Saturday was a full day of baseball for me. It started with my son’s coach-pitch rookie Little League game, after which we traveled to a local high school to see my son’s friend and his team destroy their opponents 16-2. It was capped by an evening watching Chris Volstad’s Indianapolis Indians take on Jordan Danks’ Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
And the cherry on top was getting the opportunity to snag a couple autographs from Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. You may have noticed that I didn’t say anything about the Cubs. While I did have the radio broadcast going throughout the day, I really only watching about an inning of the game. From the sound of it though, I’m glad that was the case.
Brewers starter Mike Fiers, 0-3 and carrying an ERA just shy of 6 heading into the game, struck out 12 Cubs in 6 innings. The only run he allowed was on an Anthony Rizzo home run in the 6th, but he was on cruise control otherwise, absolutely torching the Cubs’ lineup.
As the Cubs whiffed time and again in futile attempts to put out the blaze, they merely succeeded in fanning the flames. By the time the fire had finally been snuffed out, the ashes of 18 useless at-bats were identified among the smoldering garbage.
The game was a sad reminder of the August 14th, 2014 meeting between these teams in which Fiers was making his 2nd start in place of the injured Matt Garza. In that game, the neck-bearded Beermaker struck out 14 North Siders in only 6 innings. That’s, like, really good and stuff. Or really bad, depending on your perspective.
While his second outing against the Cubs last year was far from dominant (6 IP, 3 ER, 7 K, 1 BB), I still think it’s pretty safe to say Mike Fiers has got the Cubs’ number. But as I saw reaction from fans throughout the evening, I couldn’t help but think that many had forgotten another important Cubs number: 13-9.
Four games over .500 at this point in the season is still pretty good, especially when you consider that this team has already spent more time with a winning record in 2015 than they did from 2010-14…combined. The Cubs didn’t win their 13th game last year until the 37th game of the season; I’m pleased with reaching that mark 16 games earlier in 2015.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome that more and more fans actually care about the outcome of games for the first time in years. But let’s not start acting as though a single win or loss in early May is going to determine the course of the season, even one of those losses happens to come against the team with the worst record in baseball.
Seriously, it was as though my Twitter feed was virtual Pat Hughes echo chamber telling me that the game really felt like a turning point. I love the passion, I just think it needs to be tempered with a bit more perspective.
An extra-inning win from the Cardinals didn’t help matters, but the Cubs still possess nearly 60% odds of reaching the postseason, better than all but 3 other NL teams (Cardinals, Nationals, Dodgers). And they’ll get a chance to up the odds when they take on big right-hander Jimmy Nelson.
At 6-5, 245, the young Brewer cuts a pretty imposing figure, and the Cubs may have their work cut out for them. We’ve all been waiting for the power to show itself, but Sunday might not be the best opportunity for the Cubs to flip a switch. Primarily a sinker-baller, Nelson has allowed only .4 HR/9 innings on the season and .62 throughout his pro career.
He walks a lot of batters though, as evidenced by his 3.63 BB/9 ratio; this is something the Cubs can and should take advantage of. Or perhaps I should say they’d better take advantage of it. Perspective be damned, 3 runs in the last 31 innings is pretty depressing.
Even a loss won’t be reason to head out to the ledge, but if the Cubs only muster a run or two and lose the series to the Brewers, it’s certainly going to turn up the volume on the worried whispers. And with 8 of their next 11 games coming against the Cardinals and Mets, it’d be nice to develop a little momentum coming out of the weekend.
So remember, Cubs, only you can prevent dumpster fires.