I'm going to make you a promise right here. No more calling for sweeps, even if it seems like the Cubs should do that to their upcoming opponent.
It sure didn't work for this series, as the Cubs gave the Marlins their meatloaf. Miami took two of three, winning Wednesday night convincingly, 7-3. The loss, combined with a Pirates win over the Giants, dropped the Cubs to third place in the N.L. Central, the first time they've been below the No. 2 spot since Opening Night.
Jon Lester, after an excellent May, started June with a clunk. He just didn't have it through five mediocre innings, allowing nine hits and six runs, including a pair of homers. The one from Giancarlo Stanton can be excused, I suppose, as Stanton is one of the best home-run hitters on the planet. Former Cub Jeff Baker? Not so much. Baker's blast was just his second of the year and he hit only three last year in 208 at-bats. This is one thing to perhaps worry about a bit with Lester -- his propensity to allow home runs. Only 16 were hit off him last year in 219⅔ innings. But in 67⅔ innings so far this year, he's allowed nine, on pace to give up 29, which would be a career high. Fortunately for Lester, all but one of the homers hit off him this year have been solo shots. Still, that's a worrisome number.
Another home-run story Wednesday night was Junior Lake's. Lake, in the starting lineup now probably for a couple of weeks in place of Jorge Soler, homered in the sixth inning off Dan Haren. Then this happened:
The Marlins didn't care for Lake's bat flip or his apparent "shush" gesture given to their dugout as he rounded third base. Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto appeared to say something to Lake as he crossed the plate. The two had words and the benches and bullpens cleared. The usual milling-around ensued, but no punches were thrown and no one was ejected. Joe Maddon wasn't happy about that:
“I don’t want us to take the fight there by acting like a punk,” Maddon said. “I don’t want that at all. I want us to take the fight by playing the game hard, fundamentally sound – those kinds of things. That we’re coming after you. That’s what I want. “I don’t want to take any page out of “Major League” and flamboyantly throw the bat after a home run. I don’t want that at all. It has nothing to do with us ascending." Furthermore, Maddon plans to use Lake’s showboating as an example of how not to act after hitting a home run. “I’d like to use this moment for our minor league guys,” Maddon said. “That this doesn’t play. For kids watching, this doesn’t play. We don’t do that. It’s not cool. You’re watching a game back home in Chicago, don’t do that. “If you hit a home run, don’t do it. It’s not cool.”
So that's settled. It's good to see Maddon say that -- he knows the right way to play the game and wants to make sure that not only the big-league Cubs, but the entire organization, knows.
After Lester departed, Travis Wood allowed the Marlins' final run and then Edwin Jackson and James Russell finished up with 2⅔ innings of scoreless relief. It was the first time this year that Jackson had pitched on back-to-back days. Could they be possibly showcasing him for someone? Despite giving up a pair of hits and a walk in his 1⅔ innings, Jackson had good velocity and threw 15 strikes in 25 pitches.
I hesitate to even say this because he's been so bad the last year-plus, but given the Cubs' need for an outfield bat, could they consider a bad-contract swap with the Indians for Nick Swisher? Swisher's making more than Jackson so the Tribe would probably have to throw in a bit of money to equalize the deals, but this might be a trade like the Silva-for-Bradley deal in 2010. Carlos Silva did provide at least some value to the Cubs (a 1.2 bWAR season) before that relationship ended badly in spring training 2011.
It wouldn't be the worst possible ending for Jackson's time with the Cubs, and Swisher at least has the chance that he could return to his 2013 level of production (.246/.341/.423 with 22 home runs).
Speaking of trades, ICYMI former Cub Welington Castillo is moving on to the Diamondbacks after just two weeks with the Mariners. D'backs catcher Tuffy Gosewisch suffered a season-ending injury and so Arizona went out and got Beef, who they had scouted during spring training, in a multi-player deal that sent Mark Trumbo and Vidal Nuno to the Mariners, who also sent Dominic Leone and minor leaguers to the D'backs. Beef will become their starting catcher and -- unless he gets traded again -- we'll see him at Wrigley in September when Arizona makes their only visit to Chicago this year.
Finally, Lester, by going 0-for-2, set a major-league record for the most plate appearances at the start of a career without a hit: 68. (He had set the record for most at-bats in his last start.) He did hit the ball into the outfield both times, and perhaps a hit is coming soon, though he's now 0-for-25 this season.
I don't have a whole lot more to say about this game or series. The Cubs didn't play up to expectations, and I realize injuries have something to do with that, but they will need to play better in the four-game set against the Nationals that begins tonight. Jake Arrieta starts for the Cubs; Gio Gonzalez for the Nats.