About an hour after the Cubs’ 5-0 loss to the Reds ended Friday night, a big line of storms rumbled through the Cincinnati area. (No, I wasn’t there, just perusing weather radars.)
The rain might as well have come through a couple hours earlier, because the Cubs’ offense would have looked just about as good with a tarp down on Great American Ball Park as it did while the game was actually going on.
Scott Feldman — Scott Feldman! — took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against a Cubs lineup that resembled the kind of squad you’d send to the Reds’ spring-training park in Goodyear, Arizona, because it’s a long bus ride and a lot of the regulars are given the day off, or stay back in Mesa and hit in the batting cages.
Give some credit to Feldman. And you might remember that he had some pretty good games in his half-season as a Cub in 2013, including this three-hit complete game against the Padres May 1 of that year. He struck out 12. Games like that were a big part of the reason the Cubs were able to ship him (and Steve Clevenger) to the Orioles for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. That one worked out OK for the Cubs:
@ckamka Cubs face Scott Feldman tonight. Since trade w/BAL:— The RISP-O-Meter (@BleacherMeter) June 30, 2017
Feldman (4.7) & Clevenger (0.4) = 5.1 WAR
Arrieta (17.6) & Strop (4.4) = 22 WAR
For his part, Feldman is pitching well enough to wind up on a contending team in a few weeks. Could it be the Cubs? They’re looking for starting pitching. Feldman would be a rental, as he’s a free agent at season’s end, but he’s making only $2.3 million this year and likely wouldn’t cost much in terms of prospects. Just a thought, anyway.
Mike Montgomery didn’t pitch too badly for the Cubs, though his overall line of 6⅔ innings and five runs doesn’t look that great. He again had pretty good command and control, issuing just two walks. He made just one real mistake, the ball grooved to Adam Duvall with two men on base in the fourth inning. Duvall smacked a three-run homer to the opposite field and the game was essentially over.
That inning produced the only real Cubs highlight of the game. Billy Hamilton led off the inning with a double, but Albert Almora Jr. made this strong throw [VIDEO] to catch him trying to stretch it into a triple.
After Duvall’s homer it was all Reds. They added a run in the sixth off Montgomery and an unearned run off Hector Rondon in the eighth. Joey Votto had doubled off Rondon, and with two out decided to test Victor Caratini’s arm by trying to steal third. Caratini’s throw went into left field and Votto scored. I could show you the video here, but a) why would you want to watch it and b) the highlight video that’s available has Thom Brennaman being his usual smarmy self, so why bother?
The makeshift lineup produced just three hits: singles by Jon Jay, Ian Happ and Addison Russell. The Cubs did have two other runners, produced by walks from Feldman, but double plays took care of those. This is not encouraging:
#Cubs: 10th game this season with 3 or fewer hits. Most in the Majors.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 1, 2017
At 40-40, this is now the 17th time the Cubs have been at exactly .500 this season, as follows: 1-1, 2-2, 6-6, 7-7, 16-16, 17-17, 18-18, 19-19, 25-25, 27-27, 30-30, 31-31, 32-32, 33-33, 34-34, 39-39 and 40-40. They have not won more than three in a row nor lost more than two in a row since a four-game losing streak that ended June 10. They have not been more than four games over .500 nor two games under .500 all season.
Sounds like the epitome of a .500 ballclub to me.
And yet, they are still just two games out of first place, even after the first-place Brewers beat the Marlins Friday night (thanks to newly-acquired Stephen Vogt, who hit two homers). The Cubs have been playing many of their games over the last three weeks without several of their regulars: Russell, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Kris Bryant have all missed multiple games with various injuries over that span (in addition to the demotion of Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A). And still, since that four-game losing streak, the Cubs are 10-9 with mix-and-match lineups.
Russell is back in the lineup. Bryant, who took batting practice and did some running without major issues before Friday’s game, could be back as soon as today. Zobrist and Heyward could return by Tuesday, when the Cubs begin a homestand.
There’s still time left to produce a long run of winning. This team is too talented to sit around .500 all season. At least that’s what I’m trying to convince myself.
Saturday afternoon at 3:10 p.m. CT, the teams will go at it again. Eddie Butler goes for the Cubs, and Jackson Stephens, who will be making his major-league debut, pitches for the Reds. The game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.
And the teams will have to watch out for storms. There’s a 40 percent chance of them in the Cincinnati area this afternoon.