The Cubs' 4-0 loss to the Rays Saturday afternon was, in my view, the boringest game of the year. No home runs, lots of strikeouts, no real controversies, no plays that were all that interesting...
Having said that, I owe you a recap of the, uh, festivities, such as they were. So here you go.
The most interesting -- and I use the word advisedly -- things that went on during this yawner were:
- Edwin Jackson threw reasonably well. He had good velocity, kept the ball around the strike zone and idn't walk anyone until the sixth inning, and might have gotten out of that inning unscathed except for a dropped throw by Javier Baez, which helped lead to an unearned run (and maybe both runs). He threw strikes, his pitch count was reasonably low, and if there were scouts watching (ohpleaseohpleaseohplease), I suspect they wrote good reports to their bosses. Who knows? Maybe he could still be traded. Somewhere. Anywhere.
- Javier Baez struck out twice more, which put him within reach of the record for most consecutive K's by a position player. You're wondering who holds that record and what it is, of course, so I'll tell you the mark is nine. It was first set by a Cub, Adolfo Phillips, in 1966, and tied by Steve Balboni (1984), Eric Davis (1987), Reggie Jackson (1987), Bo Jackson (1988) and Mark Reynolds (2007). There are some pretty good players on that list despite the K's. The all-time record for such things is 12, held, of course, by a pitcher: Sandy Koufax.
- After that, Baez had an outstanding at-bat in the sixth inning, using good strike-zone judgment in laying off some very close pitches and fouling off five offerings from Jake Odorizzi before lacing a double over the head of left fielder Matt Joyce. That kind of play shows the kind of talent Baez has. We're going to see lots more strikeouts. He might even break that consecutive-K record someday. But there are going to be a lot of AB and hits just like that double, too.
- Chris Rusin and Kyuji Fujikawa combined for three innings of scoreless relief, allowing just one hit.
Now I want to talk about the review of Justin Ruggiano's caught-stealing in the fifth inning. First of all, what is Ruggiano doing, running with one out and a 2-0 deficit and the Cubs not getting any baserunners? Yes, he stole 15 bases last year, but had just two in five attempts this year going into Saturday's game. It seemed pretty clear live that Ruggiano was out, but out trotted Ricky to challenge the call. I suppose it was worth challenging at the time, given the game situation.
But that shouldn't take four minutes and 10 seconds, the time given on the scoreboard after the review said "call stands." That's way too long. I've been a big proponent of replay review for a long time, as you know, and want to get the calls right, but here's what I think. Normal inning breaks run two minutes, 25 seconds. I think that ought to be the limit on these things. If you can't figure it out in the length of a normal inning break, then "call stands." I suspect there will be tweaks to the review system, which has in general functioned quite well, this offseason. Putting a time limit on them might very well be one of those tweaks.
Other than that, this game was boring. I'm sure it was fine for the Rays and all their fans, as the Rays closed to within two games of .500 and, pending the Royals game result Saturday, five games out of the second wild-card spot. The fact is, the Rays are a good team that wins despite having no real big stars. They've got perhaps the best manager in the game and just seem to know how to pull wins out even when they're not dominant. I told friends today that the Cubs could play well all weekend and still get swept. They've made some mistakes (like Ruggiano's CS or Ryan Sweeney's pickoff Friday) and you just can't give a team like the Rays those kinds of breaks.
It was a beautiful day at Wrigley, another one of those days we've waited all summer for. Too bad the Cubs baseball didn't match the weather.
The Cubs will try to salvage one game from this set when Travis Wood takes on Alex Cobb in the mound matchup Sunday at 1:20. After that we'll say goodbye to the Rays until 2017, most likely, and most probably on a visit to the Trop. By then, perhaps Javier Baez will be taking people deep regularly.