The Rundown: Cubs Escape With Boring Win, Lester Rights Ship, Sunday Baseball Notes
When does a win not feel like a win? I’m sorry to go all Cesar Romero-as-the-Joker on you, but Holy Boy Wonder, yesterday’s 2-0 win over the Pirates felt like it was going to be a third walk-off loss when de facto closer Rowan Wick walked Adam Frazier to start the bottom of the 9th. The Cubs played pretty poorly in all aspects of the game yesterday and still managed to escape with a victory.
That’s where we are in Cubs fandom right now. We expect the absolute worst.
I turned the game off after Frazier’s walk, succumbing to the effects of bullpen-induced PTSD I’ve been dealing with since Thursday night. No lead is safe when the opposing team has last bats and yesterday’s starter Jon Lester must have felt similarly. The big lefty worked his way out of numerous jams due to the five free passes he issued to Pittsburgh hitters. A few errors could have chewed him up, too. One look over his shoulder at the clown car that makes up the team’s relief corps might have been all the motivation Lester needed to steer clear of the Pirates-infested waters he muddled through.
All of which to say is that the the game of baseball is really random, especially this year, and especially if you are a Cubs fan. I thought Chicago played one of its more lackadaisical, if not entirely boring, games of the season yesterday and yet they still managed to win. They’ve played better and lost on the road this season. They’ve also played a lot worse.
The Cubs have a chance to escape Pennsylvania with their first road series win since mid-May if they can defeat the Pirates in the Little League Classic in Williamsport tonight. The event is sure to be a fantastic watch regardless of the outcome. It would still be nice to break the streak, however.
Cubs News & Notes
- Lester didn’t allow a hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, helping the Cubs win for only the ninth time in their last 26 road games.
- Kris Bryant was uncharacteristically bad in the field yesterday, committing two errors, but made up for it with his 25th home run of the season.
- Bryant’s tater was a great response to a heckling fan.
- The players have been unable to pinpoint the exact reasons for their woeful road performance this season.
- Bill Chuck offers a wonderful breakdown of the Cubs team and individual home/road splits.
- Reliever Derek Holland has taken to Twitter to respond to his critics after giving up a walk-off grand slam to Bryce Harper Thursday night.
- The Cubs need to better deploy Tyler Chatwood, who pitched well yesterday, benefitting from some extra rest. “Right now he’s kind of pigeon-holed in an in-between spot,” Lester said of Chatwood. “We have to figure out how to use him. He has such an electric arm with electric stuff that you want to get him in the game somehow.”
- Craig Kimbrel will be activated from the 10-day IL prior to this evening’s game.
- Former Cubs pitcher James Russell is the ace of the best pitching staff in Liga Mexicana de Béisbol.
- Meanwhile, Carlos Zambrano is allegedly dealing for the Independent League Chicago Dogs.
38-year-old Carlos Zambrano touched 97 tonight for @TheChicagoDogs in winning effort.@PitchingNinja pic.twitter.com/N9GsQzkJ8V
— Steve Schuster (@growcasting) August 17, 2019
Updates On Nine
- The Red Sox announced Saturday afternoon that left-hander Chris Sale has been placed on the 10-day injured list with elbow inflammation retroactive to August 14. The team did not announce the severity of the injury or give a firm timetable for Sale’s return, but he’s going to see Dr. James Andrews, which is never a good sign. The Red Sox signed Sale to a five-year, $145 million contract extension in spring training and did a full medical work-up at that time, at which point the elbow was sound.
- Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta is set to undergo season-ending elbow surgery later this month, per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. The 33-year-old righty finished his 10th season in the majors with an 8-8 record, a 4.64 ERA, 3.4 BB/9, 7.3 SO/9, and 1.0 fWAR through 24 starts (135.2 IP).
- Ronald Acuña Jr. leads a long list of players under 25 who have had major impacts on their teams and the game of baseball overall. It’s a new age for baseball as the game continues to get younger. Acuña, Fernando Tatis, Jr., and Juan Soto (all 21 or younger) are all hitting at least 30% better than league average. The last time that happened was 1965, when Orioles outfielder Curt Blefary and Red Sox outfielder Tony Conigliaro posted wRC+ marks of 145 and 131, respectively.
