The Cubs got their leadoff hitter on base in the second, third, fourth and seventh innings.
That’s good, but it’s no good if you can’t bring any of those runners home, and the Cubs didn’t in a 5-0 loss Sunday afternoon to the Cardinals.
The rest of the game was decided on two pitches, one thrown by Jake Arrieta to Yadier Molina with a man on base in the second inning, and another thrown to Matt Carpenter with a man on base in the third.
Both of those pitches were hit out of the yard at Busch Stadium for two-run homers, and here’s how unlikely that second hit was:
Matt Carpenter, 0-for-28 in the regular season versus Jake Arrieta, finally gets his former TCU teammate. It's a two-run homer. #stlcards— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) May 14, 2017
And before Sunday, Molina was 5-for-29 against Jake, all singles, with nine strikeouts. Molina smashed another homer in the eighth off Brian Duensing to put the game completely out of reach.
I thought Jake was going to be on a roll in this one after he had a 1-2-3 first inning on just seven pitches. But it was not to be. Jake didn’t really pitch all that badly, as he completed six innings throwing 85 pitches (60 strikes), allowing seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts.
But those two home runs did him in. This tells you how the magic pixie dust seems to have worn off Jake:
Jake Arrieta— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 14, 2017
Last 24 GS: 4.75 ERA, 21 HR in 144.0 IP
Prev. 73 GS: 2.01 ERA, 18 HR in 483.2 IP
I wish I could tell you what happened to Jake Arrieta after such a sustained run of success — 73 starts and 483⅔ innings is about two full seasons’ worth of excellent pitching. Over his last 24 starts as shown above, about two-thirds of a full season, he’s barely above replacement value.
After the Cubs went down harmlessly in the seventh inning, Joe Maddon went into experiment mode. He moved Javier Baez to right field, the first time Javy’s ever played there, and shifted Ian Happ to center. Happ’s played a handful of games in center in the minor leagues. Joe’s done this before, getting players some experience at unfamiliar positions in games that appear to be hopelessly lost.
As you know, I like to show video highlights of the game in these recaps. There weren’t many from this one, so have a look at Happ’s first big-league double [VIDEO].
Like the Cubs’ other baserunners in this game, he was stranded. The Cubs were just 0-for-4 with RISP, but that’s because the Cubs only had two runners in scoring position all afternoon, both times Happ. He also walked in the fifth and advanced to second on a single by Anthony Rizzo.
The Cubs made Adam Wainwright, who has struggled most of this year, look like vintage 2013 Wainwright, the year he finished second in N.L. Cy Young voting.
I honestly don’t know what else to say about the Cubs’ current slump, which has now reached 11 losses in the last 17 games and put the Cubs under .500 for the first time since April 17. The team has been outscored during that 17-game span 89-68, so both the offense and the pitching is to blame. What’s the solution? I wish I knew, but more importantly, I wish Joe Maddon knew. Injuries have been part of the problem, with Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Jon Jay and Jason Heyward all missing significant time during this stretch. Simply saying “Kyle Schwarber shouldn’t be leading off” isn’t the answer. Getting 100 percent healthy is definitely part of it. Heyward should be back from the disabled list sometime this week, Russell already returned in Sunday’s game, and Zobrist, Jay and Bryant should be ready to go when the homestand starts.
This game set another Busch Stadium attendance record: 47,925, beating the record set on Saturday by 43.
The Cubs will have 15 of their next 22 games at home, and the weather’s going to be far better than the last homestand, which was cold, windy and wet. Maybe that’ll help.
Tuesday afternoon, the Cubs begin that homestand with the first of a three-game series against the Reds. Once again it’ll be a 2006 flashback, with John Lackey facing Bronson Arroyo.