Author Archive

Game 56 – Bullpen Blows (Another Lead)

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Albert Pujols – .455 (WPA)


Castro’s Body Language
The Cubs All-Star shortstop was moved down to 7th in the order on Tuesday night, in a bid to get him going at the plate. This is the first Cubs’ game I’ve attended in 2013, and I don’t like Castro’s lack of aggression. In previous seasons he’s been, at times, recklessly aggressive. I’ve always thought it was a big factor in what made him so effective – the game comes naturally for him, and yet recently on TV and last night in person, it looks like Castro is thinking way too much. For several weeks he’s been uncharacteristically NOT dynamic. Hopefully something soon will jolt him into that old version of himself that plays the game a bit recklessly.

Bullpen…Again
I know it’s terribly popular to rip Sveum anytime he takes the ball from one pitcher and passes it to another. Either it’s too soon, too late, not the right incoming pitcher, the list of complaints is long. Tuesday night is a good example of why that type of Monday morning quarterbacking is preposterous. Scott Feldman was really good, but through six innings he’d thrown 95 pitches. I figured we’d see someone new to start the 7th – but who? Well Dale probably had just as much trouble picking a reliever, so he let Feldman pitch to the first two batters of the 7th before inserting Russell to mop up the mess. With a 1-run lead, he called on the Carlos we hate to love. Villanueva gave up the deciding 2-run blast to Cub nemesis, Albert Pujols.

Plenty of fans have been griping about the recent use of the Carlos we love to hate. Marmol has been bad so far in June. Against the Angels, the other Carlos was just as bad. But what’s Dale supposed to do? Gregg is the defacto closer – even if the guys in front of him seem to guarantee he’ll never get another save opportunity. Parker, Putnam, and Rondon are all still wearing their MLB diapers. Dale probably has very little feel for what pitches they throw in which situations, let alone what he might expect from them in a given matchup. That leaves two Carlos’ and your situational lefty who has regularly been doing an inning of duty. It’s a no-win proposition most nights; and my overriding concern after the 6th ended was how the Cubs could patch together 6 outs to get Gregg a freakin’ appearance (let alone save opportunity). But they couldn’t, and it didn’t at all surprise me. When you eat the rancid meat, don’t be surprised if you’re doubled over in front of the toilet at 3am…do you really think Dale is brimming with confidence when he makes a move? He knows he’s pulling the ham of questionable toxicity out of the fridge and trying to piece together a meal that won’t make him vomit.

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Game 50 – Samardzija Savages The Sox

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Jeff Samardzija – .354 (WPA)


Jeff Samardzija
After his May 10th start, I was quite critical of Samardzija’s 2013 form. His last three starts have removed any possible criticism levied against him. Memorial Day against the crosstown rivals was the best start of 2013 for Samardzija – and perhaps of his career. Completely dominant from the first pitch, the Cubs got a complete game shutout two-hitter from the former Notre Dame standout. And all of that on only 108 pitches. The White Sox never threatened; unable to get two runners on base in the same inning until they had 2 outs in the ninth. Best start of the year by a Cub pitcher.

The DH
At the Cell on Monday was the Cubs first taste of an AL park in 2013. With Dale Sveum’s first chance to use the DH, he looked up and down the roster and selected Scott Hairston. Scott Hairston? The Cubs don’t exactly have a readymade DH waiting for these games (unless you count Soriano), but Hairston has started as a DH all of 8 times in his career before Monday. There wasn’t a mountain of evidence screaming ‘you must use Scott Hairston in this situation’ so I’m not going to pretend to know Dale’s thought process. Let’s see who he uses on Tuesday against Chris Sale.

Uniforms
MLB has severe issues with these one-game use uniforms for special days. But the faux camo lettering and numbering that teams donned for Monday’s holiday wasn’t terrible. And when I say ‘not terrible’ I mean there’s no way I would buy anything the players wore, but it also wasn’t so distracting that I felt compelled to turn off the TV. The way he pitched, Samardzija might be looking to wear the camo every time out.

Schedule
A byproduct of the wonky MLB schedule that’s always playing interleague games is this weird stretch that the Cubs now find themselves in (I wanted a sentence as awkward as the schedule). Two games at the Cell, followed by two at Wrigley against the Sox for a disjointed 4-game season series (that’s right, we’re done with the South Siders after Thursday). Then Bob Brenly and the Diamondbacks will be in for 3 games at Wrigley over the weekend, before an off-day on Monday. The Cubs jet to Anaheim for two games with the Angels, an off-day next Thursday and back to Chicago to resume the homestand until June 14. That’s 14 of 16 games in Chicago (12 at Wrigley) over 18 days. Weird.

