Feels weird, doesn't it?
The Cubs had gone all season without losing consecutive games, and then they did it in one day, getting swept in a doubleheader by the San Diego Padres. The 1-0, second-game defeat marked the Cubs' first 1-0 loss since July 10, 2015, when the White Sox hung one on them at Wrigley.
They hadn't been swept in a doubleheader since July 8, 2014 at Cincinnati, nor in a doubleheader at home since a couple of weeks before that, June 28, 2014 by the Nationals.
That out of the way, this one turned on one swing. John Lackey had retired the first 14 batters he faced before Christian Bethancourt did this:
"Ka-rushed"? I'm glad we don't have to listen to that kind of, uh, commentary. The Statcast video above says that went an estimated 445 feet; ESPN's Home Run Tracker says 447. The ball went over the new advertising sign behind us in left field and hit Waveland Avenue, the first Waveland home run this season and by far the longest 2016 homer at Wrigley Field.
But it's just 1-0, right? Should be an easy comeback for this year's Cubs team, which came into the game averaging 6.1 runs per game, right?
Not this time. Drew Pomeranz, a former first-round pick, is finally having the year projected for him by many when he was taken fifth overall by the Rockies in 2010. The Cubs had their chances, particularly in the eighth inning when, after two out, Jason Heyward walked. Kris Bryant followed with a popup almost right at shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
Fog had started to blow off Lake Michigan, and I don't know whether Ramirez lost the ball in the fog or not, but he dropped it. That gave the Cubs some life. Anthony Rizzo got hit by a pitch on a 3-0 count, the fifth time he's been hit this year, to load the bases.
And that's when the crowd, chilled on another cool night, really got into it. It was near-playoff level intensity, and that's saying something for a regular-season weeknight game in May. Jorge Soler had a chance to redeem himself from three previous strikeouts on the night. Unfortunately, Brad Hand struck him out on a curveball to end the inning. The question was asked to Joe Maddon postgame: Did he consider batting for Soler?
#Cubs Maddon on not pinch-hitting for Soler: "You don't do that. This is a guy who is a big part of our future. ... MORE— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 12, 2016
"... He could've just as easily hit the ball over the wall, get a knock." #Cubs Maddon on Soler— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 12, 2016
Maddon's right, in that situation. Since Ben Zobrist had already entered the game as a pinch-hitter, Maddon's only PH options would have been Tim Federowicz (unlikely, since then you either have to put him in the game or lose your backup catcher if the game goes extras), Ryan Kalish (nope; lefthanded hitter and Hand is lefthanded) or Addison Russell, who Maddon might have wanted to have the entire evening off, or save for a ninth- or extra-inning PH appearance.
But the real question here, to me, is: Would Soler benefit from being sent to Triple-A Iowa? There's a FanPost on this topic, posted last night, and I agree with the writer: Yes, he would. Soler doesn't quite have enough plate appearances (92) to qualify right now, but if he did, his .526 OPS would be tied for 188th of 192 qualified hitters in the major leagues this year. He's struck out 23 times and looks totally lost at the plate. He's barely playing -- he's started just three of the 11 games so far this month -- and would probably benefit from starting every day at Iowa, plus, there he could work with Manny Ramirez.
Miguel Montero is expected to be back perhaps as soon as this weekend. An activation of Montero and optioning (yes, Soler does have options remaining) of Soler would work, as the Cubs do have versatile players who can play multiple positions. It would leave the Cubs with three catchers for a while, but that might not hurt, and then Federowicz could be sent back to Iowa when Matt Szczur is eligible to come off the DL on May 18. Or bring Munenori Kawasaki back for a few days until Szczur is ready to return.
What do you think? Vote in the poll.
Back to Wednesday night's game: Apart from the homer, Lackey was outstanding, helping save the bullpen by going eight strong innings. He allowed just two other hits and no walks, and only one other baserunner (Bethancourt again, who singled and was sacrificed to second in the eighth) got past first base. That's strongly encouraging from Lackey, who had a rough April but who now has a 1.96 ERA in three May starts, with 20 strikeouts and only four walks in 23 innings.
Carl Edwards Jr., who was called up to be the 26th man under the doubleheader rules, did warm up in the eighth inning, but did not get into this game. He'll head back to Iowa, but will likely be back later in the summer, as he's posted a 2.38 ERA in 11 appearances there so far, with 18 strikeouts in 11⅓ innings. He also appears to have filled out a bit; his 6-3 frame doesn't look nearly as spindly as it did last September.
About the loss, which caused the second series loss of this season (the other, also at home, last month to the Rockies): I'm not concerned. The Cubs still have four fewer losses than any other team in baseball and a seven-game lead over the Pirates, who come to town Friday. Oddly, the Cubs have had more "trouble" with N.L. West teams than anyone else:
Cubs vs. N.L. West: 8-5 Cubs vs. all other teams: 17-3
This team will be fine. Time to start another winning streak Friday afternoon, when Jason Hammel will face Francisco Liriano.