukee, so the right guy has the ball to right the ship after a sour taste on Saturday.
• Get ready for Josh Hader today. With Chase Anderson sporting a 5.14 ERA in three starts against the Cubs this season, I’d bet Craig Counsell is going to go to his talented bullpen to see what, if anything, they have left in them. That means plenty of Hader if Anderson gets into any kind of trouble. Hader gives the Cubs hitters fits – so hopefully they can finally solve him like David Ross solved Andrew Miller last year in the World Series. He will be their ace for years to come.
• Speaking of bullpen issues – did you see the number of relief appearances of the Brewers bullpen over the last month? I mean, wow. That’s a lot of appearances. From 10 appearances for Jacob Barnes and Jared Hughes to 9 for Anthony Swarzak and Corey Knebel, no wonder these guys are laboring late in games. (Like the Cubs have any room to talk, right?) Again, Counsell is emptying his arsenal, so expect those numbers to go up today.