Let’s stipulate one thing about the Cubs’ 11-3 loss to the Brewers on a sun-kissed September afternoon at Wrigley Field.
It didn’t matter. Nothing that happened in this game mattered to the important October business the Cubs have coming.
Now, let me qualify that last paragraph a bit. A couple of things mattered in this game, and I’ll get to them. Eventually.
The game started out well enough. Tommy La Stella led off the bottom of the first with a single. Kris Bryant tripled into the right-center field gap, scoring a run, and Chris Coghlan smacked a two-run homer. 3-0 Cubs after just five pitches!
But that’s where Cubs scoring ended. They had a few more chances, but just two baserunners after the fifth inning.
And here’s where we get to one of the things that mattered, another not-so-great outing from Jake Arrieta. He threw well enough through five innings, allowing just one unearned run thanks to an error by TLS. He got some help with two comebackers that he turned into double plays, one in the second, one in the fourth.
So it’s 3-1 Cubs heading into the sixth and looking pretty good, but Jake got himself in trouble with a leadoff walk. That’s been his biggest problem all year, lack of command. After the walk to Jonathan Villar and a stolen base, Scooter Gennett bounced a ball into the stands down the left-field line to make it 3-2 and Ryan Braun followed with a homer. Jake struggled through four more hitters, issuing another walk, before striking out Domingo Santana to end the inning.
Six innings, just four hits, but also four walks, and 102 pitches thrown, and four runs allowed against a mediocre team. That’s not going to cut it in October. Between now and then, I hope Jake and Chris Bosio can figure out what’s wrong. Again I point you to this Jeff Sullivan article from Fangraphs (from about three weeks ago) in which he shows how Jake’s mechanics might be off. Sullivan might be onto something here, I think.
So that’s something that matters. The Cubs have to get Jake Arrieta right before October begins. Joe Maddon has noticed:
Maddon on Arrieta: "If we could get him to get better command of his fastball in the next two starts, everything will play off that." #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 17, 2016
The Cubs did get the tying run to third base with two out in the sixth when Javier Baez doubled and went to third on a passed ball, but he was stranded, and also got the tying run in scoring position in the seventh when Kris Bryant walked with two out and went to second on a wild pitch. He, too, was stranded.
That’s when the other thing that matters happened. Carl Edwards Jr., who’s been solid most of the year, had a bad inning. Gennett led off with a double, Braun hit a second homer to make it 6-3, and two strikeouts later, Santana hit a homer that bounced off the top of the Nuveen sign behind me and landed on Waveland. It made a loud “clank” when it hit the sign, and I’m sure there’s a large dent on the top of the sign.
So Carls Jr. had a rough inning, though he did strike out the side.
The ninth was worse, thrown by Spencer Patton. Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases for Braun. Most of the crowd had departed by then, but no one remaining (well, maybe the handful of Brewers fans in Wrigley) wanted to see Braun go deep again. Patton struck him out, but Chris Carter launched a grand slam that hit the left-field video board. Carter is the first visiting player to hit that board.
Patton won’t be on the playoff roster. So none of that matters.
Truth be told, the Cubs played like a team that stayed out late partying Friday night, which they most assuredly did, and to which they were most assuredly entitled. Things will be different on Sunday:
Maddon says expect more regulars in the #Cubs lineup on Sunday— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 17, 2016
Which, of course, was expected. The Cubs still do have work to do in order to clinch the best record in the National League, though they got some help from the Braves Saturday afternoon. Atlanta beat the Nationals -- behind a guy they just got from the Cubs in a minor-league deal, Josh Collmenter — so the Cubs’ magic number for best record is now eight.
Like I said, it was a gorgeous afternoon. The baseball wasn’t so pretty (you’ll note no video embeds in this recap — none worth showing). Hopefully, the Cubs’ beautiful winning 2016 ways resume Sunday.
They’ll take the field at 1:20 p.m. CT Sunday for the series, and season, finale against the Brewers. Kyle Hendricks will continue his Cy Young quest; Wily Peralta goes for the Brewers.