Much of the Cubs' pitching staff has done well this year, particularly starters Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, though the fifth-starter spot has been the proverbial revolving door.
The bullpen has had its ups and downs, but until recently had been holding its own (with a few notable exceptions).
With two days to go before the non-waiver trading deadline, it's pretty clear that Theo & Jed need to add some assistance in both areas, because Tuesday night's 7-2 loss to the Rockies pointed blaring figurative neon signs at the biggest problems for the current pitching staff.
Fifth starter? Uh... not Dallas Beeler, please. It appears Beeler is good enough to succeed at Triple-A, not in the big leagues. (For that matter, looks like Clayton Richard is, too; he threw seven innings for Iowa Tuesday night and allowed just two hits, with no walks.) Beeler allowed the first five batters he faced to reach base, four hits and a walk, and two outs later, the Rockies had a 4-0 lead. When Beeler walked the second hitter he faced in the second inning, Joe Maddon had seen enough and replaced him with Travis Wood.
At the time, I thought, "Four runs won't win this game," given the wind blowing out and Yohan Flande making his first start of the year for the Rockies. Well, that thought was obviously wrong, as the Cubs made Flande look like Cole Hamels. Almost, anyway. They did score a run in the first off Flande, who had control issues early (two walks), but couldn't do much with him for the rest of his outing, five innings' worth. The Rox added a run in the fifth on yet another triple that Jorge Soler had trouble running down in the right-field corner. (Seriously, Cubs, if Soler's still hurt, put him back on the DL.)
The Cubs did have a chance to get back in this game. Trailing 5-1, Chris Coghlan hit a one-out homer in the seventh, his 11th of the season. He's now third on the team in home runs, behind Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. (And no, you did not predict that before the season started.) The Cubs had two more hits in the inning and the tying run at the plate with two out in the person of Bryant.
Bryant hit a screaming line drive that appeared headed for left field; it would have driven in at least one run.
Daniel Descalso leaped and made an excellent catch, ending the inning. Who needs that Tulowitzki guy, anyway?
But it did seem as if the Cubs' offense was waking up, and at 5-2 with two innings to go, it looked like they had at least a chance to win this game.
That's when Part II of the Cubs' pitching problem for the night entered the game.
I realize it's been just five games and 4⅔ innings, but can we please end the Rafael Soriano Experiment? It's clear now why he had a rough second half with the Nationals last year and why no one signed him in the offseason. It's somewhat unusual for a pitcher to "lose it" so quickly, but that appears to be what's happened with Soriano. He barely broke 90 on Wrigley's pitch-speed meter (91 once, I believe) and every fastball and cutter was flat, no movement. He gave up hits to three of the first four hitters he faced and the one out in that span was a hard-hit line drive to left. By the time this carnage was over, the Rockies had two more runs and the 7-2 lead that would become the final score.
Soriano's allowed hits in all five of his outings (4⅔ innings), seven of them, three for extra bases. He's given up runs in each of his last three games. Remind me again why we need this? If this is how he threw for scouts watching him before he was signed, how did he ever get signed? And the Cubs weren't the only team looking; if he hadn't signed with the Cubs, someone else would have taken him.
Props to Wood for keeping the Cubs in the game with 3⅔ innings of solid relief in which he allowed just one hit (the aforementioned triple) and one run with no walks and six strikeouts. If the Cubs can't find a starter by trade by Friday, honestly, I think they probably have to give Wood another shot at the rotation. He's posted a 3.12 ERA and 1.212 WHIP in 34⅔ innings in 23 relief appearances. I realize starting is a different thing from relieving and Wood has at times thrown harder as a reliever, knowing he wouldn't have to go deep into games. But he has had big-league success as a starter and honestly, how much worse could he be than some of the fifth starters the Cubs have trotted out there this year?
That said, I'm still hoping Theo & Co. can bring another starting pitcher into the fold by Friday. Tyson Ross appears to be the latest target, and I'd be in favor of acquiring him.
Having said all this, the Cubs did not lose any ground in the race for the second wild-card spot Tuesday night as the Giants also lost. Still 2½ games behind, this race is not over by any means. The Cubs also still have a chance to win this series with a victory Wednesday afternoon. Jon Lester takes the mound against Eddie Butler in a 1:20 p.m. contest. The game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CT.