When the best thing about an evening at Wrigley Field is the parading around of a championship trophy from another sport, you know the Cubs have had a bad, bad night.
I'll have more on the Blackhawks' visit to Wrigley below, but first, a few words about the Cubs' 6-0 shutout loss to the Indians, the fifth time they've been blanked this year.
You could tell Jake Arrieta didn't have command from the very first inning. He labored through a 28-pitch, two-walk first inning, and even though he got out of it without any runs scoring, it was pretty obvious Arrieta wasn't going to make it deep into the game. He had a 1-2-3 second, but then issued two more walks in the third and then Carlos Santana got the Tribe's first hit off Arrieta, a three-run homer.
Truth be told, everyone could have left the ballpark just then, because the game was essentially over. The Blackhawks, who had been ensconced on the new right-field porch to watch a few innings, did in fact leave along with the Stanley Cup right about then.
Arrieta gutted out another couple of innings, walking two more hitters in the fifth and allowing one more run. He managed to get himself out of a bases-loaded jam with two out, but after 112 pitches, he was done for the evening. Edwin Jackson relieved him and didn't pitch badly, having a 1-2-3 sixth and giving up a run on a single and double in the seventh. James Russell threw a scoreless eighth, but the Cubs will likely have to find another reliever to replace Zac Rosscup, who left the game with a 3-1 count on Brandon Moss in the top of the ninth. What happened?
#Cubs Rosscup had stiffness in shoulder. Couldn't get loose— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 17, 2015
Well, that doesn't sound good. I suppose Brian Schlitter will wind up rejoining the team in Cleveland. He's apparently inherited Blake Parker's frequent-flyer miles account.
You'll notice I haven't really said anything about the Cubs offense. That's because there essentially wasn't any. They had four hits, all singles, and three walks. Just two runners got past first base. Those were Addison Russell, who singled leading off the third, and Dexter Fowler, who followed with a walk. Kris Bryant singled them to third and second, respectively, but Miguel Montero struck out to end the inning. Give Trevor Bauer credit -- he was really good Tuesday night.
Not so good was plate umpire Phil Cuzzi. He played equal-opportunity ejector by tossing one player on each team. Cleveland's Michael Bourn was ejected after being called out on strikes in the fourth, and Montero was asked to leave after the eighth. Why?
What happened with #Cubs Montero? Maddon says: "There was some stuff all night long about calls, balls and strikes"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 17, 2015
Cuzzi doesn't have the best reputation among umpires for ball-and-strike calls, let's just leave it at that.
That meant Kyle Schwarber 's major-league debut was going to be as a defensive replacement. Bet you didn't see that coming. He had been on deck to bat in the eighth, so Montero must have been tossed before his turn to bat came in that inning. Schwarber caught the top of the ninth uneventfully and then was called out on strikes, on three pitches, leading off the bottom of the ninth. By this time there were a couple thousand die-hards on hand to see the major-league debut of last year's No. 1 pick. The last Cubs No. 1 choice to make his debut that soon after being chosen was Mark Prior, who debuted May 22, 2002, about nine months after signing (back when the deadline was later than it now is). Let's hope Schwarber has a better career than Prior.
Back to the Blackhawks! They arrived shortly after 6:30 p.m. and paraded the Stanley Cup around the warning track, to loud cheers, then set it down on the mound for photographs, both of their team with the Cup and then the Cubs joined them. Jonathan Toews threw out a ceremonial first pitch to Anthony Rizzo, showing much better form than most athletes from other sports have done when performing this ceremony.
The Hawks were then ushered into the bleachers. It was reported to me that Cubs security cleared out a path so those who needed the men's room could use that facility, and then the team spent the first three innings of the game on the new right-field porch. Several of my friends had heard about this and so went and staked out seats in the back row in right field, which directly abuts the porch.
They wound up taking selfies with some players and the Cup, and heard quite a bit of joking around and even heckling. I was told that Niklas Hjalmarsson, in particular, was getting on Chris Denorfia, saying, "This is a dumb sport. What does that guy do, anyway? He's just standing around!"
All in good fun, and the Blackhawks certainly have earned that. Congratulations again to them on a championship well-earned. Here are some photos I took during the pre-game Cup festivities:
The good news about this game is that the Cubs have had very, very few of these this year and quite often, come back from losses like this with a big win. That happened in Detroit last week, when a similar 6-0 shutout was followed by a 12-3 win. That's a sign of an improving team, and seeing the NHL's championship trophy on the field at Wrigley is a reminder that the Cubs are edging closer to winning the trophy for their own sport. I can only imagine the scene at Wrigley if the Cubs can do that at home.
Meanwhile, the business of the Cubs and Indians heads to Cleveland for the remainder of this interleague set. ICYMI, Monday's rainout will be made up Monday, August 24 at 1:05 p.m., tacked on after a six-game homestand with the Tigers and Braves. Tonight, Tsuyoshi Wada, who's got to pitch better or it might be necessary to replace him in the rotation, starts for the Cubs against the Tribe's Danny Salazar.