Just when you thought the Cubs might be awakening from their long National League West road-trip nightmare, they suddenly remembered where they were. Chase Field. Phoenix. House of pain. The 10-4 loss to Arizona Tuesday night was the Cubs' ninth in their last 11 tries in downtown Phoenix.
So could I ask a favor, Cubs players and pitchers? If you're going to do this, could you at least do it a little faster? By the time the game got to the eighth inning and the D'backs were extending their lead, and it was pushing past 11:30 p.m. in Chicago, I wound up kind of half-watching. Every time I looked up, it seemed, a D'back hitter was fouling off another Cubs pitch. The Cubs' bullpen went back to its evil ways Tuesday night; Travis Wood threw well enough for 5⅔ innings, but fell one out -- and one run, allowed by Matt Guerrier after Wood left the game -- short of a quality start.
5⅔ innings, 108 pitches. The bullpen threw 2⅓ innings, gave up six hits, three walks and six earned runs, and combined for 73 pitches. 41 of those were listed in the boxscore as strikes, but that's primarily because of all those foul balls. Neither Guerrier, nor Hector Rondon, nor Michael Bowden, was particularly effective. The two teams combined for 327 pitches and three hours, 30 minutes. Yawn.
Well, this is a work in progress, as we all know. Tuesday night, it was all Diamondbacks, although a late pinch-hit home run by Nate Schierholtz, and another homer in the ninth by Junior Lake, made the score a little -- note I say "a little" -- more respoectful.
Junior Lake, man. Wow. He had three more hits Tuesday night, including the homer, his second in two days, and is now 12-for-22 in his brief major-league career (.545/.565/.864). Obviously, the league will catch up to him at some point, and he will have to make adjustments at the plate. But even Tuesday, he was having better at-bats, looking at some pitches, and his bat speed is a wonder to behold. He also needs work in the outfield, as you likely know. But this five-game debut is likely going to keep him on the roster and get him playing time, even after David DeJesus returns -- which could be today:
David DeJesus, who has been out since 6/14, could be activated from DL Wed. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 24, 2013
If that's the case, I would expect Dave Sappelt (who hit into a weak groundout pinch-hitting Tuesday night) to be sent back to Iowa, as he has options remaining.
The other thing of interest Tuesday night was Dale Sveum's ejection after Cody Ransom was called out on strikes by plate umpire Dana DeMuth to end the third inning. (The pitch looked out of the zone, but it was fairly close.) Here's what Dale said to reporters after he was tossed:
#Cubs Sveum on ump: "I didn't quite like the way he handled staring at Cody and following him. It was over with. ... MORE— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 24, 2013
Said Sveum on DeMuth: "He didn't need to keep staring at my player and baiting him." #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 24, 2013
This is a real problem with modern umpires, and I'm surprised that the veteran DeMuth, who's usually one of the more respected umpires, would go for this. Umpires need to be impartial and not start confrontations; part of their job, I would argue, is to avoid confrontations. The Sveum/DeMuth argument happened while WGN-TV was on its mid-inning commercial break; when video of the argument was replayed on their return, it appeared that Sveum and DeMuth were laughing when the argument ended. That's good, at least, and it's probably just as well for Sveum that he missed the rest of this one.
We'll continue Alfonso Soriano Watch during the day Wednesday, though nothing appears as "close" as one New York paper reported it Tuesday:
The Alfonso Soriano-to-the-Yankees report may have been premature, though Cubs President Theo Epstein spoke to the veteran outfielder Tuesday night after news of their trade conversations leaked to the media. "There’s nothing really close," Epstein said before Tuesday’s game in Chase Field. "I’ll sit down with ‘Sori’ and go through some of his options with him. There’s a process to these types of trades, and we’re still relatively early in the process. … I’ll outline his options, exercising his no-trade rights to the various teams that have interest in him." Epstein said it’s natural for him to talk to players with no-trade clauses at the deadline, suggesting it doesn’t mean a deal will be on the table and Soriano will have to make a decision on his no-trade rights. "They’re not the first team to call," Epstein said. "They’re the first team to have it show up in the paper of their home city right away."
I'll have some more thoughts on this deal later this morning. The Cubs and Diamondbacks will play again Wednesday night. Perhaps by then, the Cubs can pretend they're playing in some other city, as the N.L. West in recent years hasn't been a happy place to travel.