Often, in this space, I present some Cubs notes. Instead, today I am going to tell you a story, so gather ‘round.
I am thinking of a team.
A contending team, a team that appeared possibly headed for the postseason, though it trailed in its playoff race around midseason.
And then it had a series scheduled against a really bad team, a team with one of the worst records in its league, a team this contender expected to beat.
The bad team swept the good team and outscored it by 13 runs in the series and a Cubs position player wound up pitching in mop-up duty.
You’re thinking I’m describing what happened in Cincinnati this past weekend, but I’m not. The team I’m describing is the 2015 Cubs, who in late July got swept at Wrigley Field by the awful Phillies, who were not only “one” of the worst teams in the N.L. at the time, but came into that series with the worst record in baseball. Oh, and the Cubs got no-hit in that series, too.
The 2015 Cubs followed that sweep with a 16-2 run which included an 11-game winning streak. And that sweep happened a month later in the season than the one the Cubs just suffered at the hands of the Reds.
What I’m trying to tell you is that as bad as that sweep in Cincinnati was, it’s part of the normal ups and downs that even good teams have, every single season. Other recent teams that had things similar to this happen, and even later in the season:
- 2000 Yankees. They were 84-59 and nine games ahead in the A.L. East. They finished the regular season going 3-15. They won the World Series.
- 2005 White Sox. They were 87-51 and 9½ games ahead in the A.L. Central with 24 games remaining. They went on a 4-10 skid and lost eight games of that lead. They won the World Series.
- 2006 Cardinals. They were 80-69 and had a seven-game lead with 12 games remaining. They lost eight in a row and needed to have the Astros lose on the last day of the season to avoid having to play a makeup game to stay out of a tiebreaker. They won the World Series.
- 2015 Royals. They were 82-51 and 13 games ahead with 29 to go. What followed was an 8-15 stretch; they clinched the division anyway because their competition was almost as bad. They won the World Series.
There are others, but you get the idea. This Cubs team is talented and they will start winning games again, perhaps even go on a long winning streak. My advice: Get off the ledge.
Here are today’s particulars.
Chris Gimenez caught Duane Underwood Jr. at Iowa, so there’s familiarity at work for that choice. Kris Bryant sits for one more day, and Addison Russell also gets today off. Tyler Chatwood heads to the paternity list to make room for Underwood.
Duane Underwood Jr., RHP vs. Kenta Maeda, RHP
Duane Underwood Jr. is making his major-league debut. He had not yet turned 18 when he was drafted in June 2012, thus, even though he seems to have been in the system forever, he won’t turn 24 until next month. He’s progressed slowly through the system and had been having a pretty good year until his last four starts (7.11 ERA, 1.737 WHIP, .303 opponents BA). Obviously, he’ll have to do better than that. Here are some numbers on him via FanGraphs. He’s obviously never faced the Dodgers or anyone on their current roster. That’s often been an advantage for pitchers facing the Cubs. Hopefully it works the other way, too.
Kenta Maeda’s last start was six days ago, in the first game of last Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Cubs. The Cubs knocked him out in the fourth inning. He’d thrown 74 pitches and allowed five hits, five walks and three runs. The Cubs should have won that game, of course, but that’s another story. Hopefully seeing him for a second time within a few days will be to the Cubs’ benefit.
Today’s game is on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s also on ESPN (outside the Chicago market — no blackout in Los Angeles market).
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The 2018 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used during 2017. Here’s how it works.
You’ll find the game preview posted separately on the front page, two hours before game time (90 minutes for some early day games following night games).
At the same time, a StoryStream containing the preview will also post on the front page. The First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads will be published in that stream, as well as the recap. The recap will also live on the front page as a separate post, and at the time I write the recap I will rename the stream “Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads” so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.
You will also be able to find the preview, First Pitch Thread, all the overflow threads and recap in the box marked “Chicago Cubs Game Threads” at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in the game’s StoryStream as noted above.
The First Pitch thread will post at five minutes before game time, then an overflow thread at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after the scheduled game time.
Discuss amongst yourselves.