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Northside Archives: Persona Non Regatta

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Ian Stewart isn’t part of the Chicago Cubs. I find that to be an encouraging phrase. His career stats are .232/.319/.417. Gross. His best year was .259/.349/.455…for an OPS+ of 102…in Colorado. The Cubs knew all of this when they traded for him in December 2011. For some reason they thought they’d plugged a hole. I’ve never liked Ian Stewart. He’s the crumpled lottery ticket from last night’s drawing. The Cubs were the hobo thinking they’d found someone else’s accidentally discarded treasure.

Ian Stewart is part of the Iowa Cubs. I was fine with until Tuesday. In fact, I’d gone so far as to wish for him a long career as part of the Iowa Cubs. Now I’m not so sure. Stewart has been talking about his string of 2013 decisions that now finds him rotting on a AAA bench. The quote I like the least, “the only issue I had — and this is even hard to say, because they had Ransom and Valbuena up there swinging the bat — was that I still think there was an opportunity to be given to me, even if it was for a week or a few games. I still think that option was there, and I would’ve liked to have been given a chance. I could’ve started playing well, and they know what kind of defense I bring.” Really?

Ian Stewart was terrible before he was hurt. I’m racking my brains, trying to conjure up the period of Stewart’s injury-shortened 2012 season that made him think he was somehow a lock for the 3B position with the Cubs. And yes, he really thinks that. “I signed back here with the notion and the thinking that I was going to be the third baseman (in Chicago). Whether that was for one year or a few years, I didn’t really know. That was the feeling that I had coming back here and the impression that I was given.” Someone’s delusional here, either Theo & Co. for thinking Ian Stewart was going to be serviceable just by virtue of being healthy – or Stewart, for thinking that his .201/.292/.335 in 2012, or his .156/.243/.221 in 2011 (in Colorado!) was leading anyone to believe he was one of the 30 best answers at 3B in the whole world.

Ian Stewart was terrible after he was hurt. Stewart only played in 55 games before hitting the DL in 2012. He started Spring Training with an injury to his quadriceps in the earliest of intrasquad games. This injury lingered and lingered until eventually he started 2013 on the DL. When he was healthy the Cubs put him on a rehab assignment that is limited to 20 days by MLB rules. During those 20 days, Stewart was part of the Iowa Cubs. At the end of his assignment he’d piled up 4 hits in 44 ABs. The Cubs waived him, and because of his ridiculous $2-million price tag (and the fact that he can’t hit), no one claimed the 28-year-old Stewart. In a total of 62 ABs through yesterday at Iowa, he now has 9 hits (my TI-81 says he’s on a 5-for-18 tear since being dropped from the Cubs 40-man roster).

Ian Stewart dealt with this entire situation horribly. I said earlier that I changed my mind this Tuesday about his future at Iowa. I want the Cubs to dump him. Now. Pay the man and let him forge his own path elsewhere. Why? He doesn’t have a successful attitude at the moment. I’ll let him prove that.

  • “If I wanted to stay with the Cubs and accept my assignment here, they were letting me know I wasn’t going to play a lot here.
  • I don’t know if that was a way to get me to take my free agency, because there’s money involved in all of that.
  • It wouldn’t really make sense for me to take a release or ask for free agency, because then I’d be giving up my contract, and that doesn’t make sense for me financially or for my family.
  • I would say there’s times in guys’ careers where they think about doing something else. I would lie if I didn’t say that crossed my mind, but my wife is such a great support system. She knows this is what I was born to do, to play ball, and she reminds me of that every day, even when I’m struggling.
  • I need to play to get everything figured out, and if I end up staying here the whole year, then it is what it is.”

So to recap, Ian knows he’s not going to play, but also knows that he needs to play. He’s thinking about doing something else, but needs his wife to talk him down. He says he was born to play baseball, but he’s taking $2 million so he doesn’t have to play baseball.  Not exactly the example to set for those impressionable prospects in the minors.  I much prefer the example Kerry Wood set when faced with the fact that his career was obviously coming to a close.

