The Chicago Cubs’ up-and-down season continued with another week of inconsistent play. The team found itself on the short end of the stick more times than not dropping three of the five games played. Mother Nature had as many victories as the Cubs with two games postponed, granted one was made up the next day with the built-in off day following the home opener for just such situations.
The Cubs ended the week with an impromptu off day that had the potential to be a much needed opportunity to clear their collective heads. The Cubs’ play from the end of the first inning on Thursday through the seventh inning of Saturday was ugly to say the least. Instead, an improbable comeback meant the Cubs finished the week on a high note and back at a .500 record.
Tuesday – Pirates 8 Cubs 5
The Cubs scored the first run of the week, but Willson Contreras sliding into third was called out after review to end the threat. Tyler Chatwood gave up a collection of both soft and hard hits as the Pirates built a 5-2 lead. Francisco Cervelli delivered a three-run bomb in the seventh inning. That proved to be the decisive blow despite Javier Baez hitting two solo home runs, and Jason Heyward delivering an improbable two-run single against Felipe Vasquez with two outs in the eighth inning.
Wednesday – Pirates 5 Cubs 13
Jon Lester wasn’t sharp as Sean Rodriguez had his hardest hit against the Cubs since the 2015 NL wild card game. Rodriguez’s three-run home run gave the Pirates a short-lived lead in the second inning. The Cubs answered with the first four batters reaching against Pirates starter Steven Brault. They all scored following another Baez homer. Lester could not keep the lead or put up a quality start. Cervellli continued to be a Cubs killer with an RBI single to tie the game.
The Cubs piled runs on against the Pirates bullpen. Baez reached on a wild pitch strikeout. He advanced to second on a Heyward fielder’s choice, and then stole third. He scored the go-ahead run on a Tommy La Stella’s fielder’s choice. Josh Harrison’s throw on that play went to plate as Baez beat yet another throw. Albert Almora, Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist hits drove in another three runs. The Cubs put up a four spot in the seventh to crack the game wide open. Eddie Butler gave up a solo shot in the eighth inning to David Freese, but Baez’s fourth home run in two games finished the scoring.
Thursday – Pirates 6 Cubs 1
The game was a lot closer than the final score line indicates. Gregory Polanco launched a solo shot in the first inning. Kyle Schwarber tied the game with his own home run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Adam Frazier drove in the winning run with a fifth-inning lead-off home run. The Cubs offense was unable to deliver any big hits with the few chances they had in the later innings, and Justin Wilson made sure it didn’t matter with his seventh inning implosion. Polanco added another solo homer. Wilson then walked two batters with two outs. Cervelli continued to cement his reputation as a Cubs killer with another three-run dagger.
Friday – Braves 4 Cubs 0
The week started to look very ugly as Anibal Sanchez mystified the Cubs for six innings of shutout ball. Yu Darvish appeared to be settling in after some early inning struggles, but the score was still tied heading into the fifth inning. Ozzie Albies hit one of approximately a million extra base hits on the weekend to start the rally in the fifth inning. A Darvish balk pushed Albies to third, but Freddie Freeman struck out. A wild pitch scored Albies, and Nick Markakis singled. Kurt Suzuki doubled in front of a Preston Tucker homer made it a 4-0 score. The Cubs bullpen kept the Braves at bay, but the bats never managed to threaten to make it a ballgame.
Saturday – Braves 10 Cubs 14
The weirdest, craziest, silliest, greatest regular season game of Cubs baseball in nearly the past 30 years. Jose Quintana did little to help Cubs fans forget Eloy Jimenez as he battled the elements, his command and an umpire through 2.1 innings. The combination resulted in seven earned runs being charged to Quintana with the aid of Eddie Butler allowing every inherited runner to score. Albies had an RBI in each of the first four innings and was a triple short of the cycle with the score standing 10-2 Braves.
Then the comeback began.
