Carl Edwards Jr. had a rough outing Wednesday night and was tagged with the defeat in the Cubs’ 4-1 loss to the Braves.
But I am not going to blame him, no sirree.
Instead I am going to blame the Cubs’ almost complete inability to take advantage of having the leadoff hitter on base. To wit:
2nd inning: Javier Baez leads off with a single
4th inning: Willson Contreras leads off with a walk
5th inning: Ian Happ leads off with a single
6th inning: Contreras leads off with a walk
7th inning: Addison Russell leads off with a double
8th inning: Kris Bryant leads off with a single
That’s six of the first eight innings with the leadoff hitter on base, one in scoring position, and in the first inning the Cubs had a runner on second with one out (double by Bryant) and in the third, a runner on first with one out (a single by Albert Almora Jr.)
That’s a runner on with less than two out in every one of the first eight innings, yet only one run scored, in the fifth. Tyler Chatwood sacrificed Happ to second, and after Almora struck out, Bryant singled him in. That tied the game 1-1, as Chatwood had been touched up for a run on an RBI single by Freddie Freeman in the first inning.
I mean... I guess you can give some credit to Braves pitchers for getting outs when they needed them, but really, when you have that many leadoff hitters on base, you ought to score more than one run. The Cubs went 1-for-10 with RISP (the single by Bryant in the fifth) and left eight men on base.
Even great pitching isn’t going to overcome that lack of offense.
Chatwood was very good in this outing. He walked two. “Only” two, I should probably say, just the second time in eight starts where he hasn’t walked at least three. That’s progress, I think, and here’s how bad the Chatwood walk parade has been:
More on Chatwood's three innings tonight without a walk:— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) May 17, 2018
--It's only the second time this season he has gone at least three consecutive innings without a BB;
--His longest streak of the season is four innings, on 4/29, third through sixth innings, vs. Milwaukee.
He was pulled with one out in the sixth and a runner on first. Brian Duensing immediately walked the first man he faced, Freeman, but got out of the inning with a double play, one of three the Cubs turned on the evening. Otherwise this loss would have been in the books long before CJ’s bad eighth inning.
Another thing that kept the Cubs in the game early was this:
Almora... man, he just keeps getting better and better defensively. His instincts and routes are just about perfect, probably the best I’ve ever seen. That ball was hit by Tyler Flowers leading off the second inning. It looked like the ball would have hit off the very top of the wall had AA not been there, even though his glove eventually wound up over the top of the wall.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to help win this game, as the offense faltered despite having eight hits and two walks. The 11 strikeouts registered by Braves pitchers didn’t help, either.
Here’s a note about Bryant’s three-hit game:
Tonight is Kris Bryant's 493rd career MLB game.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 17, 2018
He has reached base 3 or more times (via hit, walk or HBP) in 119 of them.#Cubs
Most games reaching base 3 or more times - through first 493 career games— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 17, 2018
122 Albert Pujols
120 Mike Trout
119 Adam Dunn
119 Kris Bryant
117 Joey Votto
Pretty impressive group there, I’d say.
After CJ threw poorly in the eighth, Justin Hancock entered to try to bail him out. Hancock struck out Ender Inciarte, issued the second bases-loaded walk of the inning, then got Ryan Flaherty to ground out to end the frame. Hancock’s going to have big-league success if he can learn to throw strikes, because he’s consistently bringing his fastball at 97 or 98 miles per hour. That’s something you can’t teach.
One last interesting note about the Braves’ winning eighth-inning rally:
FROM ELIAS: Ronald Acuña Jr. is the youngest player (20) with a go-ahead hit in the 8th-inning or later of back-to-back games in the expansion era (since 1961). He had a go-ahead single in the 8th inning tonight, and a go-ahead HR in the 8th last night.— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) May 17, 2018
I really don’t have too much more to say about this loss... well, except this. Let me preface this again by saying it shouldn’t matter what jersey the Cubs wear for road games, but:
Blue alt: 3-8
Road gray: 6-2
Please, guys. Ditch the blue tops. For now, at least. Jon Lester, who’s starting the series finale Thursday night, generally wears the gray. He’ll face Braves rookie Mike Soroka. Game time again is 6:35 p.m. CT and TV coverage again is via WGN.