The Cubs had to face two of the best lefthanders in baseball the last two days, and the results were, perhaps, predictable. They lost to Madison Bumgarner in San Francisco Thursday afternoon and then lined up against Clayton Kershaw Friday evening.
Kershaw was outstanding, striking out 14 in eight innings, and though Jason Hammel matched him well enough for five innings, it wasn't enough and the Cubs lost their third straight, 4-1 to the Dodgers.
The Cubs are still a good team. Sometimes the other guy is better. I take some solace in the fact that the last time the Cubs lost three in a row, they followed it with a six-game winning streak. A repeat of that would be nice.
Phillies Dodgers struck first on a single by Jimmy Rollins and a triple from Chase Utley in the third inning. (Wonder how many times they did that as Phillies?) And no, don't lament Utley going to the Dodgers instead of the Cubs. He's still just 5-for-24 (.208) since heading west.
The Cubs matched the run in the fourth on a majestic home run by Anthony Rizzo off Kershaw. Kershaw has allowed just 13 home runs this year and the Cubs are one of just two teams (the Rockies, the other) who have hit three total homers off him.
Yes, I'm reaching for positives about this game.
Hammel threw all right into the sixth, but in that inning, he issued a leadoff walk to Utley. How many times have you seen leadoff walks come back to hurt pitchers? After a single ensued, Hammel threw a wild pitch; Miguel Montero should have thrown Utley out trying to take third, but the throw got away from Kris Bryant and Utley scored. Another wild pitch before a walk to Justin Turner put runners on first and third.
Travis Wood entered and got Scott Van Slyke to hit into a double play, with another run scoring. Really, that would have been enough for the Dodgers, as the Cubs began going down meekly after Rizzo's home run. But Wood allowed another single, then a walk, then another single to complete the Dodgers scoring.
Clayton Richard and Fernando Rodney, the latter making his Cubs debut, each threw a scoreless inning to wrap things up. That's a good debut for Rodney, who hit a batter but otherwise had a fairly routine inning. I was, though, interested in this statement made by Rodney:
New #Cubs pitcher Rodney says problem in Seattle was lack of regular work— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 28, 2015
Let's have a look at that claim, shall we?
Rodney appeared in 54 of the Mariners' first 122 games. His baseball-reference page says he pitched on the following rest:
0 days: 13 times 1 day: 18 times 2 days: 8 times 3 days: 8 times 4 days: 4 times 5 days: 2 times 6 days: once
Well, that doesn't seem to me as if he didn't get enough work: 31 times he either pitched two days (or more) in a row or with just one day's rest (and one of the "five days" rest above is the All-Star break). Let's look at Cubs closer Hector Rondon's record for comparison. Rondon pitched 57 times in the Cubs' first 121 games, a comparable workload to Rodney's (58 now overall for Hector), with this rest pattern:
0 days: 20 times 1 day: 15 times 2 days: 11 times 3 days: 5 times 4 days: 4 times 5 days: 2 times 6 days: once
Looks pretty similar to me (35 outings for Rondon either multiple days in a row or with one day's rest). I hope Rodney's not just making excuses. He had a good first outing. Let's hope that continues.
The Pirates and Giants won Friday night, so the Cubs trail Pittsburgh by five games for the top wild-card spot, and still lead San Francisco by 4½ games for the second wild-card spot. They are 8½ games behind the Cardinals for the division lead.
There was one piece of news from the Dodgers Friday night that's good news for every baseball fan:
OFFICIAL: It'll be a very pleasant 2016. Vin Scully to return for his 67th season. pic.twitter.com/i2WrutItRO— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) August 29, 2015
So happy to hear this. Vin Scully is a national treasure. He will turn 88 in November; I hope he continues to broadcast as long as he possibly can.
As Scully says during every broadcast after telling a story about some part of Dodgers history, "Let's go back to this one." There is no shame in losing to pitchers as good as Kershaw and Bumgarner. Now, the Cubs have to strike fear into their opponents with their good pitchers, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. Just as the Cubs appeared to be on the downside of the last two pitching matchups, the next two appear to be in the Cubs' favor. They'll need to win both games to have a .500 road trip, and I would consider that a success.
Tonight, it will be Lester against Mat Latos. Let's start another winning streak, shall we?