Ian Stewart must know this is the end. This is it. If he doesn’t impress someone this year, he’ll be ‘retiring’ because no one wants him. Just like Randy Wells. The mere fact that he’s unwilling to give up his remaining 2013 contract in order to chase a better opportunity tells me that he already knows there isn’t a better opportunity. If the off-season started tomorrow, no team would give him more than an invite to Spring Training – the reverse lottery ticket if you will. The Cubs have already demoted Brett Lillibridge who impressed in exactly the situation that Stewart will be hoping for next year…and Stewart now sits behind both Josh Vitters and Lillibridge for playing time at AAA. He needs to hope for catastrophic injuries or that somehow another team thinks he can fill their need.  Not on a 40-man roster, not playing at AAA, there aren’t many paths left that lead Stewart back to the bigs. You’re not at a yacht race.

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Game 43 – Wood Not Enough

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Juan Lagares – .349 (WPA)


Travis Wood
You may have heard, Travis Wood has been really good in 2013 so far. I don’t care if peripheral stats tell you it won’t last (like there’s anything that can be done about it one way or the other anyway). On Sunday he pitched his 9th quality start to begin the season. Enjoy it! The Cubs haven’t had someone do that since Mordecai Brown in 1908. Not Greg Maddux. Not Fergie Jenkins. Not Rick Sutcliffe. Not Charlie Root. “The quality start is a meaningless stat” perhaps you’ll say. I would largely agree-it’s an arbitrary threshold-6 IP and 3 ER doesn’t exactly get me excited. But Wood is averaging 6.2 IPs and less than 2 earned runs allowed per start. THAT gets me excited. And of course it’s unlikely to last for 35 starts, but that’d be true of almost anyone not named Clayton Kershaw.

On Sunday, Wood was very good again. Wrigley wasn’t exactly a pitcher’s park in the series finale; evidenced by the fact that the Cubs’ southpaw deposited a home run onto Waveland against the Mets. He gave the Cubs 7 IP, surrendered 3 ERs, but also contributed a 2-run HR of his own. It was the rest of the lineup that had difficulty against the Mets.

Middle Of The Order
Castro & Rizzo were the void in the Cubs’ lineup. They were a combined 0-for-8 and 0-for-4 with RISP. Twice Castro hit a sacrifice fly with DeJesus standing on 2B, while Rizzo struck out 3 times. I’m not going to belabor the point, but the Cubs seem to have scattered success at the plate. With 4 doubles and 2 HRs the Cubs should’ve been able to cobble together a bit more than 3 runs.

Replay?
Part of the reason for that struggle to score was this play. Sweeney hit a sure double into the RF corner, former Cub Marlon Byrd horribly misplayed it at first and Sweeney understandably wanted to take advantage by turning it into a leadoff triple to start the 4th inning. Byrd recovered well, and the relay was on target, but even in real time it looked to be late.

Sweeney biggest problem was his awkward slide. But there’s a time-tested practice of umpiring that says if the player is going in headfirst and gets tagged on the shoulder, he’s probably safe. Third base umpire Manny Gonzalez would’ve done well trust 100+ years of umpiring. Instead he allowed his eyes to fool him. Whatever he thought he saw, he didn’t; Sweeney was safe and the Mets announcers even thought it was a bad call before seeing a replay.

I don’t understand why Sweeney and then Sveum (or even third base coach David Bell) had no argument. He’s leading off the 4th inning of a scoreless game – certainly it’s worth an argument? Instead no one protested and the Mets quickly retired the next two batters.

This is part of the game that’s becoming increasingly obnoxious to me. The camerawork and technology of 20-30 years ago wouldn’t have provided quick help in many situations. But today, a call such as this could’ve been overturned before Sweeney even got back to the dugout. MLB needs to find a way to expand and hasten the replay process.

And don’t take this a complaint that the Cubs were somehow screwed out of a win against the Mets. Nothing with the Cubs is nearly that cut & dry (zero confidence they would’ve driven Sweeney in from third – less than zero confidence the bullpen would’ve held a lead that might’ve been given to them). Besides I do believe these bad breaks tend to even out over the course of 162 games. It’s just an unnecessary detriment to the game; I don’t want to see a guy trot around the bases if the ball went foul; I don’t want to see a guy trot back to the dugout if he’s safely slid into a base. What’s your suggestion for instant replay changes in 2014?

