Every year, many postseason teams seem to have trouble with one non-playoff team during the regular season.
Last year for the Cubs, it was the Phillies, who took five of seven from the Cubs, no-hit them and outscored them 39-29. The 2015 Cardinals, who won 100 games, had trouble with the awful 95-loss Braves, who won four of six from them (and all of those games were after the All-Star break, when the Braves were horrid); the 2015 Pirates lost 11 of 19 to the 98-loss Reds.
And for the 2016 Cubs, the bad team that's dominated them has been the Colorado Rockies, and thank heavens the Cubs don't have to play them again in 2016 after an 11-4 loss that was every bit as bad as the score would make you think it was. The Cubs lost a series for the first time since before the All-Star break.
Now, the Rockies aren't really that bad a team -- they'll finish under .500, most likely, but might not lose 90, and they have a winning record at Coors Field. But the Cubs made them look like monsters at the plate and on the mound Sunday afternoon, while booting the ball all over the field.
Jason Hammel gave up hits to the first two batters he faced and even after he got Carlos Gonzalez to fly to right, that ball was hit hard and it just felt like it was going to be one of those days. Nolan Arenado followed with a three-run homer, tying Kris Bryant for the league lead, and truth be told, you could have turned the game off right then and spared yourself some Cub fan pain.
But I watch these games in case you miss them so I can tell you about them, so I persevered. Two Cubs errors in that inning, one by Anthony Rizzo, the other by Bryant, extended the inning for RBI hits from Rox catcher Tony Wolters and pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, and that was pretty much it.
If the Cubs' bullpen hadn't been overextended over the last few days, Hammel probably would have been taken out after that inning (only three of the seven runs were earned), but Joe Maddon likely asked him to take one for the team, so Hammel pressed on into the fourth, upon which a walk and a double were followed by another three-run homer by Arenado, which gave him the league lead over Bryant. Not really any shame there, as Arenado's a fine hitter, but that makes three homers hit by Arenado off Hammel this year.
Again, good thing the Cubs don't have to face these guys again until 2017.
There are a couple of good things that happened for the Cubs in this game, believe it or not, so let me tell you about them. Addison Russell hit a pair of solo homers, his 16th and 17th of the season, posting the third two-homer game of his career (second this year). Pretend the rest of the stuff Sunday didn't happen and enjoy this video, Russell's first blast, which landed in a trash can just over the left-field wall:
A trash can is an appropriate metaphor for this game, all of which we'd probably like to toss in there. However, here's a fun fact about Russell's homers:
Youngest #Cubs SS with multi-HR game— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 21, 2016
21y 224d Russell 9/4/2015
22y 164d Russell 7/5/2016
22y 211d Russell today
23y 203d Banks 8/22/1954
The other good thing was Rob Zastryzny's second big-league relief appearance. Again having to pile up more innings than Maddon might have liked him to, Zaz (I'll use that as an abbreviation, as it's easier to type) threw 2⅔ scoreless innings, striking out five and throwing 30 strikes in 49 pitches. Zaz will probably stick with the team through the rest of the year, as expanded rosters are just 12 days away, but even though he's not likely going to be on any postseason roster, he's definitely shown he belongs in a major-league bullpen.
One more fun thing to watch: Here's a slick double play turned by Rizzo in the second inning:
After the Zaz outing was done, Joe got cute with defense, trying to give some regulars a rest. Spencer Patton relieved Zaz, and Ben Zobrist went to short, giving Russell the rest of the day off. Travis Wood went to left field, and why not? He made one of the better plays out there at Wrigley a few weeks ago. Wood singled in his only at-bat, his first hit as a left fielder.
The Cubs scored a couple of consolation runs in the ninth. Bryant and Rizzo singled. Bryant scored on a single by Zobrist, who was thrown out trying to take second. Jorge Soler, batting for Patton, hit a foul popup to first base -- and Rizzo dashed home because no one was covering the plate, a foul pop sac fly that was a source of amusement, if nothing else.
The Cubs lost a game in the standings to the Cardinals, who defeated the Phillies 9-0, but still lead by 12, so no ledge-jumping allowed. They'll surely wash the stink of this awful game off them before they get on a plane to head to San Diego, where they'll open a three-game series Monday night against the Padres, and this one ought to be interesting. Jon Lester goes for the Cubs, and our old buddy Edwin Jackson will take the mound for the Pads. Remember, the Cubs are still paying Jackson this year -- maybe he can earn his pay by helping out the Cubs the way he did while with the Braves in this August 2015 game at Wrigley Field, where he gave up homers to Miguel Montero and Jorge Soler that wound up winning the game for the Cubs.
Hey, it could happen. Anything to help us forget Sunday's game, one of the worst the Cubs played in this otherwise-magnificent season.