With, as always, apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer:
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright, The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light; And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout, But there is no joy in Chicago; when will the Cubs figure the Cardinals out?
Sunday was not that time, as the Cubs lost to the Cardinals 4-1, getting swept in the three-game series. The Cubs are now on a season-high five-game losing streak. As Joe Maddon has stated on a number of occasions, it's what they will have to do in order to be taken seriously as a contender in the National League Central.
As I mentioned in the recap to Saturday's game, it's not like the Cubs are the only team the Cardinals are dominating this way. The Cardinals are 27 games over .500 and even many Cardinals fans don't understand how they're doing this.
The game started 46 minutes after its scheduled time and then was delayed one hour, 43 minutes in the second inning when severe storms hit the St. Louis area and forced the Cardinals to ask fans and media to take shelter. Heavy rain and wind hit Busch Stadium and there was at least one confirmed tornado within 60 miles of St. Louis. It's easy to say "they shouldn't have even started the game," as I said on Twitter Sunday night, and maybe they should have.
Had they waited until after what wound up being the second delay to start the game -- and they only played for about 25 minutes once they did start -- maybe Jason Hammel could have gone farther. He seemed all right for an inning or so after the long delay, but then started to get hit hard. Maddon said on the ESPN broadcast that he might limit Hammel to 75-80 pitches, and after Hammel started giving up hits in the fourth and fifth innings, Maddon finally threw in the towel on him after 69 pitches.
20/20 hindsight: Should Maddon have done what Tony La Russa once did when he was Cardinals manager? The date was April 22, 2011. With a forecast of rain, TLR started reliever Miguel Batista, then came back with Kyle McClellan, the scheduled starter, after a delay, and got six strong innings out of McClellan and won the game. It's not a bad idea, if you can correctly predict that you might have to wait out a long delay.
With Monday's off day, the bullpen could go long and did; James Russell, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez and Jason Motte did their best to keep the Cardinals off the board (Russell did allow one inherited runner to score, the first time he's done that all year). Overall the Cardinals hit six doubles; it seemed every time you looked up, another one was going into an outfield gap or banging off the wall.
It was good to see Ramirez back in action; his velocity looked fine, he struck out two of the three batters he faced, and he appeared to be back to where he was a year ago. Having Ramirez back will really help the bullpen in many ways. Overall the pen threw four innings Sunday night, allowed two hits and struck out five with no walks, if you're looking for something positive to take out of this awful series.
None of this is going to matter unless the Cubs can score some runs. They didn't, again, Sunday night, getting just one runner across the plate. Dexter Fowler doubled in the third inning, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rizzo. Before the ninth inning the only other hits the Cubs had were: a second-inning double by Chris Coghlan and an eighth-inning double by Kris Bryant. The Cubs did try to rally against Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth. Coghlan and Matt Szczur singled, but were stranded. Overall the Cubs went 2-for-28 in this series with runners in scoring position in this series. Now, that many at-bats with RISP implies the Cubs did have chances to score, and they did; they just failed to do so.
Fortunately, the schedule does get a bit easier from here, at least for the next week or so, until the Cardinals invade Wrigley Field for a four-game set starting July 6.
For now, the Cubs head to New York to play the Mets starting Tuesday. That's a team they swept in a four-game set at Wrigley Field last month. Then the Cubs will host the Marlins at home next weekend. Granted that the Cubs lost two of three in Miami earlier this month, but Miami is 10-13 since that series. The Cubs will need to win Tuesday's game in New York to have a winning June. They're 13-13 so far in a month that looked a lot better before this sweep. Kyle Hendricks will face Jon Niese in the series opener Tuesday night. I'm thinking the entire Cubs team could use Monday's off day to recharge.