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Game 38 – Wood Good Again

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Travis Wood – .278 (WPA)


Travis Wood
My last recap wasn’t terribly complimentary of Jeff Samardzija. Conversely, I have nothing but great things to say about Travis Wood. If you had to pick today, he’s the Cubs’ All-Star and it’s not really close. Even if Castro or Rizzo (or anyone else for that matter) winds up being selected for the team, Wood is making a strong case that he belongs. Eight starts in 2013, eight quality starts. He has surrendered 3 earned runs one time; it’s been 0, 1, or 2 in each of the other seven starts. He’s thrown more than 100 pitches just twice, even though he’s AVERAGING 6.2 IP. He’s been phenomenal; perhaps his best performance was Monday night against Colorado.

Not only did he pitch 7 innings, no runs, and only two hits; he was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. The Rockies haven’t had difficulty hitting LHP in 2013, either. Sporting a .277 team average against lefties, it didn’t matter; they couldn’t get to Travis Wood.

Offense
Timely hitting has returned to the Cubs in recent days. They were 6-for-18 on Monday with RISP, including some unlikely hits from the aforementioned Wood and Darwin Barney. Six different Cubs had 2 hits apiece and DeJesus and Castro each reached base on 3 occasions. It all led to nine runs, which was more than enough with Wood on the mound.

Relief
You may see that Marmol gave up a run in the ninth that cost the Cubs the shutout. I say he had a good outing though – it was a solo HR, and in part it was because he was throwing strikes. Of his 16 pitches, 11 were strikes – and with a 9-run lead, I can forgive a solo homer. It was the first run he’s given up since May 4th, and that means he’s only given up 4 runs total since being demoted from the ‘closer’ role.

Kyuji Fujikawa also pitched. He also threw strikes. And he has also looked good lately – returning to the Cubs on the 10th.

Improvement
The Cubs are 12-13 since staring 4-9 and currently on pace for 68 wins. The Rockies were their fifth different opponent in 8 days, with a weekend trip to Washington coming awkwardly in the middle of a homestand. With the next 5 at Wrigley and then a trip to Pittsburgh, the Cubs are again set up nicely to rack up a few wins. When you get a good start like the Cubs did on Monday night from Travis Wood, it makes you a bit more optimistic…

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Game 35 – Desmond Harpoons Samardzija

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Ian Desmond – .299 (WPA)


Jeff Samardzija
I’m talking about one thing, and one thing only from this game. I don’t like what I’m seeing from Jeff Samardzija this year. He’s become a combination of Rich Harden and Carlos Zambrano. He doubled in the 3rd and came around to score and tie the game; but then he couldn’t really settle in for the fourth or fifth innings. Classic Zambrano. Five of the seven runs he gave up came with two outs, and while only 5 of his 7 runs were earned, the 2 unearned runs came as a direct result of a comebacker that he booted. It should’ve started a double play, instead the Cubs couldn’t record an out on the play. After getting the 2nd out he gave up a two-run double.

Tonight Samardzija was more efficient than he’s been recently, but he was also hit harder than he’s been all season. It is the third time in 2013 he’s given up 4 runs or more. And in his eight starts, only twice has he gone more than 6.0 innings. Classic Harden (so is the inefficiency with his pitch count). In fact, Friday night marked the second time that the Cubs’ “ace” only went 5 innings. It’s not that Samardzija has been horri-awful; it’s that he hasn’t been any better than scrap heap signings Scott Feldman or Carlos Villanueva (truthfully, he’s not even pitching as good as they are). Travis Wood is the Cubs’ ace through 6 weeks of baseball – but here’s what is so troubling:

“Felt good. Felt about as best as I could all year,” Samardzija said. “That’s the frustrating part of it, when you’ve got your pitches and you feel good and you get that outcome.”

So Friday night – by his own assessment – was Jeff Samardzija with his good stuff. His ‘good stuff’ gets battered around the park by a lineup that is missing a couple of its biggest bats? No Bryce Harper, no Jayson Werth – the Cubs had reason to feel good heading into the game. Even more so if Samardzija had his good stuff.

But the wheels came off early, and the Dread Pirate Jeff could never right the ship (that’s how out of whack he was, the idioms don’t even make sense).

