ALBUQUERQUE — Greetings from New Mexico, where I’m making my first stop on the way back to Chicago from Arizona.
I’m glad you all liked this morning’s April Fool article, and I only wish this recap of a frustrating 6-0 Cubs loss to the Marlins was something I could take back and say “Only joking!”
Let me give some credit where it’s due first. This Marlins team is not nearly as bad as I thought, or most thought, it would be. They’ve got some good young players — Lewis Brinson is going to be a star in this league, and it looks like their rookie catcher Chad Wallach (son of former Montreal Expo Tim Wallach, who’s a Marlins coach) is a keeper. They are clearly well-coached, because their game plan this entire weekend against the Cubs was obviously to work at-bats and push Cubs starters out of the game early. On that, they succeeded. Cubs starters have thrown 365 pitches in four games, an average of 91.25 per game, and have thrown a total of 19⅔ innings, so the starters have averaged fewer than five innings per game.
That’s obviously something that’s going to have to change over the long run. Raise your hand if you predicted before Opening Day that Eddie Butler would have the season’s longest outing (and best, too) after four games. (No. You did not predict this. No one did.)
The bullpen has done a great job — two total runs allowed in 24 innings. But Sunday, the game was far out of hand by the time Brian Duensing threw his two shutout innings.
The Cubs had a lot of chances to take the lead in the first five innings, while Jose Quintana was holding the Marlins scoreless. They had RISP in the first, third and fourth with one out and could not score, and had runners on second and third with two out in the fifth and did not score. They were 1-for-9 overall with RISP and left 10 men on base. That’s not going to get it done.
Marlins rookie starter Dillon Peters did a fine job working himself out of jams, so give him credit, too, and the Marlins pen allowed just two singles over the last three innings. Particularly impressive is Kyle Barraclough, the guy whose name is pronounced “Bear-claw.” He now has nine career appearances against the Cubs, and in nine innings the Cubs are 1-for-26 against him with six walks and 15 strikeouts (an 0.00 ERA and 0.778 WHIP). He’s been a solid reliever for the Marlins for the last three years and could probably close for some teams.
Milestone note: Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning. And so:
Anthony Rizzo: 100 career HBP. 96 with #Cubs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 1, 2018
2 already in 4 games this season
Rizzo has led the N.L. in HBP two of the last three seasons. The franchise record is 137, set by Frank Chance more than a century ago. Rizzo could break it as soon as next season. More important, however, is to get back on the winning track. Chalk this one up to “Tip your cap to the other guy,” and head to Cincinnati for (hopefully) a pair of wins against the Reds beginning Monday afternoon.
Totally unrelated to how the team played but interesting regardless: The Cubs have won both games in which they wore their road grays, and lost both where they wore the blue alternates. Obviously the jersey doesn’t matter, but baseball folks being the superstitious (or in Joe Maddon’s term, “little-stitious”) people they are, perhaps they’ll opt for gray in Cincinnati.
Since I was on the road Sunday, I listened to the game via SiriusXM, which carries only the home team broadcasters. The Marlins radio crew is Dave Van Horne and Glenn Geffner, both play-by-play guys who alternate innings during the game. Geffner’s pretty good, and talked a lot about the Cubs and seemed pretty knowledgable about baseball in general. Van Horne, who was the Montreal Expos’ play-by-play man for 32 years after their inception in 1969 and came to the Marlins when Jeffrey Loria bought them... well, he’s won a lot of broadcasting awards but I think he’s past his sell-by date. He made numerous mistakes, which he kept correcting, and also mispronounced Quintana (he said “Quin-TANNA” instead of “Quin-TONNA”) and also messed up Javier Baez’s first AND last names. He’s 79 years old... perhaps time to retire, I’d think.
Monday, as noted, the Cubs will be in Cincinnati for the first of a two-game series. Tyler Chatwood goes for the Cubs and Tyler Mahle — stop me if you’ve heard this before — a rookie making his fifth major-league start will go for the Reds. Game time is 3:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage is via NBC Sports Chicago. Outside the Chicago and Cincinnati markets, Monday’s game will be on MLB Network.