The Detroit Tigers defeated the Chicago Cubs 15-8 Wednesday evening, concluding the two-game series with a sweep.
All right! That sums it up! See you this afternoon for a preview of the Cubs/Braves set!
Oh. Wait. You want a recap. (Really?)
Well, yes. You are entitled to a recap of this game and that, in fact, is what I do here each morning after a night game, so you are going to get one. (Don't say I didn't warn you.)
Fun fact: the eight runs scored marks the first time a Cubs team has scored eight or more runs in consecutive games since May 29-30, 2013, when they did it against the White Sox.
Not-so-fun fact: the 15 runs allowed marks the first time a Cubs team has allowed 10 or more runs in consecutive games since July 12-13, 2014, when they gave the Braves 11 runs, then 10. (Yikes. The Braves come to town tonight.)
Really not-so-fun fact: This was one of the six worst starts of Jon Lester's career; that's how many times he's started and not made it out of the third inning. He was just bad, no way around it, he allowed seven hits including three home runs, two of the latter to Nick Castellanos (who wound up the way with four hits, including a pair of doubles), and got booed when he was removed by Joe Maddon. That isn't entirely fair, though the performance was terrible; I usually say that booing the hometown players ought to be reserved for times of perceived lack of effort, which this was not. It was just horrific pitching. It happens, even to the best.
It wasn't just Lester, though. The entire pitching staff was pretty bad. Clayton Richard managed to keep the game fairly close in allowing just one run in 3⅓ innings, but Jason Motte coughed up a pair (he has a 9.53 ERA and 1.765 WHIP this month in eight appearances and I have to wonder if something's wrong with him) and James Russell... yuck. Faced 11 batters, six of them got hits, all for extra bases, and saw his ERA go from a reasonable 3.34 to an awful 4.60.
The only Cubs "pitcher," and I use the word in quotes for a very good reason, who didn't allow a run or a hit was outfielder Chris Denorfia, who was summoned with two out in the ninth to face Jose Iglesias. To laughter from the maybe 5,000 who stuck around to the end of this three-hour, 47-minute farce, Denorfia's first pitch, a called strike, registered 53 miles per hour on the Wrigley speed meter, which dutifully stated "FASTBALL" beneath that number, which wouldn't have broken the law if it had been driving on the Kennedy Expressway.
Denorfia's second pitch was grounded to second base, the first time in this series that Chris Coghlan registered an assist at second. Denorfia, for his part, said:
#Cubs OF/P Denorfia: "I went out there and just made it up. I was absolutely terrified. It looks completely different from that side."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 20, 2015
That's about the right approach, I think, for pitching in that situation. Per Cubs By The Numbers, Denorfia was the first Cub to pitch wearing No. 15 since Jackie Collum, who made nine forgettable appearances on the mound for the Cubs in 1957. (Denorfia pitched better than Collum, too.) And maybe this position-player-as-pitcher thing could catch on for the Cubs:
#Cubs position player pitchers since 2000 (5 appearances): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 3.2 IP, 1 Hit, 1 Walk, 0.55 WHIP— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 20, 2015
The Cubs actually had a chance to get back in this game after falling behind 7-0. Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant homered in the third to make it 7-3, and the Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the fifth on a single and two walks, and Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler due up. Tigers starter Daniel Norris, who had earlier homered in his first big-league at-bat (in fact, his first professional at-bat), a two-run shot off Lester, was removed during the first of those walks. It was later revealed he had a strained oblique, which likely will put him out for the rest of the season. A number of us in the bleachers couldn't help wondering whether Norris might have begun the oblique strain while swinging for the fences (remember, he hit the right-field video board during BP on Tuesday).
Norris was the 116th player to homer in his first big-league at-bat, but just the 19th pitcher. Also:
By the way, #Tigers Daniel Norris is 1st American League pitcher to hit a home run at Wrigley Field. How about that. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 20, 2015
Former Cub Tom Gorzelanny replaced Norris and issued the two walks, but then got Rizzo to pop up. Al Alburquerque then entered and got Soler to pop up to end the inning. The Cubs managed to make it to within 8-5 after six on a double by Starlin Castro and a triple by Coghlan. Miguel Montero drew a walk, but Addison Russell took all the hope out of that inning by hitting into a double play.
The Tigers runs just kept on coming and by the time the game ended, raining Tigers hits (21 of them, the most the Cubs had allowed in a game in more than two years, it was also raining lightly at Wrigley Field, perhaps a metaphor for how awful this series was. The Tigers won three of the four games the teams played this year and outscored the Cubs 34-28 in the four games. Overall since interleague play began, the Cubs are 5-16 against the Tigers, by far their worst mark against any American League team.
Kyle Schwarber also homered in this game, his 10th in just 119 at-bats, raising his slash line to .311/.407/.613 and giving the Cubs six players in double figures in home runs. Bryant went 4-for-4, the first four-hit game of his career, and he's hitting .345/.463/.600 in August (19-for-55, three doubles, a triple, three home runs).
I'm about out of positives from this game. Game oddity: with Norris unable to finish the fifth inning, it was the official scorer's discretion on who to award the "win" to. Gorzelanny was the only Tigers pitcher who didn't allow a run, but he didn't really pitch very well (two walks in the three batters he faced). All the other Tigers pitchers allowed at least one run, so the scorer gave the "win" to Neftali Feliz, who faced six batters and gave up two hits, about the best ratio of any Detroit hurler. It was just that kind of night.
The Tigers are gone, and, fortunately, due to the way the interleague schedule works, the Cubs won't face them again until 2018. Maddon perhaps put it best:
#Cubs Maddon "I'm just really happy it wasn't a 3 game series"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 20, 2015
Let's not all jump off the ledge. The Cubs are still 16 games over .500 and if they play at .500 the rest of the year, they'd win 89 games, likely enough for a wild-card spot -- something they still lead by three games over the Giants. There's plenty of time to right this ship and stop the current three-game losing streak, beginning tonight against the Braves, with Jake Arrieta facing Mike Foltynewicz.