There is a huge market for Jeff Samardzija at the moment. He could bring the Cubs a massive haul in a potential trade. And such a trade could be terribly risky for the Cubs to make – he could yet become a superstar. But such a trade could be terribly risky for the Cubs NOT to make – he’s looking more and more like the right-handed Rich Hill. One fantastic year, everyone projects him as a front-of-the-rotation starter. Hill was 27 when he had his ‘breakout’ season too. Their numbers are eerily similar for those seasons (Hill in 2007, Samardzija in 2012); in 2008 though, Rich Hill got injured and by 2009 he was out of options and playing for the Baltimore Cubs.

I’m not saying it’s time to trade Samardzija – but it’s certainly time to stop listing him as an untouchable.

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Northside Archives: May Days

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

May 1, 2001: After Jason Bere is tagged for 7 runs in just 2+ IP; Cub reliever Mike Fyhrie takes the mound. The Padres’ Santiago Perez broke his bat in the fourth inning, a portion of which struck Fyhrie and broke his ulna. Fyhrie made 6 more appearances for the Cubs (though not until after the All-Star Break). He played for the A’s at the end of 2001 and made 16 appearances for them in 2002 before being sent to the minors and eventually washing out of professional baseball following the 2003 season.

May 2, 1917: With dueling no-hitters through 9 innings, it’s the Cubs’ Hippo Vaughn who would be the tough luck loser to the Reds’ Fred Toney. Vaughn gave up a single, followed by an error and then an infield hit which proved to give the Reds a 1-0 win after Toney completed his no-hitter in the 10th.

May 2, 1956: The Giants beat the Cubs 6-5 in a 17-inning affair at Wrigley. But Cub 3B Don Hoak is the notable offender on this day, he strikes out 6 times against 6 different Giant pitchers.

May 4, 2005: Mark Grace hits his first MLB grand slam after 6,136 at-bats. (And drove home drunk for the ?th time)

May 4, 2005: Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens become the 5th set of 300+ game winners to start against each other. The Cubs come away from Minute Maid Park with a 3-2 win. Roger leaves with the syringe in his back pocket, or thereabouts.

May 6, 1998: Kerry Wood sets the NL record with 20 K’s in a game. Kevin Orie makes the game slightly less memorable.

May 7, 2010: Starlin Castro debuts at 20 years old with a three-run homer. Later he adds a bases-loaded triple to become the first player in history to grab 6 RBIs in his debut.

May 8, 1973: Cubs’ manager Whitey Lockman is ejected in the 11th inning which leaves Ernie Banks to manage the remainder of the game. Banks, though not recognized officially as such, becomes MLB’s first black manager in this game.

May 11, 1998: In his next outing, Kerry Wood strikes out 13 against Arizona. No one, on steroids or not, has ever struck out as many as Wood (33) in back-to-back starts.

May 12, 1970: Ernie Banks hits his 500th career homer.

May 12, 1998: Mark Grace hits the 1st homer into the swimming pool behind RF in Arizona.

May 12, 2004: Alex Cora battles Matt Clement for 17 pitches, finally hitting the 18th over the fence. This was not a fun game to attend, trust me, I know.

May 13, 1969: Dick Selma pitches a shutout for the Cubs. His is the third of three consecutive shutouts from Cub pitchers (Fergie Jenkins & Ken Holtzman threw the other two).

May 14, 2000: Eric Young steals 5 bases, Henry Rodriguez piles up 7 RBIS, and Sammy Sosa gets 5 hits. The Cubs somehow lose 16-15.

May 16, 1996: Sammy Sosa hits two HRs in a single inning – the first Cub to ever do so.

May 17, 1979: The Cubs score 22 runs and lose, as only the Cubs can…in 10 innings, and never once did they lead.

May 20, 1920: Chicago police don disguises for a gambling raid on the Wrigley Field bleachers. Dozens are arrested. The Cubs also lose 6-0.

May 20, 2006: En route to a 7-0 loss at the hands of their rivals from the South side, the benches clear when Michael Barrett sucker punches perpetual miscreant AJ Pierzynski after the White Sox catcher slides hard into home plate.

May 22, 1990: Feared slugger Andre Dawson is walked 5 times (all intentionally) during a 2-1, 16-inning win over the Reds. (None of Dawson’s walks would prove pivotal).

May 24, 1957: Frank Ernaga debuts for the Cubs, hitting a HR and a triple with 2 RBIs.

May 25, 1982: Fergie Jenkins records his 3,000 strikeout. He was the 7th pitcher in history to do so.

May 28, 2006: The Cubs score 12 times, give up 8 HRs, and lose by one to the Atlanta Braves. This unfortunate game takes 11-innings to complete.

