Many games this year can be teachable moments for Dale Sveum and Co. The lesson from Monday night's 5-0 loss to the Brewers: Don't let Pedro Strop throw three games in a row!
Strop had enough trouble getting out of innings in San Francisco, but managed to do so. He got himself into the same sort of trouble against Milwaukee -- bases loaded, nobody out, and in much the same way. A walk, a bouncy single to left and a meek popup that fell just short of David DeJesus in center loaded 'em, but this time Strop couldn't get out of it. A bunt that could have been the first out pulled Luis Valbuena off third base (scoring one run), and after a strikeout, Jeff Bianchi laced a double down the right-field line, making it 3-0.
Did you remember that Bianchi was briefly part of the Cubs organization? Theo & Jed claimed him on waivers from the Royals December 9, 2011 and 33 days later, waived him and the Brewers claimed him. Bianchi came into the game with a .574 OPS and only five extra-base hits in 113 at-bats, but those seem to be the kinds of guys who absolutely kill the Cubs.
Strop was lifted for Blake Parker and Rickie Weeks completed the scoring with a bloop double to right.
I could complain about bullpen usage again, but really, what's the point? Matt Guerrier, who threw the last two outs of the eighth inning, had thrown just nine pitches to do that and probably could have at least started the ninth. Guerrier, in fact, has been pretty efficient pitch-wise in most of his Cub outings and perhaps could be considered by Sveum to go multiple innings. But Monday night, Sveum decided to try Strop for the third game in a row, with disastrous results. Hint: that's the first time all year that Strop has pitched in three consecutive games. Maybe there's a reason for that.
Before the awful ninth, Jeff Samardzija and Kyle Lohse had been locked in a really nice pitcher's duel, Shark throwing one more scoreless inning (seven) than Lohse (six). Neither team had any real threats, though the Cubs did have a leadoff double from DeJesus in the first inning, and Valbuena reached on an error and was on second base with one out in the fourth. The Cubs were 1-for-8 with RISP, going back to their old ways. Meanwhile, Samardzija didn't allow a hit until there were two out in the fifth inning, and no Brewer reached second until the sixth. Samardzija recorded the first two outs easily in the seventh and if he had been able to get that third out efficiently, he might have been allowed to start the eighth; he had thrown 98 pitches through 6⅔. But then he gave up a double and a walk and it took 11 pitches in all to get that third out, so out Shark was.
And that's really it; the Cubs' offense might struggle at times without Alfonso Soriano in its middle, though give credit to Lohse, who's a pretty decent pitcher. Junior Lake made his Wrigley debut without incident in the field (no putouts) and two hits, including another excellently-placed bunt just past the pitcher on the right side. He's really good at that and until and unless teams figure out how to defense it, he should continue to do it.
Anthony Rizzo, who's been mired in a bad slump, had two hits and a walk. If he can ramp up his production, that would make up somewhat for the departure of Soriano.
It was a really nice weather night... if it had been September 29 instead of July 29. A cool breeze whipped off Lake Michigan and the game-time temperature was just 64 degrees, and much of the crowd streamed out of Wrigley after the Brewers' disastrous ninth inning.
The teams will play a split-admission doubleheader today; the afternoon game (1:20) is the makeup of a game that was rained out April 10. While we remain on trade watch (most so for Kevin Gregg), here's how the game threads will work: the day-game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CT, with the usual first-pitch and overflow thread times. Then, a preview for Game 2 will post at 6 p.m. CT, hopefully including a few thoughts on Game 1, with the usual first-pitch and overflow threads presuming a 7:05 p.m. CT start. If it winds up being later due to any delays or extra innings, I'll post times for those in the Game 2 preview.
It's Carlos Villanueva vs. Yovani Gallardo in the day game, and then, the Cubs will take advantage of the rule allowing a callup without sending someone down by recalling Jake Arrieta to start the night game against Milwaukee's Tyler Thornburg.