I know most of you don't want me to tell you how to feel about Cubs baseball, but I'm sure you won't mind this morning if I say a little irrational exuberance is just fine after Jorge Soler homered in his first major-league at-bat. The Cubs wound up losing to the Reds 7-5, but yes, absolutely, let's revel in Soler's blast for a while.
It was no ordinary home run, either -- 423 feet to straightaway center field. That's damn impressive. Soler later popped up, struck out and singled in a run, finishing off a 2-for-4 night with two RBI that it seems to me will be a fairly common boxscore line for him, at least that's the hope, that's the promise.
That one would have been great fun to see in person. Exciting? Absolutely. He is, as I'm sure you've heard by now, the first Cub to homer in his first big-league at-bat since Starlin Castro did it in 2010 in the same stadium off the Reds' Homer Bailey. Soler is the first player to do this at all in almost two years; the last before Wednesday was the Rangers' Jurickson Profar, who did it September 2, 2012 against the Indians. Here's the most impressive note I found on Soler's blast:
2014 Cubs are the first team in history to have two players, each age 22 or younger, HR in their 1st MLB games (Baez/Soler)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 28, 2014
Gotta admit, that's pretty cool, and remember... Kris Bryant is still in Triple-A. Years from now, we might look back on this 2014 team as not only a turning point in Cubs history, but the start of one of the biggest turnarounds for any team in big-league history.
I'll have another article a bit later this morning on the complete history of Cubs who have homered in their first major-league at-bats. (Hint: It's not a list covered in glory.)
And of course you want to see it again. Here it is, courtesy BCBer ubercubsfan:
The rest of this game? Not so wonderful, though I think Jacob Turner pitched better than his stat line. He wound up giving up three unearned runs in the fourth inning after nearly getting out of it trailing just 3-2; errors by Castro and Luis Valbuena were the culprits. I think Turner will be fine; keep him in the rotation the rest of the year and let him be Bosio-ized. Just remember that Turner is only seven months older than Javier Baez, despite Turner having played in the big leagues each of the last four years.
The bullpen managed to keep the game close -- thanks again, Carlos Villanueva, for solid relief work -- until the Cubs broke through for a three-run eighth inning, which was highlighted by more hitting from the Cubs' youth corps. Logan Watkins, just off a plane from Tacoma (where Iowa is playing) singled, and after Chris Coghlan also singled, Baez doubled them in to make it 6-4.
Castro then hit a ball deep off the wall in center field that should have been a double, but he appeared to not run hard out of the box, thinking he had hit a home run, and had to stop at first. Baez, who had gone to third, was then singled in by Soler. But had Castro been on second base, that hit would likely have tied the game and the rest of the game's pitching choices might have been very different. Len and JD were very critical of Castro, and after the game:
#Cubs Renteria on Castro in 8th: "He feels bad. He knows. He's apologizing to everybody about not getting over there. ...— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 28, 2014
"... He's got a lot of things on his mind, and he's out there doing the best he can" more Renteria on Castro in 8th. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 28, 2014
That's all well and good and it's good to have a manager who has his players' backs, but this kind of thing really can't keep happening.
Had the game been tied, perhaps someone other than Zac Rosscup would have thrown the bottom of the eighth. Rosscup gave one of the runs back on a homer by pinch-hitter Chris Heisey, which left it to the Cubs' kids to try to make up a two-run deficit against 100 mile-per-hour fireballer Aroldis Chapman. Arismendy Alcantara singled sharply to left off him, but then Chapman struck out Chris Valaika and pinch-hitter Matt Szczur (who seemed overmatched) before Chris Coghlan walked.
That brought up Baez, as Len and JD said, "the hardest-throwing pitcher and the hardest swing." After a called strike and a swinging strike, Baez hit a ball to the deepest part of Great American Ball Park that fell just short of being a three-run homer that would have given the Cubs an 8-7 lead. That really was impressive, despite the fact that it was a game-ending out.
Oh, yes. One other thing before I close this recap: Valbuena homered just before Soler in the second inning, his 13th. That's a new career high for Luis V, breaking his mark set last year. Valbuena's having the best year of his career and once all the prospects are slotted in the starting lineup, he will be a very valuable utility player -- he won't turn 30 until after the 2015 season. Here's Luis' homer:
The rubber game of this series comes up in just a few hours, at 11:35 a.m. CT. Don't forget to check back here soon for the article about all the Cubs who have homered in their first at-bat, and the game preview for the series finale will post at 10 a.m. CT.