May 28, 1966: Ron Santo hits a 3-run HR in the 12th inning as the Cubs walk-off against the Braves.

May 29, 1966: Ron Santo hits a solo HR in the 10th inning as the Cubs walk-off against the Braves.

May 30, 1922: Cliff Heathcote plays for the Cardinals in game 1 of a double-header while Max Flack starts for the Cubs. Before game 2, the players are traded. They swap jerseys and start for their new teams in second game. The Cubs win both games.

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Game 31 – Pitching Their Way To A Sweep

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Joey Votto – .188 (WPA)


Untimely Pitching
On Friday, Carlos Villanueva was tagged for 4 runs, even though he only surrendered 7 hits. Yesterday, Carlos Marmol coughed up 3 runs, even though he didn’t give up a single hit. And on Sunday, Edwin Jackson let the Reds register 8 hits leading to 4 runs. The bullpen was even worse, Camp & Loe combined for 3 hits that produced 3 runs. The Reds took advantage of every Cubs’ pitcher that struggled to get out of an inning all weekend.

Edwin Jackson was mediocre on Sunday, still when the 5th inning ended the Cubs trailed only 4-3; Shawn Camp made sure the Reds cushioned that lead. I’ve been saying for a week now that the Cubs need a bit of a roster shakeup with some of the poorly performing role players being kicked to the curb. Camp should be one of those cleaning out his locker. It’s not that there’s something in AAA or on the waiver wire so compelling as to merit immediate attention; but the team is stagnant and running Camp out there every other day or starting Sappelt and his impatience against LHPs is not going to yield any different results in the near future.

Losing To The Team That Made This Play
This is how bad the Cubs were this weekend; you can make this play and still expect to beat the Cubs.

Ian Stewart
In case you were wondering, Ian Stewart is still a Cub and might be for some time yet. He was optioned to AAA (even though he’s been there on rehab). The team could’ve outrighted Stewart to AAA – forcing him to choose between electing immediate free agency or accepting the assignment. If he’d elected free agency, they Cubs would’ve no longer been responsible for his 2013 contract. Why didn’t they do this? Who knows – the new regime has some weird obsession with Stewart. It’s still possible that later this year they’ll choose to outright Stewart and force his decision; but why not now? We may never know.

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Game 29 – Dusty Baker Was Right

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – J.J. Hoover – .268 (WPA)


Untimely Hitting
One day after surrendering 4 eighth-inning runs with 2 outs, the Cubs surrendered another 4 two-out runs which eventually doomed them against the Reds. And in what’s becoming a familiar theme this year, the Cubs were unable to plate any two-out runs of their own until 26 of their outs had been exhausted – and the 3 runs that they did manage in the ninth fell short of what was needed to extend the game.

In what’s sure to be an unpopular opinion, I’m completely agreeing with Dusty Baker’s assessment of the game. “The team that gets the two-out hits is the team that wins the games,” Dusty said. “Those are big, big clutch hits when you get two out.” And he’s right, the Cubs actually had more opportunities to score runs, but too often they ended the inning with a whimper.

With 15 hits on the day, they were seemed incapable of putting more than 2 of them together at a time. The Cubs combined for 4 hits total in both the 6th and 9th inning. But they scattered their other 7 hits and couldn’t plate a run in any other inning. Even in the ninth, they got a lot of help from Aroldis Chapman who gave up two walks along with four hits (from which the Cubs only scored thrice).

“Star of the Game”
Just a disclaimer here – I don’t consider J.J. Hoover the star of the game – even if the WPA does. He recorded a single out. But I’ve already tried to post a recap without a star this year…I won’t make the same mistake twice. In my opinion, the stars of the game were each teams’ starting pitcher. Both pitched better than their scoreline shows, particularly Leake. But the offense for both sides was a team effort, making it a bit difficult to single out one player. In fact, you could argue (successfully too) that the biggest contributor to the Reds win was Darwin Barney. Totally deserving of his -.453 WPA, Barney GIDP twice along with a bases loaded strikeout to end the game. About the only thing he didn’t do for the Reds was relay pitch locations to their hitters.

Matt Garza
Finally throwing again, the small bit of Matt Garza news is that he’ll make a second rehab start on Monday. Dale Sveum said he expects Garza to make that start and at least two more before he might be ready for a return to the majors. Let’s hope there aren’t anymore hiccups along the way.

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