The Cubs’ 9-4 loss to the Nationals summed up in six tweets:
A stunned sold out Wrigley Field watched Jon Lester walk off the field after pitching just 3.2 innings while giving up eight earned runs against the Nationals. The outing raised his 2nd half ERA to 10.33 after compiling a 2.58 first half mark. The start... https://t.co/C4OOyLL3Rf— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) August 11, 2018
From @ESPNStatsInfo : Jon Lester allowed 10 hits in a game for the first time since April 26, 2017. All 10 hits allowed were on hard pitches. Lester hadn't allowed 10 hits in a game on fastballs since April 13, 2015.— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) August 11, 2018
Before today, Ryan Zimmerman at Wrigley Field in the Joe Maddon Era (2015-present): 5-for-49, 4 RBI— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) August 11, 2018
Today: 2-for-2, 2 HR, 6 RBI
Of course this game HAD to feature a Chatwood appearance.— Chris Dobbertean (@ChrisDobbertean) August 11, 2018
Tyler Chatwood making the most of his opportunity to hit, strokes one into RF for a single.— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) August 11, 2018
Wonder if this Tyler Chatwood guy could be a rotation option for the Cubs ...— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) August 11, 2018
Seriously, that’s about it. Jon Lester looks awful, just as at around this time last year he appears to have dead arm, if nothing else, and perhaps could benefit from a 10-day DL stay. On the other hand:
#Cubs Maddon on Lester: "I'm seeing the same stuff, I am, from the side. His fastball got hit today. I don't know yet if it was a function of location, execution of the pitch but when I watch from the side, I don't see anything differently."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 11, 2018
Lester recorded the first two outs of the game on just three pitches, and then the Nats started raining down hits on him on one of the most beautiful sunny afternoons we’ve had all summer in Chicago. It was 3-0 in the third when the one Cubs highlight worth watching from this game happened [VIDEO].
Congratulations to Anthony Rizzo on his 1,000th career hit, which came with Albert Almora Jr. on first base and nobody out. It moved Almora to third, where he scored on a sacrifice fly by Javier Baez. At the time, a 3-1 score might have made this game close, but Rizzo was caught trying to steal second. A missed sign, perhaps? On Rizzo’s milestone:
#Cubs Maddon on Rizzo getting 1,000th hit: "He's got many more to come. He's still a young man. There's no telling how many he'll end up with. His baseball hitting acumen is really high."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 12, 2018
#Cubs Rizzo on 1,000th hit: "You can never take that for granted. I've been fortunate to pretty much stay healthy my entire career so far. Obviously, it's a nice milestone, but I wanted to pick up the 'W' today as well"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 12, 2018
Here’s hoping in a few years, we are talking about Rizzo’s 2,000th career hit, still as a member of the Cubs.
Anyway, the roof fell in on Lester in the third, where six runs scored, including home runs by Ryan Zimmerman (his second of the game, as noted above) and Daniel Murphy, who is a one-man wrecking crew at Wrigley Field. Even before going 3-for-4 today, Murphy was hitting .406/.436/.688 (39-for-96) at Wrigley with nine doubles and six home runs — and that doesn’t include the demolition he did in the 2015 NLCS with the Mets.
So... when possible, pitch around Murphy at Wrigley. Not that Murphy’s home run was the biggest blow in this game, or the most important. Still.
New Cub Jorge De La Rosa replaced Lester and struck out four of the five hitters he faced, with decent velocity (92-93 on the Wrigley pitch-speed meter), so he might be a useful bullpen spare part. Mike Montgomery, moved briefly to the bullpen to space out his next start till next Saturday in Pittsburgh, threw a scoreless sixth and then... Tyler Chatwood.
And Chatwood... wasn’t awful. That’s a low bar to hurdle, of course, but though Chatwood allowed three hits and two walks in his three-inning stint, he was able to close out each inning without allowing a run. Of Chatwood’s 23 appearances this season, it’s just the third in which he did not give up at least one run. Baby steps.
The Cubs got a consolation run off Tanner Roark in the eighth, and you tell me why Dave Martinez sent his starting pitcher out in a 9-1 blowout after he had thrown 101 pitches, and then left him in after he allowed two hits. Finally, after Willson Contreras drove in the Cubs’ second run with a hit, Martinez pulled Roark after a total of 117 pitches. I mean... what was Davey thinking?
Two more runs crossed the plate for the Cubs in the ninth courtesy of pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist, who smacked a two-run double. Joe Maddon emptied his bench early, giving Rizzo, Baez and Jason Heyward about half the afternoon off, probably a good idea. It was pleasantly mild near the lake today, with a gentle breeze blowing in, but resting players this time of year is important. From Joe:
#Cubs Maddon: "It's almost encouraging that we're holding our heads above water and we haven't had that run we normally experience. We just haven't done those two parts of the game consistently well, pitch and hit, since the 2nd half began, to really get on any kind of run"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 12, 2018
All true... and yet, the Cubs still lead the N.L. Central by 2½ games, pending the Braves/Brewers game which is still going on at this writing, with the Braves just having taken a 2-1 lead in the fourth. The Cubs could still come out of this day with a three-game lead, and as Maddon noted, they really haven’t played their best baseball yet. They’re certainly capable of that, and can start any day they’d like to do that.
Sunday night, the rubber game of this series will be played, and ESPN got a great pitching matchup for the series finale. Cole Hamels will make his third Cubs start, and first at Wrigley as a Cub, and face Max Scherzer, who’s a strong Cy Young candidate. Nevertheless, the Cubs hit Scherzer pretty well in the division series last year, and hopefully they can right the ship and win the series. Game time Sunday is 7:05 p.m. CT.