Monday was one of those days when some Cubs fans say, “If only they’d played an afternoon game!” It was fairly pleasant most of Monday afternoon and then it started raining at Wrigley Field not long after the gates opened.
And it rained. And rained. And rained. And rained. At 7 p.m., around game time, it wasn’t raining, but the Cubs held the start until 8:30, supposedly to make sure there was the proverbial “window” in which to play.
At 8:30, not long after the first pitch was thrown by Brett Anderson, it started raining again. Hard. The first two Phillies hit a single and double to make it 1-0. And then...
I mean, look how hard it’s raining [VIDEO] when Tommy Joseph hits a three-run homer off Anderson to make it 4-0.
In parts of that video it doesn’t appear to be raining that hard, but look at the last few seconds of it as Joseph crosses the plate. It was a downpour. And that lasted for most of the first inning, by which time the game was essentially over.
The Phillies poured three more runs on Anderson in the second inning before Joe Maddon had mercy on him and replaced him with Mike Montgomery. It was the shortest outing for a Cubs starter since... you’re expecting me to say it’s been several years, right?
Nope. Last time a Cubs starting pitcher got only four outs in a game was July 3, 2016, when Jon Lester got pounded for eight runs in 1⅓ innings. Lester’s year turned out all right.
I’m beginning to wonder if that’s going to be the case for Anderson, who now has a 6.23 ERA and 1.846 WHIP and who’s been hit hard in two of his five starts. Remember, the Cubs adjusted their rotation so that Anderson (and Lester) could face the Phillies, who entered the game with a .236 BA against southpaws.
Maybe 20,000 of the announced 38,567 showed up for this game on a night that was extremely windy and cold when it wasn’t raining. Which it started to do again in the fourth inning. It was at that point the Cubs loaded the bases and threatened, at least briefly, to make a game of it, but Willson Contreras struck out to end that threat.
In the next inning, Javier Baez provided the only real Cubs highlight of the night when he homered to the opposite field [VIDEO].
Baez also reached base in the seventh on a fly to center that got caught in the wind and was dropped by Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera for a two-base error. He went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sac fly by Matt Szczur.
Szczur had entered the game pinch-hitting for Justin Grimm. Grimm put the game out of reach by getting touched up for three runs after the first two men were out in the top of the seventh, two on homers.
After that Joe decided to have some fun and experiment with defensive switches. Szczur remained in the game in left field, and I assumed Joe had given Schwarber the rest of the night off.
Nope! Schwarber went behind the plate to catch the last two innings, the first he’d caught in a regular-season game since October 1, 2015. Brian Duensing was the pitcher throwing to him, and Duensing retired six of the seven hitters he faced. Lesson learned? Not much of one, I suppose, other than Schwarber can still be a fine third catcher, if and when the Cubs need one.
At the same time, Willson Contreras moved from behind the plate to third base. Originally signed as an infielder, Contreras last played third base in 2015 at Double-A Tennessee (eight games). Naturally, the first batter after Willson took the field at third hit the ball right to him. He handled it quite well, I thought.
And who did he throw the ball to at first? Why, there’s Miguel Montero, playing first base for the first time since he played eight games there... for Magallanes in the Venezuelan winter league in 2009. He hadn’t played first in US organized baseball since 2005, when he played a couple of games there in the Diamondbacks minor-league system.
The defensive alignment the last couple of innings looked like a split-squad spring-training game, only colder and wetter.
It was that kind of night. The only positive things I can pull from this one: Baez had a good offensive night, with two hits and two runs scored; Montgomery threw well in posting 3⅔ scoreless innings; and Duensing throwing two shutout frames.
Otherwise, this has to be concerning:
#Cubs have allowed 32 first inning runs this season (4 tonight).— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 2, 2017
Most they have allowed in any other inning is 14 (6th inning)
You can’t expect to win games when you are constantly starting from behind. This Cubs team has actually done a decent job in coming from behind to win, but that’s not something that a championship-caliber team should be expecting to do on a regular basis.
Anderson, for his part, still has a sense of humor after that awful outing:
Not an excuse but.. the top of the first tonight pic.twitter.com/rmkUNdBR5E— Brett Anderson (@BAnderson3737) May 2, 2017
He’s right. Those were some of the worst conditions I’ve ever seen baseball played in at Wrigley Field. I presume if the Cubs had seen that coming they’d have held off the start of the game for another 30 minutes or so.
The Cubs still retain first place in the N.L. Central by the smallest of margins: one percentage point over the Brewers. Jon Lester takes the mound Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. CT against Jeremy Hellickson.
Mercifully, the rain in Chicago should have ended by then.