I came to Wrigley Field Friday afternoon expecting to possibly see history, of some kind, made. Instead I got a spring-training game.
Let's get the facts out of the way first. The Dodgers trounced the Cubs 14-5 (bet you haven't seen "trounced" around a baseball score recently) and while the game dragged on forever, this one, I decided early, I didn't care. The weather was gorgeous, one of the best days of the summer, perhaps even the nicest weather day in Chicago in 2014, and why did we have to wait till late September for it? And since it was so beautiful out, I figured I'd just sit back and enjoy whatever was to come to pass after a ridiculous first inning.
Edwin Jackson... well, I just have no idea. His velocity was fine -- 94, 95 on the Wrigley speed meter. He managed to retire one hitter before the carnage began, and then it was walk, single, three-run homer, double, groundout and another single before Rick Renteria had mercy on EJax and lifted him after 35 pitches.
Yikes. 35 pitches to record two outs? Eric Jokisch, who had already been notified he'd be "on call" if Jackson got in trouble, entered the game and promptly surrendered a two-run homer to Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis.
A.J. Ellis. Who entered the game hitting .188/.324/.235 with one home run in 260 at-bats. Yes, that's a .235 slugging percentage. Which is the lowest SLG for anyone with as many PA as Ellis has this year (321). By a lot (next lowest is Jackie Bradley Jr., at .272.)
Ellis hit another homer off Jokisch in the third inning. The Dodgers scored enough in the first inning to win the game, as it turned out, even though the Cubs did a number on Clayton Kershaw. "A number" is relative -- Kershaw gave up three runs to the Cubs in the first inning, highlighted by a double from Anthony Rizzo and a triple by Jorge Soler -- and finished up with five innings, those three runs and nine strikeouts, with three walks. That's ... well, that's kind of an Edwin Jackson start. For Kershaw, it was just the second time all year he'd issued three walks in a game and only the eighth time in 26 starts he'd given up three runs in a game. While individual pitcher wins don't mean what they once did, Kershaw posted his 20th of 2014 in this game. It's his second 20-win season and 97th career victory at age 26 and if you think we've seen our last 300-game winner... maybe Kershaw will be that guy who'll be the next one.
So that's something, anyway. While the Dodgers were slamming four homers in all (Matt Kemp off Jackson and Yasiel Puig off Dan Straily, who was almost as horrific in his inning-plus of work as Jackson), the Cubs couldn't take advantage of a strong wind blowing out toward left field. It was reminiscent of some of the late-season games in the mid-1970s when the Cubs were awful and other teams would come in and torment Cubs relievers with their power displays.
After the sixth inning the Dodgers cleared their bench and didn't score again. Darwin Barney was inserted in the game at second base in the seventh and came to bat in the ninth to a rousing round of indifference from the remains of the crowd, many of whom probably didn't even notice the popular former Cub was at the plate. Arodys Vizcaino, the seventh Cubs pitcher, walked him. In all, the Cubs used every position player on the current roster except Luis Valbuena, who was probably happy to sit this one out. Rafael Lopez replaced Welington Castillo in the first inning. Reports are that Castillo has a rib contusion after being injured on a foul ball:
Castillo to the hospital for some tests on left rib area after getting injured on foul— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) September 19, 2014
Meanwhile, the Dodgers used all their position players except their two backup catchers, one of whom (Drew Butera) played part of Thursday night's game. In all, 40 players got a chance to play on this lovely late-summer/early-fall afternoon, in a game that definitely had that spring-training feel to it.
I don't know what else to say about Jackson. He had been penciled in to start one of the games in Milwaukee next weekend, but:
RR did say Edwin is scheduled to make another start in Mil....but of course that could change potentially— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) September 19, 2014
Quote from Jackson:
EJAx: “It may seem far-fetched and some people may not think so but I still think my best years are to come."— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) September 19, 2014
I would love to think that's true. I've seen no evidence of it. Jackson's ERA coming into the game was 6.09 and he left with it at 6.38. That ranks among the most horrible seasons by any pitcher in major-league history, so I checked him against other pitchers through history using another number. That's ERA+, which normalizes the pitcher's ERA to the season he's pitching in. Coming into Friday's game, Jackson's ERA+ was 62, and that will likely be lower after it's recalculated (anyone who wants to do that calculation, be my guest). I looked for all pitchers in MLB history who had an ERA+ of 62 or lower with as many innings as Jackson has this year (139⅔). Including Jackson, there are nine such years (note -- this table does not include Friday's performance by Jackson, which could and likely will lower his ERA+):
As you can see, six of those years were in the deadball era, one in the 1930s, and one was Edinson Volquez's 2013 season. Jackson's 2014 season ranks as one of the worst for any pitcher in the history of baseball. There really is nowhere to go but up.
So it shall be for the Cubs as well, we hope. The Cubs struck out 15 times Friday, the 12th time they've done that as a team this year. Yikes again. That's enough of that, I'd say. It was still an entertaining afternoon, livened up late in the day by a visit from WXRT's morning DJ, Lin Brehmer, who is a friend (and we also went to college together).
The Cubs will try it again Saturday. Felix Doubront will go for the Cubs and Roberto Hernandez for the Dodgers. Don't forget! The time for Saturday's game has been changed -- it was originally a 3:05 CT start, but will start at 12:05 CT and be televised regionally on Fox-TV.