STRIKE ONE – Where’s the Defense?
I tried to think of the perfect word to describe the Cubs’ defense Friday afternoon against the Rockies; adjectives like ugly, atrocious and sad all came to mind but none of them seemed to do the effort justice. Just know this: it wasn’t pretty. Entering Friday’s game, Chicago had only committed two errors in nine games. The team made four yesterday; Kyle Hendricks, Kris Bryant (x2) and Addison Russell were all culprits. To be fair, I don’t agree with the ruling on Hendricks’ misplay, as I thought it should have went down in the scorebook as an infield single. Bryant struggled at third, as he botched a ground ball and threw a ball erratically past Anthony Rizzo and into the visitor’s bullpen on a bunt attempt. (Speaking of bunts, who taught the Rockies to lay them down with such precision, Ichiro?) Finally, Addison Russell skipped a ball past Rizzo and into the camera well. In his defense (no pun intended), that came after a dazzling stop as well as a few remarkable plays in prior innings.
STRIKE TWO – Where’s the Offense?
In most games the Cubs are trailing during the mid-innings, I have this lingering belief that the offense will string together a combination of walks, bloops and blasts to put themselves right back in position to make a game of it. This was not the case yesterday. The often-potent Cubs lineup gave no indication that they were poised to make a surge in the late innings, even against the rather lackluster arms of the Rockies. The team drew four walks and had four hits—all singles. Chicago had a scoring opportunity in the fifth inning with runners on first and third and only one out. Joe Maddon’s decision to safety squeeze with Hendricks backfired as Soler was thrown out at home and Dexter Fowler flied out to promptly end the threat. The Cubs pushed across their only run of the ballgame in the seventh inning to make the score 4-1 and squandered a promising two-on, no out chance by only managing a single run. Worry not, these types of games happen.
STRIKE THREE – Assessing Hendricks
Kyle Hendricks pitched well enough to give his team a chance to win. As a No. 5, what else can you ask for? Kyle attacked the strike zone his entire outing, throwing just 16 balls in six innings of work. He allowed a troubling seven hits, but they were all singles and for the most part, not hit hard. Hendricks’ sinker was working well and 12 of his 18 recorded outs were via ground balls. Hendricks gave up two earned and struck out five. Overall, I was content with Hendricks’ performance. Maddon on Hendricks post game: “I thought Kyle threw the ball extremely well, a lot of bad swings and well-placed pitches. He did good…we just didn’t have our typical offensive day, or defensive day.”
Jake Arrieta (RHP) - Arrieta helped himself by hitting his first home run, a two-run shot, in his last start. Pitching-wise, he said his offspeed stuff was “just average” but he did well enough against the D-backs to post his 22nd consecutive quality start.
Christian Bergman (RHP) - Bergman had his start moved back to Saturday, as he’ll face the Cubs for the first time in his career. This will also be Bergman’s first start of the season.
Scouting note from MLB.com