See Cubs third base coach Pat Listach in the background of the photo above, showing Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in his windup? Standing there with his hands on his hips, probably wondering, "Why are we even bothering to have this inning?"
Truth be told, the Cubs made a little headway on Chapman Sunday, the third consecutive day he'd been called on by Dusty Baker to save a game for the Reds. Of the four Cubs hitters Chapman faced, only one struck out, three hit fair balls, and one (Darwin Barney) actually got a hit, and a good-looking hit at that, a line drive into left field.
In his career, Chapman has now made 11 appearances against the Cubs covering 11⅔ innings. He has faced 42 Cubs hitters, allowed four hits and five walks and struck out 19 (of 35 total outs). It's the most appearances and innings Chapman has against any team with a 0.00 ERA.
The Cubs didn't do much off Johnny Cueto, either, on a cloudy, somewhat gloomy day at Wrigley Field with large swaths of empty seats visible all over the ballpark. They had just three singles and a pair of walks off Cueto and just one runner reached third base.
That's the bad news. The good news is that Brooks Raley actually put together a pretty good start. He retired the first 13 Reds he faced, then gave up a single to Todd Frazier and a home run to Jay Bruce. The Bruce home run might have had a bit of a push from the slight south wind, as it just made it into the first row just beyond the right-field well. Raley gave up another hit in the fifth inning, then got out of it, and Ryan Ludwick's solo homer with two out in the sixth completed the Cincinnati scoring; the Reds' 3-0 win was the 11th time the Cubs have been shut out this year.
Raley's command was much better Sunday; he had 51 strikes in 81 pitches, walked only one and had eight outs on ground balls. As he gains more confidence being in the major leagues, I'd expect him to be able to induce more groundouts; Wrigley Field might be very well suited to him. He appears to be a Jamie Moyer-type pitcher, which isn't great, but as you know Moyer had a long career and was effective for many years. The Cubs could use a guy like that.
Manuel Corpas, Shawn Camp and Carlos Marmol kept the game close by throwing three combined shutout innings, allowing just a hit and a walk. Since the All-Star break Marmol has thrown 9⅔ innings in 10 appearances and given up nine hits, five walks and two earned runs (for a 1.86 ERA and 1.448 WHIP) and struck out 11. It's not Chapmanesque, but it's a vast improvement over his first half. Maybe he can be an effective reliever after all, for the last year of his two-year contract, or effective enough that he can be traded in the offseason.
The next three days should be real interesting. The Astros come to town having lost Sunday to drop back to 40 games under .500 at 38-78. They're 6-32 since July 1 and 11-46 on the road. On the other hand, the Cubs are 1-10 this month. The teams are 3-3 against each other, having traded sweeps (Astros over the Cubs in Houston in May, Cubs over the Astros at Wrigley in June). A battle of the worst, such as we have not seen at Wrigley Field in many years.
Enjoy, I think.