I came across this tweet earlier this morning:
#Cubs bullpen has a 2.01 ERA (18 ER/80 2/3 IP) in last 24 Gs dating to May 12 vs Cardinals— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 8, 2014
That's very good, and from May 12 (which was the 17-5 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis) through Saturday, the Cubs were 12-10, not great, but still three weeks' worth of winning baseball. It was also the best record in the N.L. Central over that span, and the second-best in the National League (only the Giants, at 16-7, were better).
Good bullpen work got the Cubs there. And when that good bullpen work ended Sunday afternoon, so did their five-game winning streak, in a 4-3 loss to the Marlins. That dropped the Cubs' record in one-run games to 5-11.
Jake Arrieta had his best start of the year, giving up just three singles and only one runner past second base -- and that was the leadoff hitter of the game, Christian Yelich, who singled, went to second on a groundout and stole third. But after that, Arrieta was dominant, striking out seven and allowing just two balls into the outfield other than the three singles in six innings.
Arrieta finished that sixth inning with 93 pitches, 60 for strikes, and his batting-order position wasn't due up in the inning. The game was scoreless, and the Cubs broke it open in that bottom of the sixth with a pair of runs, helped along by a throwing error on Marlins first baseman Garrett Jones on what looked like a routine ground ball. Jones' wild throw caused Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez to flail wildly in an attempt to catch the ball. In so doing, he missed the base, allowing Luis Valbuena to reach and Starlin Castro, who had doubled, to take third, and then Alvarez fell to the ground. He threw one warmup pitch and left the game; it was later described as a "left hip strain."
Marlins reliever Dan Jennings then allowed Nate Schierholtz to triple down the right-field line, scoring both runners. Schierholtz was then tagged out trying to score on a contact play with the infield pulled in, but the Cubs had a 2-0 lead heading to the seventh.
Would you have left Arrieta in? I think I would have; after that inning the pitcher's spot was due to lead off the seventh, and Arrieta was rolling. Before Sunday he had thrown 94 pitches twice and 105 once (in his last start where he didn't get out of the fifth), so 93 pitches in six innings didn't seem to be a big deal. Now, we don't know what Arrieta might have told the coaching staff -- maybe he was gassed, though that wouldn't seem likely on a cool afternoon with the wind blowing in at 22 miles per hour.
But hey, the bullpen's been great for three weeks, right? They can handle it, right?
Not today. Brian Schlitter came in and got touched up for three hits and a pair of runs, tying the game. The Cubs tied it right back up in the next inning, on a hit batter, a bloop double by Junior Lake and a pair of walks -- one intentional to Anthony Rizzo, the other drawn with the bases loaded by Valbuena. It could have been more -- the photo at the top of this post is of Starlin Castro, frustrated after striking out with the bases loaded and one out in that inning.
It's all good, right? Six outs to go, the pen's been awesome!
Not today. Pedro Strop was wild, walking the first batter he faced and hitting the third, and a single and sacrifice fly accounted for two runs allowed, giving the Marlins the lead and eventually, the gamee, as the Cubs couldn't do anything with Miami setup man Bryan Morris or closer Steve Cishek. Cishek hadn't pitched in the series, not even in the 13-inning game Friday, so the Cubs weren't likely used to his odd, stork-like sidearm delivery. Actually, Lake hit one of Cishek's first pitches right on the nose, apparently headed to left field for a leadoff single, but shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria snagged it for the first out. Cishek finished off Rizzo and Castro to end it.
You didn't expect this streak to last forever, right? The Cubs still played good ball Sunday afternoon, came from behind once, only to have a bullpen failure. Those kinds of things are going to happen from time to time. Winning five of six on a homestand is still a good thing, and hopefully the team can build on this as they head on the road to play teams they might be able to compete with -- the Pirates, who don't seem as good as last year's version; the Phillies, who look horrific; and the Marlins again. (Thanks, schedulers -- there's an entire season series within a 13-game span.)
Incidentally, what's all the buzz about this Giancarlo Stanton guy? He's terrible! He was 1-for-13 in the series with seven strikeouts.
And, once again, the Cubs did a nice job on the throwback uniforms, particularly the cool-looking high, striped socks. I like the high-sock look in general and those looked great. These uniforms weren't quite as nice as the 1930s version, which I liked better, but still authentic to the era (1942).
The Cubs begin the 10-game road trip Monday night in Pittsburgh, with Edwin Jackson facing Charlie Morton.