The Rundown: Cubs Continue Roll, Kimbrel Looks Lost, Six Cards Hit COVID-19 IL, Epstein Expects St. Louis Series Will Be Played
Man, I feel bad for Craig Kimbrel. I feel as lost watching the poor guy pitch as he looks on the mound. Imagine being at the top of your profession and then seeing your once lights-out arsenal rendered completely ineffective. I suppose that’s what happens when you lose a tick or two on your fastball, but I think his loss of confidence is far more telling.
Right now Kimbrel looks like a guy who expects to get beat, and when entering last night’s game to protect a 5-2 lead, his body language showed nothing to elicit any faith he’d close out the Royals.
Craig Kimbrel allowing multiple HR
With Cubs: 4 times in 25 games
Prior to that: 1 time in 542 games
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 1, 2020
Kimbrel didn’t serve up any taters last night, though it may have been just a matter of time. David Ross removed him after three batters, and though Kimbrel showed a glimpse of his former self in striking out Franchy Cordero, he also gave up a solid single to Salvador Pérez and a ringing RBI double to Adalberto Mondesi before getting the hook.
The Cubs won 5-4, narrowly escaping after entering the final frame with a three-run lead. It’s one thing to stave off late inning threats by teams like the Pirates and Royals, but the Cubs won’t get away with that kind of back end tomfoolery against the better teams they’ll face this year. In starting the season 9-2, the Cubs have outscored their opponents 32-15 before Ross has pulled his starters and they’ve been outscored 29-25 when the game in the hands of his relievers.
Another strong performance by Kyle Hendricks resulted in the team’s fifth straight quality start.The offense carried Chicago thanks to home runs by Jason Heyward, Jason Kipnis, and Willson Contreras, and the team’s defensive play was once again sublime. The Northsiders are truly clicking on all cylinders through the first six innings of almost every game, but once that bullpen is deployed, things tend to get quickly uncomfortable.
Better lucky than good is not a sound strategy for closing out games, and as Cubs fans we’ve lived on that edge since the start of the 2018 season. In the meantime, we can wait on the front office to promote Burl Carraway and hope Jeremy Jeffress and Rowan Wick are enough to prevent Chicago from blowing games that should be easy wins. Neither gets enough punchouts to be considered elite options, but for now Ross will ride their hot hands.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs are preparing as if they fully expect that their series with the Cardinals will not be postponed by the league. St. Louis put six players on the COVID-19 injured list yesterday and there is no minimum number of games missed for players placed into that protocol, so they can return as soon as they meet league health standards.
- Kyle Ryan earned the first save of his career in last night’s win.
- The pandemic may neutralize the normally aggressive front office at this year’s trade deadline.
- Theo Epstein praised his rookie manager yesterday, saying that Ross has really made a difference in some of the areas where the front office felt the team was deficient the last few seasons. “I’ve never given up faith in our guys,” said the president of baseball operations. “I think we had more talent than the results would indicate the last couple years.” Your serve, Joe Maddon.
- Tyler Chatwood is having a breakout start to the season. Is it real?
- David Bote has dramatically improved his plate discipline.
- The bottom of the lineup continues to come up big for Chicago.
- The Cubs’ series with the Royals will move to Kansas City for games tonight and tomorrow. Yu Darvish takes the bump to start the away leg of the series. He’ll draw Kris Bubic in tonight’s matchup.
- The Cubs are one of four MLB teams playing .800 ball or better right now, though ESPN has them 11th in their latest power rankings ($).
No Glove No Love
Kris Bryant did a spot-on Murray Bannerman to save the game for Ryan and the Cubs. It was the second time he robbed the Royals of a big base hit in yesterday’s game.
KB, baby! pic.twitter.com/uM89aIEVNO
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 5, 2020
Apropos of Nothing
Yadier Molina, Paul DeJong, and Carlos Martínez are among the Cardinals players who have tested positive for COVID-19, and as much as I’d like to make a joke, there’s nothing really funny about the pandemic. I’d rather see the Cubs beat St. Louis at their best, and I just wish we could find a way to stop this damn virus.
Odds & Sods
The Marlins have made 33 separate transactions since August 1, when they were finally approved to resume playing. Some of the players who showed up for yesterday’s game were meeting manager Don Mattingly for the very first time. After last night’s win, Miami leads the NL East with a 3-1 record. I think that is your 2020 season in a nutshell.
How About That!
Mike Trout homered in his first at-bat as a new father.
I don’t know if Trout’s feat tops Bryant promising a home run to his newborn son and then delivering, but I’ll let you all decide.
Hey! The Marlins are playing baseball again…and winning. Summon the ghosts of Jimmy Leyland and Jack McKeon. Neither is dead, it’s just an expression.
Staying sharp is a big concern for teams that are forced into quarantine for long periods of time.
The Cardinals have been cleared to travel, so they will be leaving Milwaukee’s hottest haunted hotel today.
ESPN predicted earlier this year that the Pirates may finish the season with the lowest win percentage of all-time, and Pittsburgh is doing everything they can to prove them right.
The White Sox won their sixth straight game yesterday evening, beating the Brewers 3-2 at Miller Park.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Juan Soto – The talented Nationals outfielder didn’t play yesterday but his dugout dance earned him 10’s across the board.
- Dansby Swanson – The Braves shortstop went 3-for-5 with two RBI in Atlanta’s 10-1 romp over the transient Blue Jays. Swanson is slashing .340/.367/.900 with 13 RBI and a 145 OPS+ through 12 games.
- Pablo López – In a very impressive performance under difficult circumstances due to the Marlins’ COVID-19 issues, Miami’s de facto ace made his 2020 debut a few weeks later than expected and completely shut down the Orioles in a 4-0 win. López struck out seven Baltimore hitters in five innings without issuing a single walk.
Out of Left Field
By my count, Soto tested positive for coronavirus at least three times and negative an additional six times over the course of three days. It could be more, as none of those negative tests “counted” because they were not MLB-approved. If that leaves you confused, imagine how civilians must feel regarding the integrity of tests being administered to the general population. In fact, if the league isn’t trusting tests made by non-league personnel, why should we?
Sliding Into Home
And just like that I’m back into the dark recesses of my psyche again. God, I wish I was a superhero.
Did you know our EIC Evan Altman used to write about the Chicago Bears? He was no stranger to catchy headlines back then.
I’d like to see more of this kind of infectious behavior, thank you very much, Kyle Schwarber.
Empty ballparks means more focus on the dugouts and so far the players are delivering. pic.twitter.com/M0x47UrMDX
— Randall J. Sanders (@RandallJSanders) August 4, 2020
They Said It
- “We’re approaching [the Cardinals series] as if we’re going there to play. We have to prepare to go, and we’ll just wait to hear a definitive word when it comes.” – Theo Epstein
- “I think all that we can really do is worry about the Chicago Cubs. I know that kind of sounds selfish with everything going on in the world. You don’t ever wish anybody to get sick or anything like that. But if we continue to follow the protocols that we have in place as [a team] and the protocols that MLB has in place, I feel like it puts us in a good position to succeed.” – Jon Lester
Wednesday Walk Up Song
I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish by The Smiths – No, this is not a dig at Kimbrel…bite your tongue. It seems like baseball is starting to get its act together, and though the bullpen still scares the shit out of me, I’d like to see if this Cubs team can make it back to the World Series.