I’ve lived in Chicago all my life and if you have too, you know the old saying: “If you don’t like the weather here, wait five minutes, it’ll change.”
It took a little longer than five minutes, but I don’t think I can recall any one-day change in the weather conditions at Wrigley Field as happened between Thursday’s and Friday’s games.
Thursday: unlimited sunshine, temperatures near 80, breezy but not uncomfortably so.
Friday: 46 degrees at game time, wind howling in off Lake Michigan, and a long rainshower that began in the fifth inning and finally delayed the game for nearly two hours after Kyle Schwarber made two errors and a belly flop on one play in the top of the sixth. Truth be told, umpires probably should have stopped play far earlier than they did, and it was so miserable out there and there was some question about whether they’d resume or not, so I decided to head home during the delay.
Turned out I didn’t miss much, except for a couple of unearned runs off Pierce Johnson (making his major-league debut) right after the game resumed in front of what appeared to be a few hundred soaked diehards. The Cubs lost to the Brewers 6-3 and the main reason they even played this game was this:
Maddon said they would try and get today's game in since tomorrow apparently looks worse. We'll see...— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) May 19, 2017
Between the cold and rain this has been a pretty miserable spring, despite a couple of nice days earlier this week.
This game felt somewhat over early on, as Eddie Butler simply could not throw strikes. It was the polar opposite of his first start, where he had excellent command. He did walk three in that first start, throwing 94 pitches in six innings, but shut the Cardinals down pretty well. This time he threw 92 pitches (just half of them, 46, were strikes) in just three innings and issued five walks, three of those in the first inning. Jett Bandy’s single with the bases loaded gave the Brewers a 2-0 lead.
The Cubs cut the lead to 2-1 in the third when Keon Broxton dropped a catchable fly ball, putting Javier Baez on second base. After Butler sacrificed Javy to second, Jon Jay ripped a two-run double down the right-field line.
The Cubs put two more on the board and actually took a 3-2 lead on four straight singles in the fourth. Willson Contreras’ hit, the fourth of the sequence, drove in two runs. But Paolo Espino, making his major-league debut after 11 minor-league season,s shut down the Cubs the rest of that inning.
Then it was Mike Montgomery’s turn to turn on the walk machine. He managed to get two outs sandwiched around a double by Travis Shaw, but then walked two in a row and Orlando Arcia singled, scoring a run, and then pinch-hitter Jesus Aguilar drew another walk with the bases loaded to make it 4-3.
To be fair, it was pouring by then. Maybe Montgomery had a hard time getting a grip on the ball, but that inning didn’t look much different from any other inning Montgomery has thrown this year. He just doesn’t throw enough strikes. He didn’t even get to half his pitches as strikes in this one, 23 of 48 pitches, and now has issued 19 walks in 27⅔ innings. That’s 6.2 walks per nine innings, which... isn’t good. Montgomery is the only N.L. reliever with a BB/9 that high with that many innings. The only other N.L. pitchers worse than that are starters Francisco Liriano and Tyler Glasnow.
All told, Cubs pitchers issued 10 walks. That’s the most since August 18, 2016, also against the Brewers. But the Cubs won that game.
Johnson allowed two unearned runs which were in part the product of Schwarber’s error. He did have decent velocity and managed to come back after the two-hour delay and pitch somewhat effectively.
Give Schwarber credit, though, for this outstanding diving catch [VIDEO] to end the top of the third.
I don’t know what to say about Eddie Butler. He has talent. But he had no control nor command in this one. It looked like he simply didn’t trust his stuff, and baseball folks will tell you that’s the one thing that will ruin any outing for any pitcher. I’ll reserve judgment about him until I see another start or two, and we certainly will see that.
The Cubs did hit a few baseballs off Espino in the early innings that might have been home runs earlier in the week, but not on this nasty, windy, cold afternoon. And the offense didn’t return at all after the delay. The Cubs had just two baserunners over the last four innings, a seventh-inning walk drawn by Tommy La Stella and Javy reaching on a dropped pop fly (he got a hit for it) with two out in the ninth.
As noted above, Saturday’s weather forecast doesn’t look much better than Friday’s, though a few degrees warmer. Jake Arrieta, desperately needing to turn his season around, will go for the Cubs. He’ll face the Brewers’ Chase Anderson.
Before that, though, the Cubs will have to make a roster move, as Jason Heyward will be activated from the disabled list. Ian Happ, who went 1-for-4 Friday, seems to have played well enough to stick around. Would you send Happ back? Or TLS, who seems superfluous with Happ around and has options? Or maybe Albert Almora Jr., whose playing time has decreased? Joe Maddon says he wants to stick with the eight-man bullpen, for now. Who would you choose?