The Miami Marlins have one quality major-league player in their lineup, and he's starting to get hot. That hurt the Cubs Sunday afternoon, as Giancarlo Stanton hit two home runs and prevented the Cubs from sweeping the four-game series; the Marlins won 6-4.
That, and I'm pretty sure I've figured out the Cubs' next roster move. Kyuji Fujikawa is eligible to come off the disabled list Monday -- though I suspect he'll throw a couple of rehab outings first -- and I think we can say goodbye to Kameron Loe, who gave up Stanton's second homer and also one to Nick Green. Yes, the Nick Green, who before Sunday had 16 career home runs in 1038 at-bats and hadn't hit one in the big leagues since 2009. Loe, meanwhile, has now thrown 11⅔ innings combined between the Mariners and Cubs this year and given up eight home runs. I think you can see why the Mariners waived him. Anyway, that'll open up a spot on the 40-man roster for Theo and Jed to play Roster Jenga with.
Would things have turned out any different if not for Loe's appearance? Well, if the Marlins go into the ninth with a 4-3 lead, closer Steve Cishek would still have been in the game. Would Dioner Navarro still have hit a home run off him? We'll never know. Incidentally, Jim Deshaies was almost prescient on the telecast; he and Len pointed out that Navarro was 4-for-8 as a pinch-hitter and 0-for-20 in the starting lineup coming into that at-bat, and no sooner did Deshaies say, "I know my job is explaining things, but I got nothing," when Navarro smacked a Cishek sinker that didn't sink over the right-field wall.
It was just one of those games. The Cubs didn't leave a huge number of baserunners; they had their chances but went 1-for-8 with RISP. Carlos Villanueva didn't have a great game, but neither did he have a bad one; he would have wound up with another quality start, but a ball that deflected off Starlin Castro's glove, originally ruled an error, was changed to a hit for Donovan Solano. That made a Marlins run earned instead of unearned. Villanueva walked three and struck out eight in his six innings of work and some of the Cubs' other pitchers could take a lesson from him: in his five starts, Villanueva has thrown a total of 471 pitches in 35⅓ innings. That's an average of 13 pitches per inning, and if he could do that every time out, he should be able to throw seven innings almost every time.
The Cubs extended their streak of no blowouts (games decided by five or more runs) to 24 games; the record for such things at the beginning of a season is 33 decisions, held by the 1914 Tigers and 1918 Cardinals. (I say "decisions" because that Cardinals team had one tie game in its first 33 games.) You might ask, "How did those teams do?" And, I have the answers!
The 1914 Tigers were 21-12 before losing their 34th game 10-1; they finished fourth in the eight-team American League at 80-73. They wound up 10-15 in "blowout" games.
The 1918 Cardinals were 12-21 (with the one tie) before losing their 34th game 8-0; they finished last in the eight-team National League at 51-78 (in a season shortened to 140 games by World War I). They wound up 11-14 in "blowout" games.
So it really can go either way; give the Cubs credit for staying in every game. Think about it this way: you could be a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, picked by many (including me) to win the American League East this year. After getting swept at Yankee Stadium this weekend, the Blue Jays are 9-17, a full game worse than the Cubs. The Cubs will have 16 of their next 19 games at home, and I'm told the weather might even be in the 70s and 80s the next few days. That, at least, will be refreshing. It'll be Clayton Richard, who we were told on the telecast was "Mr. Baseball" and "Mr. Football" in Indiana in his high-school days, facing Jeff Samardzija, who was runner-up in both those categories to Richard. (2003 was the year, if you want to look it up.)