I sat at my keyboard for a very long time thinking about how to write up Saturday's 8-1 Cubs loss to the Cardinals, just the third time this year the Cubs have lost by seven runs or more. (That's good, in a perverse way: they're not getting blown out.)
Here's the way I think we all have to look at this: It's not just the Cubs that the Cardinals are doing these kinds of things to, it's everyone. In addition to Saturday's blowout, the Cardinals have already won games this year 12-4, 11-5, 10-2, 10-1, 9-3, 9-0, 8-3 and 7-1... need I go on? (I didn't think so.) They became the first team to 50 wins in 2015 with this one, and that's seven more than anyone else.
Donn Roach tried, really he did. He got some of the ground balls that were his trademark in the minor leagues. Many of them found holes. On one of them, he deflected what would likely have been an inning-ending double-play ball and instead it went for a hit by Cardinals starter Michael Wacha. The Cubs only trailed 2-1 at that point and maybe the game goes differently if that play is made.
But it wasn't. Isn't that the way things go for you when everything goes right? That seems to be what is happening with the Cardinals this year.
Roach, while he was in the game, drove in the Cubs' only run on a bases-loaded single to right in the second inning. At the time, that seemed important. Turns out it wasn't, but Roach heads back to Triple-A Iowa with a 1.000 batting average and just the sixth RBI by a Cubs pitcher this year.
Travis Wood relieved Roach and wasn't any better, as he had a disastrous fifth inning that included two walks (one intentional), three doubles and a wild pitch. You sure you want to hear more about this one?
OK, how about this: Edwin Jackson mopped up with two scoreless innings. Heck, maybe they should have let Jackson start this one. The result sure couldn't have been any worse.
On the Fox broadcast, Joe Maddon was subjected to one of those mid-inning manager interviews that have to annoy the manager as it takes them away from focusing on the game, but he reiterated the point that the Cubs have to start winning games in St. Louis if they want to compete for the division title. That sounds pretty "master of the obvious," and this year that isn't likely happening anyway, but the Cubs aren't going to do this until they start generating some offense.
At times they seemed to have Wacha on the verge of getting knocked out of the game, and then they hit into double plays to end three straight innings, the second, third and fourth. The one in the fourth involved some bad baserunning by Starlin Castro, who got caught in a rundown between third and home, except he didn't do it long enough to allow Mike Baxter to take second. After Castro was tagged out, Baxter was thrown out.
It was the kind of game where it might have been worthwhile to pull Anthony Rizzo, who was obviously still being bothered where he was hit by a pitch Friday night, in the middle innings once the score got to 8-1. Baxter could have played first base for the last three innings and Rizzo could have had a breather. Castro and Chris Coghlan had two hits each on the night, but the rest of the offense was mostly AWOL.
Oh, and somehow the Cardinals have transmogrified Carlos Villanueva into Brad Ziegler, or Tyler Clippard, or one of those other middle relievers who pile up innings and just get people out. Villanueva has now thrown 30⅔ innings this year and allowed four earned runs. Where was that guy the last two years? If the Cubs knew that was going to happen, maybe they would have kept him. But... yeah. That probably doesn't happen in Chicago. The evil pixie dust worked on Villanueva, apparently. He got a save for his three innings of one-hit work Saturday night, his first of the year.
I'm glad the Cubs don't appear on Fox very much. I have never cared for Kenny Albert's nasal New York-style delivery; Tom Verducci is better in print; and Harold Reynolds is... Harold Reynolds. At least when Fox comes to Wrigley, they generally use Len Kasper on play-by-play.
As predicted, Neil Ramirez will be returning to the active roster Sunday:
Ramirez will join #Cubs tomorrow— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 28, 2015
That's good for the bullpen, but until this team starts scoring some runs (only six in the last five games), good pen work can only go so far. It's still not clear whether Roach will return to Iowa to make room for Ramirez, or possibly Tsuyoshi Wada could be placed on the disabled list. Monday is an off-day, and if the Cubs wanted to they could simply skip the Wada/Roach turn in the rotation next time it's due, which would be Friday at Wrigley Field against the Marlins. Tonight's starter, Jason Hammel, could go Friday on four days' rest.
More national TV tonight, as the Cubs make their third ESPN appearance of the season, second against the Cardinals. Jason Hammel will pitch against Carlos Martinez. That, at least, is a matchup the Cubs might be able to win.