Schwarber drew a bases-loaded walk to end starter Sean Newcomb’s afternoon, but Dan Winkler prevented any further damage with an Ian Happ strikeout and Effren Navarro lineout. Winkler didn’t keep the Cubs lineup in check though as Kris Bryant walked to start the seventh inning. Ben Zobrist hit a triple and was driven in by a Baez groundout to get the Cubs within five.
Butler settled in to toss two scoreless frames, and that was followed by scoreless innings from Steve Cishek, Wilson, and Brandon Morrow to make the following meaningful.
Luke Jackson started the eighth inning by hitting Heyward. La Stella hit a single with one out to bring Jose Ramirez into the game. Ramirez struck out Navarro for the second out, and he was one strike away from ending the inning before plunking Bryant. Contreras had an infield single, and Zobrist drew another bases loaded walk to make it a 10-7 game.
Baez provided the hardest hit ball of the inning with a bases-clearing double to tie the game. Addison Russell was intentionally walked, and Sam Freeman became the third Braves pitcher of the inning. Freeman walked the next three batters resulting in another two runs. Peter Moylan was the fourth Braves pitcher of the eighth inning, and he threw a wild pitch allowing two runs to score. The catcher attempted to get La Stella advancing to second and the throw ended up in the outfield. The comeback was the largest since 1989.
Sunday – Postponed
Top Pitcher of the Week: Kyle Hendricks (6 IP, 3.00 ERA, 7 K, 3 BB, 5 H)
Kyle Hendricks didn’t have his best stuff or command against the Pirates. It was a losing effort, but it was the only quality start pitched this week. It is nice to see Hendricks evolve as a pitcher, and grind his way through a much-needed six innings.
Top Hitter of the Week: Javier Baez (22 PA, 4 HR, .238/.273/.857)
The numbers don’t tell the entire story of Javier Baez this week. The four home runs stand out, but his base running made an impact multiple times this week. All that said, perhaps his most impressive at-bat was in the eighth inning of the crazy Braves game. On a 3-2 pitch to deliver the game tying double shows the growth of him as a hitter. There is still going to be those golden sombrero afternoons from time to time, but Baez becomes an extremely dangerous hitter the more consistently he puts together at bats like that together.
Another Mailbag Podcast! Plus looking ahead to Cubs-Brewers
Since the Cubs were off again yesterday, Sean Sears and I fielded a few more questions from the listeners on today’s podcast. But first, we looked ahead to today’s pitching matchup between the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. Who has the advantage? After that, we looked at how the Cubs might be able to rest in September.
In the second segment, we took questions regarding bat flips and Kris Bryant‘s return from the DL. Last, we looked at yesterday’s games in the NL Central, discussed the suddenly dangerous Cardinals, and learned a little about architecture.
Holy David Bote, Batman! What a game!
The Cubs beat the Washington Nationals on Sunday night, winning 4-3 with a dramatic, walk-off grand slam from superstar third baseman David Bote (audio courtesy of WSCR and Randall Sanders on Twitter). Max Scherzer and Cole Hamels were the big story of this game, going pitch-for-pitch against each other and treating fans to an outstanding duel. Sean Sears and I discussed Hamels in the first segment.
In our second segment, we looked at Bote and his historic slam. With Kris Bryant still without a timetable for his return, could Bote be pushing his way into the everyday lineup? What could that mean for the struggling Addison Russell right now, and then again when Bryant does return? In the final segment, we looked at the NL Central and talked about the suddenly red-hot Cardinals.
Mailbag episode! Featuring Kelly Wallace as a guest host
With the Cubs off on Thursday, Kelly Wallace of Expanded Roster sat in for Sean Sears on this Friday podcast to help me with the mailbag. First, we looked ahead at today’s game with the Washington Nationals and discussed a roster move. Does Jorge De La Rosa have anything left to offer?
In the second segment, we went head-first into questions about Jim Hickey, pitching development, and more. In the final segment, we looked around the NL Central — including a satisfying Brewers loss — before answering a question about Addison Russell‘s power. We finished with a question about hot dog condiments, and Kelly shared an awful pizza opinion.