You could have been forgiven if, in the first inning of the Cubs’ 8-3 win over the Giants, you had thought the teams had been hired by ESPN to put on a clinic in bad baseball.
Walks galore, a throwing error, five infield hits and a 3-3 tie comprised an ugly first inning, and even after three innings it wasn’t much better. The Giants left the bases loaded twice in the first three frames and the Cubs did so once.
Even so, since the Cubs did go on and win convincingly, let’s unpack this game.
Tyler Chatwood got Giants leadoff hitter Gorkys Hernandez to ground out to third on the first pitch of the game. I mention that because it’s just about the only thing Chatwood did right the entire evening. Then he started issuing walks, as has been the case for him all season. Two of the next four hitters walked, and Brandon Crawford got an infield hit to load the bases. Chatwood might have gotten out of the inning scoreless, except... [VIDEO]
Addison Russell took his time throwing to first on that routine ground ball, and it wound up being an RBI single for Pablo Sandoval, who the Giants started at second base for some completely unfathomable reason. Fun fact about that:
We asked @StatsBySTATS & Pablo Sandoval is officially the heaviest 2B ever. 255. Dave Parker and Cecil Fielder tied for 2nd -- 250. Anthony Rizzo T5th w/Albert Pujols 240.— Len Kasper (@LenKasper) May 28, 2018
Mac Williamson followed Sandoval with a two-run single, and Jason Heyward made one of the worst throws I’ve ever seen him make, allowing both runners to move up. Fortunately, Chatwood managed to get Nick Hundley to ground out to end the inning, so the Cubs “only” trailed 3-0.
They got those two runs back quickly. Albert Almora Jr. singled to lead off the bottom of the first, one out later a Kris Bryant double scored him, and Anthony Rizzo singled in Bryant to make it 3-2. That one’s worth a look [VIDEO].
The ball hit both Giants pitcher Ty Blach and second-base umpire Cory Blaser. You couldn’t plan it that way, but the Cubs had their second run. Then Kyle Schwarber singled Rizzo to third and Russell dinked another ball that didn’t get out of the infield and the game was tied.
Entertaining, sure, but not really good baseball.
Chatwood issued two more walks in the second, but managed to get out of the inning, but after he loaded the bases on a single and two walks after retiring the first two batters of the third, Joe Maddon had seen enough. 2⅔ innings, five walks, six hits... ugh. I don’t know what’s wrong with Chatwood, but the Cubs have to figure this out fast, because they simply can’t keep running him out there every fifth game. This is such an outlier to everything Chatwood had done in his career prior to this year that it’s completely mystifying. His walk rate, over 647⅔ career innings before 2018, was 4.2 per nine innings. He threw 21⅔ innings in spring training and walked 11. That’s 4.6 per nine, pretty much in line with those career norms. He’s now walked 45 in 48⅓ regular-season innings, at 8.4 double his career rate. And if you can stand more numbers on Chatwood’s awful start to 2018:
Tyler Chatwood this season:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 28, 2018
48.1 IP, 45 Walks, 44 Strikeouts
5+ BB in 7 of 10 starts
Most 5-BB starts in a season by a #Cubs pitcher since Zambrano (8) in 2006
As I’ve mentioned earlier, Big Z needed an entire 34-start season to do that. Chatwood’s done it in 10 starts.
When Chatwood left, Blach seemed to take over his wildness. Blach walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, but the Cubs could not score. Meanwhile, Randy Rosario had relieved Chatwood, gotten out of the third scoreless, and completed a scoreless fourth thanks to a double play.
Then Rosario led off the bottom of the fourth. Rosario signed with the Twins out of the Dominican Republic at age 16, which is common for players from the D.R., and made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League at age 17 in 2011. In 119 minor-league appearances and three big-league games before Sunday, he had never batted, not once.
Naturally, given the theme of Sunday night, he drew a walk. Fun fact:
Walks since April 11:— Cubs No-Hit Streak (@CubsNoHitStreak) May 28, 2018
Javier Baez: 0
Randy Rosario: 1 https://t.co/Jkqqap9MsD
Almora followed with a double, and then it was Javy time! [VIDEO]
Javier Baez’s 13th home run of the year, a three-run shot, made it 6-3 and gave Rosario some breathing room, something he probably needed after that trip running the bases.
The Cubs added two more after the first two men were retired on routine ground balls in the fifth. Heyward slammed a triple into the right-field corner.
Let me pause for a moment here to say some nice things about Heyward. In addition to the triple, he hit two balls well to the opposite field, both of which were caught, one of which was nearly a bases-clearing blast in the third inning, both of them off a lefthander. Remember that he is still recovering from the aftereffects of a concussion. I remain convinced that he’ll start hitting again.
Anyway, Tommy La Stella followed with an RBI single.
Let me pause for a moment here to say some nice things about La Stella. He is, I think without a doubt, the best pinch-hitter in the game right now. That was his 10th pinch hit of the season. As a PH he is hitting .435/.563/.520 (10-for-23) with five walks. The 10 pinch hits put him halfway to the team record, in less than a third of the season, and more than a third of the way to the major-league record. Those records: 20 for the Cubs, held by Thad Bosley (1985), tied by Dave Clark (1997). The MLB record is 28, held by John Vander Wal (1995).
TLS then scored on a double by Almora, his third hit (and second double) of the game.
Fun Almora fact:
#Cubs this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 28, 2018
Games Almora starts: 20-10
Games Almora plays, but doesn't start: 7-7
Games Almora doesn't appear in: 0-5
Seriously, I have to think this means Almora starts nearly every game from here on. Not only is he hitting — .326/.377/.457 (45-for-138), but he makes one of these almost every day:
He’s just so, so good defensively, certainly the best defensive center fielder I’ve ever seen in a Cubs uniform.
The rest of the game was the Cubs bullpen. Rosario, Brian Duensing, Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Hancock combined for 6⅓ shutout innings, allowing three hits and a walk with five strikeouts, absolutely outstanding work while the offense was producing the winning rallies.
Despite all that great work, something’s got to give with Chatwood. I don’t know what that will be, a DL stint or a bullpen demotion, but the Cubs can’t keep sending him out there with the complete lack of control and command he’s exhibiting now.
Kudos especially to Rosario, who had the game of his life Sunday night. His reward is likely going to be a trip back to Iowa so the Cubs can add a fresh bullpen arm (probably Luke Farrell, who was scratched from his Iowa start Sunday).
So the Cubs win the series and in just a few hours, will take the field against the Pirates in Pittsburgh at 12:35 p.m. CT. Mike Montgomery will make his first 2018 start against Pittsburgh’s Chad Kuhl. TV coverage Monday is via ABC7 Chicago. Site notes: A series preview for the set in Pittsburgh will post at 9 a.m. CT. and the game preview for Monday’s contest at 11 a.m. CT.