The Rundown: Slumping Cubs Face Brewers, Rizzo’s Back Acts Up, First Ejection for Illegal Sticky Substance
“It seems that the wrath of the gods got a punch on the nose
And it’s startin’ to flow, I think I might be sinkin’
Throw me a line, if I reach it in time
Meet you up there where the path runs straight and high.” – Led Zeppelin, Goin’ to California
Does anybody remember laughter?
The Cubs are a sinking ship right now and after last night’s 6-2 loss to the Dodgers, their losing streak sits at three games and they’ve won just four of 10. That has resulted in giving up three games to the Brewers, who have benefited from a relatively easy schedule. Milwaukee is up next and with a three-game set at whatever it is they call Miller Park these days, the North Siders have the unenviable task of trying to make up ground against a rotation that’s manhandled them for the better part of the games they have already played this season.
Only two teams are batting worse than the Cubs (.224), and the Brewers (.215) are one of them, so there’s hope. Milwaukee is 17-13 games against the NL Central while Chicago is 19-14. That seems to make for a pretty evenly matched series but the two teams are trending in opposite directions at an alarming pace. With Chicago whiffing far too frequently right now, facing Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff, and Corbin Burnes in a three-game set is a frightening prospect.
Cubs 3B Matt Duffy‘s goal is to return around All-Star break from bulging disk issue in lower back as he starts to build up baseball activities again: “I was trying to rush it too quick & probably not being honest with myself with how I was feeling exactly”https://t.co/aqibzcGXwb
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) June 27, 2021
As far as the Dodgers series, it’s best just to leave that stink back on the West Coast. It’s hard to watch the Cubs when they’re striking out at a 44% clip and it’s tough to win any series by scoring just nine runs in four games. If Chicago doesn’t find a cure for what’s ailing their offense, they could be looking at a four or six-game deficit in the division by the time they get to Cincinnati on Friday. It would be nice to take two of three from the Brewers and finish the toughest month of their 2021 schedule at 14-14.
- The Good: Tommy Nance pitched three innings of stellar relief yesterday, allowing one run on three hits with five punchouts.
- The Bad: Clayton Kershaw notched 13 strikeouts in eight innings of work, and the Cubs struck out 15 times in total, which is what they averaged in the final three games of the series.
- The Ugly: Adbert Alzolay was rocked, giving up six runs in three innings, including two home runs and one grand slam by Zach McKinstry.
Cubs News & Notes
- Anthony Rizzo left yesterday’s game with tightness in his back. Because of the long flight from Los Angeles to Milwaukee, he’ll probably miss tonight’s game. If Rizzo is forced to miss significant time, the Cubs could turn toward the versatile Kris Bryant at first base.
- Kershaw’s 13 strikeouts on Sunday were the most he’d thrown in a game since 2017. The eight innings pitched were a season-high for the three-time Cy Young winner.
- Nico Hoerner, Trevor Williams, and Justin Steele are currently on rehab assignments with Iowa. “Getting some of those pieces back will be really important,” manager David Ross said.
- Though the Cubs lost on Friday night, Jake Arrieta pitched much better than he has of late.
- Bryant, Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Javier Báez, and Joc Pederson have all advanced to the second round of MLB All-Star voting.
- Just my opinion: Contreras has been slumping badly and really needs some rest. If only the Cubs had a decent backup.
- Alec Mills will get another start this week and he’s hoping to parlay that into a permanent spot in the team’s rotation.
- Chicago’s minor league teams are still adjusting to last year’s lost season.
Odds & Sods
Probably best to abstain from alcohol with these seats.
Amazing view of Forbes Field during Game 7 of the 1960 World Series from the top of the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning building. Not for the faint of heart! (Original b&w photo by George Silk – Colorization by BSmile) #MLB #Pirates #Yankees #Baseball #History pic.twitter.com/wfs8PGY8kL
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) June 28, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“Backwards, forwards, square and round, when will it end? When will it end?” – The Byrds, Backwards, Forwards, Sideways, Down.
The Cubs have struck out 45 times in their last 102 plate appearances.
- Games Played: 78
- Total Plate Appearances: 2,835
- Total Strikeouts: 754
- Strikeout Rate: 26.6%
- Team Batting Average: .224
Milwaukee’s rotation will probably not be the cure for Chicago’s ailing bats, and the Cubs really need to play a little catch-up with the Brewers in the standings.
How About That!
After failing a glove inspection, Mariners pitcher Héctor Santiago became the game’s first pitcher to be ejected for illegal substances under baseball’s new rules.
With yesterday’s victory over the Diamondbacks, the Padres finished their 10-game homestand with nine wins.
Yankees starter Gerrit Cole has hit one of the roughest patches of his career since the league started cracking down on illegal sticky substances.
On the flip side, the Rangers’ offense is exploding as spin rates drop across baseball.
A gruesome collision between outfielder Josh Naylor and second baseman Ernie Clement resulted in Naylor being carted off the field yesterday with a broken leg.
Scott Boras said the Nationals are not shopping Max Scherzer and that the ace was unlikely to be traded this summer.
Justin Verlander is a free agent after this season and may consider going back to Detroit to finish his career with the Tigers.
In need of a second baseman since Nick Madrigal was declared out for the season, the White Sox are reportedly on the verge of acquiring versatile infielder Eduardo Escobar in a trade with the Diamondbacks.
The Cardinals are 5-16 this month against teams that would not be in the playoffs if the season ended on Sunday.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Shohei Ohtani – Working as a DH yesterday, the slugging two-way star fell just a single shy of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with his 25th homer of the season and three RBI. He threw in a stolen base for good measure.
- Clayton Kershaw – Recording 13 punchouts in eight innings will usually get you the top spot, but there is a bit of tarnish to the effort since he was pitching at the Cubs, who strike out often against most starters.
- Zack Collins – The light-hitting White Sox catcher had a big day at the plate, going 2-for-4 and plating four runs in a 7-5 win over the Mariners.
It would be nice if the Cubs would extend Rizzo, though I’d also be worried about that back and mid-30s regression if I were making that call.
With his homer yesterday, Anthony Rizzo has 10 seasons of at least 10 home runs. He is just the seventh Cub with at least 10 10-homer seasons, joining Ernie Banks (17), Billy Williams (14), Ron Santo (13), Sammy Sosa (12), Gabby Hartnett (12) and Ryne Sandberg (11). #Cubs
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) June 27, 2021
They Said It
- “[Alzolay] wasn’t sharp. “I just felt like his rhythm in general, syncing up his mechanics leading to sporadic command. His slider really didn’t look like it had a lot of shape to it either. He was battling himself out there, trying to let him figure it out a little bit.” – David Ross
- “I felt like my body was slow to home plate. I was throwing everything from back here at my head. I just couldn’t find that rhythm today in the game.” – Adbert Alzolay
Monday Walk-Up Song
Baby Blue by Badfinger – I suppose the Cubs should feel lucky to have escaped L.A. with at least a win, though it took a combined no-hitter to get it. Check out a very mod version of country legend Kenny Rogers introducing Badfinger in this video by the way.