- Orioles slugger Chris Davis had a terrible streak to start the season, going 62 consecutive plate appearances without reaching base, a dubious honor that started at the end of the 2018 season. A note penned by 9-year-old Red Sox fan Henry Frasca inspired Davis and helped break the slump. This is a great story.
- At 27 years old, Jorge Soler is becoming the power hitter the Royals have been missing. He’s exceeding the expectations that came with being a top-25 prospect according to MLB Pipeline entering the 2015 season, a year before the Cubs would trade him to Kansas City for Wade Davis.
- Aristides Aquino continues to crush baseballs at a record pace, batting .345 with a 1.354 OPS. Adding to the amazement, 58% of Aquino’s 19 hits have been home runs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’s reached 11 career home runs faster than anyone in modern Major League history. Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins had 10 homers in his first 17 games in 2017.
- Another implosion by closer Sean Doolittle in last night’s 14-inning 15-14 loss to the Brewers has the Nationals reevaluating their bullpen and who will pitch in high-leverage situations. Doolittle entered last night’s game protecting a three run lead in the 9th inning and gave up four runs before being removed with one out. The big blows were home runs by Trent Grisham, Christian Yelich and Mike Moustakas.
- The Milwaukee Brewers signed infielder Jung Ho Kang to a minor league contract. Kang was released by the Pirates earlier this month. Before that he hit just .169/.222/.395 over 185 plate appearances. The infielder is still under investigation by the Chicago Police Department for a 2016 sexual assault allegation.
- Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías will serve a 20-game suspension following MLB’s investigation of an alleged domestic battery incident in May. When he returns, he will be eligible for the playoffs.
Apropos of Nothing
Bill Walton was a refreshing dose of fun in the broadcast booth when the Angels hosted the White Sox on Friday night. The basketball legend wanted a triple play with one out and said the outs should carry over to the next inning. He compared the four-hour game to a bad dose of Viagra. The seven-footer also suggested that ChiSox reliever Aaron Bummer should change his name to avoid the bad karma associated with it. We need more of Walton in baseball.
Saturday’s Three Stars
- The Rays pitching staff – Tampa hurlers struck out 24 Detroit batters without issuing a single walk in their 13-inning 1-0 win over the Tigers. Starter Ryan Yarbrough punched 10 tickets to lead the rampage.
- Christian Yelich – The Brewers outfielder was 5-for-6 yesterday with two home runs, a stolen base, and four RBI in leading Milwaukee to its win against the Nationals.
- Brandon Belt – The Giants first baseman capped a 2-for-5 day with a grand slam, and his six RBI helped San Francisco pummel the Diamondbacks 11-6 last night.
Also a Star – Fans of the juiced baseball. It’s entirely possible that a combined 7,000 home runs will be hit this season. That’s nearly three jacks per game.
From the Christopher Kamka Files
Kris Bryant with a "Dunn" today (HR, BB & K in same game). Only his 3rd of the season.
Mike Trout leads MLB with 14 because Mike Trout leads in everything.
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 17, 2019
The Reds will give transistor radios to the first 20,000 fans who attend their last home game of the season so they can listen to Marty Brennaman call the final game of his broadcasting career.
This Little League player from Venezuela has the most insane batting stance I have ever seen. Give some credit to the Australian pitcher, too, who was somehow able to hit the strike zone.
This kid has the WILDEST batting stance we've ever seen.
(via @ESPN) pic.twitter.com/qisFtPXrKR
— Cut4 (@Cut4) August 17, 2019
They Said It
- “I don’t even remember it [happening] in my whole baseball playing career. I don’t know how to respond to [the back-to-back walk-off losses]. It’s new to me. It’s new to most of us. You’ve just got to keep playing.” – Kris Bryant
- “It was a challenging day all around, but we got it done.” – Joe Maddon
- “Finally got out of my hard-headedness as far as challenging guys and falling behind counts and giving in. I feel like that’s really bit me in the rear end as far as thinking I can still throw my (fastball) by guys.” – Jon Lester
- “All because of this home run to Harper I’m a reason we didn’t construct the bullpen very well?” – Derek Holland
Sunday Walk Up Song
End of the Line by The Traveling Wilburys. The road trip ends today, hopefully with a win.