I'm really not sure how to lead off this recap, so I'll let Joe Maddon have the first word:
#Cubs Maddon says they were "non fortuitous" today— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 10, 2015
That's a pretty good way of describing the Cubs' 1-0 loss to the White Sox on an absolutely gorgeous July afternoon, and I mention that early-on because there have been so few days this summer this nice, temperatures in the mid-70s, light breeze off the lake and unlimited sunshine. More of this weather, please.
No more of the Cubs hitting into double plays. I've certainly seen enough White Sox defense to last me the rest of the year, much less the rest of the weekend. The Sox turned four double plays in the field and one more on a strikeout/caught stealing (it seemed quite ill-advised on the part of Kris Bryant to try to take third on that play, too). Carlos Sanchez, the Sox second baseman, has his job primarily because he's an excellent fielder and he showed some great glove Friday afternoon, turning a couple of double plays that seemed close to impossible. Naturally, coming into the game hitting .170/.210/.222, he also had two hits, both bloops that landed just out of reach of Cubs fielders in short left field.
Kyle Hendricks threw yet another excellent game, scattering six hits over seven innings with no walks, and once again I quibble with Joe Maddon's decision to lift him after the seventh. Yes, the Sox had hit him pretty hard in that inning, with two of the outs being sharp line drives right at Addison Russell, but he had thrown 90 pitches and his batting-order spot didn't come up in the bottom of the inning. It's the kind of situation where you often leave your starter in until someone gets on base. Maddon certainly could have done that.
Instead, he called on Hector Rondon, who promptly hit former Cub Emilio Bonifacio to start the eighth inning. Again, here's a guy who is not hitting at all: .151/.173/.164, with an OPS+ of -2. Minus-two. Just throw strikes to him! He's walked two times in 76 plate appearances. Before today he had not been hit by a pitch in almost two years, since July 13, 2013.
Sigh. You could have predicted the rest of the inning. Bonifacio stole second, was sacrificed to third and scored on a medium-deep fly to left. The Sox had a run not only without a hit, but without an at-bat registered.
The Cubs simply couldn't do anything offensively, even with drawing seven walks, because of all the double plays. The fifth DP, turned in the seventh (and depicted at the top of this post), was after Chris Coghlan led off the inning with a single and it appeared the Cubs might be able to get to the Sox bullpen. Nothing doing. And after David Robertson -- who has four blown saves already this year -- struck out Bryant and Jorge Soler to start the ninth, Coghlan hit a line drive that seemed headed to center field, but Sanchez speared it to end the game. It figured, as the Sox played great defense all afternoon.
Now, a few words about the ball-and-strike calls of Dan Bellino. I thought they were awful, and so did Dexter Fowler and Starlin Castro, who three times (twice for Fowler, once for Castro) headed to first base assuming they had walked on full-count pitches. All three times it was strike three, called. If you have not yet seen the Cubs Strike Zone Twitter feed, have a look. The feed noted eight Bellino bad calls Friday afternoon, six of them against the Cubs. It's time to end the "interpretation" of the strike zone by umpires. Figure out a way to have the calls made in an automated way, by the book. I'm tired of seeing these kinds of egregiously bad calls.
Lest you think I'm saying this as an excuse for the Cubs losing the game, it's not. The Cubs needed to generate more offense than just three singles and a few walks. Not one Cub got past second base all day. In fact, no White Sox runner got past second until Bonifacio. It was a well-pitched and defended game, just a little bit better by the White Sox.
Too bad for Hendricks, who now has a scoreless-inning string of 22⅓ innings, and further:
Kyle Hendricks: first #Cubs pitcher with 3 straight appearances of 6.0 IP & no runs allowed since Ryan Dempster June 2012— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 10, 2015
In that span he has lowered his ERA nearly a full run, from 4.48 to 3.55. Friday, he wound up with a no-decision. It was the Cubs' first 1-0 loss of the year, after three wins by that score.
This series isn't going to get any easier, with the Cubs facing Chris Sale Saturday afternoon. You can make an argument that Sale is, right now, the best pitcher in baseball. Fortunately, the Cubs counter with Jon Lester, who has been outstanding in his last two starts. I'd expect yet another low-scoring affair.