You should thank me for going to the Cubs' 3-1 loss to the Brewers Sunday afternoon, because I was watching this game while you were watching the Bears beat the Bengals, so I could write up this recap and you wouldn't have to watch a single pitch.
About 15,000 other
masochists fans filed into Wrigley Field on a pleasant Sunday afternoon to see Scott Baker's first start as a Cub. And for that, we can say it was an unqualified success. Baker threw five solid innings, with an efficient 55 pitches, giving up just a single, a double and a walk. His velocity was Scott Baker-ish -- Baker was never a hard thrower, he peaked at 89, but he mixed up his pitches well and had several hitters off balance. Here's what I don't understand about Baker's outing, after this quote from Dale Sveum in this morning's Tribune:
"He is built up pretty good (in terms of rehab innings pitched)," Sveum said of Baker, who went 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA in eight rehab starts for Class A Kane County and Daytona. "Obviously he is not going to go over 100 pitches. Ninety will probably be the thing. ... It's not a necessity to do anything but just evaluate and let him pitch.
So what did Dale mean? 90 total pitches in all the starts Baker made? Because if he had planned to let Baker go 90 pitches Sunday, he came up 35 short of that. Maybe 90 in his first start would have been too many, but there was really no reason not to let Baker at least start the sixth inning; at the time Baker's batting-order slot came up, following Junior Lake's fifth home run of the year in the bottom of the fifth, the Cubs had a 1-0 lead.
Logan Watkins batted for Baker, and, predictably, struck out.
Justin Grimm threw one good inning and then ran into trouble in the seventh on a couple of hits that just got beyond the reach of Cubs fielders. On the second of those hits, by Carlos Gomez, the cutoff man was overthrown and Gomez took second. That proved to be important when James Russell was summoned, because Russell, facing pinch-hitter Jeff Bianchi, gave up a bouncing single through a pulled-in infield. If Gomez is still on first base, the infield is probably at double-play depth and the Cubs are out of the inning. Instead, Bianchi's hit drove in two runs and that, essentially, was the game. Yet another relay came in and missed the cutoff man, so Bianchi took second and, after an intentional walk and a force play, Yovani Gallardo batted for himself. Gallardo is a good hitter (.208, 12 career home runs in 355 at-bats coming into Sunday) and singled in the third run.
That was it, really -- besides Lake, who singled in addition to his home run, the only other Cub who had a hit was Luis Valbuena, who singled in the fourth inning. Nate Schierholtz's walk in that same inning provided the only other baserunner for the offensively-challenged Cubs; this turned out to be one of Gallardo's best starts in his worst season in the major leagues.
Like I said, I watched this game so you didn't have to. For those of you who watched the Bears, congratulations on their first win of the year. Meanwhile, Scott Baker showed me enough that I'd like to see more of him the rest of the year. As I suggested in the game preview, I'd leave him in the rotation and move Jake Arrieta to the bullpen.
Also, the loss mathematically eliminated the Cubs from postseason consideration. (Not that there had been any real such consideration for months.)
Truth be told, I'm much more interested in the American League wild card race; if the Mariners defeat the Rays in a game that's still going on as I write this, there will be five teams within 2½ games of the A.L.'s second wild-card spot. A five-way tie. Now that would be fun!
In the meantime, the Cubs are off on an 11-game road trip on which, I think, they will be lucky to win two games. At least the first seven games are against contending teams, which makes those games meaningful. It's been a while since we've seen meaningful baseball, so at least there's that.