On Tuesday morning, I took my family for a Wrigley Field tour. If you’ve never taken a Wrigley Field tour, I’d recommend the experience. In case you’ve never read about the tour, no it doesn’t take you to any of the cool places in the park. For instance, no Cubs locker-room, nor the scoreboard. But the tour guide seemed pretty knowledgeable about Cubs history and shared some interesting anecdotes about the construction of the park, some important historical events. A very small amount of Chicago history. I’m told that it is even better on a non-game day. They add the press box and the Cubs dugout then. I’m a little bummed about the dugout. I’ve been in a press box before, so that was less of a big deal to me. We did get to walk on a very small part of the field, that was pretty cool.
We were there super early in the day and so we were there when Yu Darvish was throwing his simulated game. We also saw Kris Bryant getting ready to take some grounders. All of that was a fun bonus. Afterwards, we went over to the Motorola store where they store the World Series trophy. If you’ve never been in there, not only is the trophy proudly displayed, there is some other hardware in there including Ryne Sandberg’s 1984 MVP, Rick Sutcliffe’s 1984 Cy Young, a Carlos Zambrano silver slugger, some Derrek Lee hardware and a Don Zimmer Manager of the Year trophy from 1989.
Does it seem like I’m avoiding talking about the game? Yes, I definitely am. I could have also said that I ran into Al in his spot at the front of the bleacher line and got to say hey. What a long day it is for Al as he was outside of the gates long before first pitch and then he surely sat through that horrible baseball game and had to watch Ryan Braun celebrate not one but two home runs. He saw some lousy ball strike calls. Though I didn’t think the Zobrist call was particularly egregious. Certainly wrong, but I’ve definitely seen worse including one an inning later to Kyle Schwarber. I’ve umpired at the teenage level before. I can understand those two mistakes he made. Both of those balls started off the plate and were breaking towards the plate and were ultimately received in a position that would be across the plate. I think neither strike three to Zobrist or Schwarber was actually in the zone at the point of a call being made. But I get it. This certainly wasn’t about umpiring.
If you are a worrier or an angry type of Cub fan, I get you. There has been plenty to be anxious and/or angsty about since the All-Star break. The team has played really, really inconsistent baseball and has been fortunate to win as many games as it has. I started saying it over a month ago, falling behind every day and coming back to win is fun and all, but it just isn’t a recipe for success.
If you are a confident, pragmatic Cubs fan, don’t lose hope. This team is short handed and those guys are coming back. I know you are all tired of hearing it. I’m tired of saying it. I don’t even particularly feel like saying it. The team got crushed today. It didn’t play well at all. It looked like a clearly inferior team.
This is what I know. This team is almost certainly going to return to the postseason. It isn’t going to be pretty, but the math is still pretty good even after this loss. I’m not saying a collapse is impossible. Fortunately, the Cubs haven’t had one in a while, but there are plenty of recent examples of teams where the Cubs are now not getting the job done. But I believe this team to be too talented to let it slip away. They’ll get in. Then the only thing that’s going to matter is how the team is playing then. How many people can get hot and play their best then. We place a lot of weight on what happens day to day. Regardless of what happened this week, Jon Lester could be the best starter in the playoffs. Cole Hamels could get lit up. Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell could be the hitting stars while Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist struggle. You just don’t know. What happens in August isn’t banked for later. You just have to get there. Hold on tight. I still believe we’ll get there, but it isn’t going to be a work of art.
Game 118, August 14 - Cubs blanked by Brewers 7-0 (68-50)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Ian Happ (.043). Ian had a nice day at the plate with a double and a walk in three plate appearances. The Cubs had only five base-runners, so this is sadly a large chunk of the Cubs offense. This is your warning to quit reading, because it gets ugly after this.
- Hero - Addison Russell (-.001). Addison got an at bat after Ben Zobrist was ejected. The results were little different than everyone else did all day.
- Sidekick - Albert Almora Jr. (-.002). Albert struck out in his pinch hit at bat.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jose Quintana (-.267). Is there such a thing as other than the three home runs you allowed? Other than those three home runs, Jose allowed only three hits and a walk. One of the hits and one of the walks were along for the ride on the three home runs and so he allowed five runs. He did strike out five. So I guess there’s that. Jose didn’t make a ton of mistakes, but when he did they were hit a long, long way.
- Goat - Tommy La Stella (-.058). Ugh. The matchups said this was the right move. Nothing is working right now for the Cubs it seems. Tommy was just as useless at the plate as the other Cubs as he was hitless in four at bats.
- Kid - Anthony Rizzo (-.052). Anthony was also hitless in four at bats. I suspect Rizzo is going to be moved back into the middle of the lineup sooner than later. The move got him going, but his bat is needed in the middle. He should probably return to hitting third.
Days like this make me consider not awarding “anti-hero” awards. The integrity of the series says you give three Hero awards and three goat awards. But seriously, Russell and Almora were no heroes. They just appeared after the game was out of reach so their outs didn’t matter.
WPA Play of the Game: Jose Quintana allowed a home run to the first batter he faced. He then got a ground out but followed that by allowing a single. That brought Braun to the plate. He flat out destroyed one into the left field bleachers to make it 3-0. (.150)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Ian Happ doubled leading off the third inning. (.038) It really felt like a devastating failure when they were unable to get that run in with Rizzo, Baez and Zobrist following.
- Superhero - Javier Baez 25.5
- Hero - Ben Zobrist 16
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop 15
Up Next: Kyle Hendricks will be on the hill as the Cubs seek a split in this brief two game set. Kyle is 8-9 with a 4.02 ERA on the year. Over his last seven, things have ironed out quite a bit and he has a 3-1 record with a 3.46 ERA. There is one start in there where he allowed four runs in 5⅔ innings, that is still propping the numbers a bit or they’d be even better. He’s walked just four hitters over his last 41⅔ innings of work and matched that with four home runs allowed. Those numbers have fallen in line with his career numbers quite a bit more. He’s 1-0 in two starts against the Brewers this year. Hes thrown 12 innings allowing 13 hits, one walk and four runs. Both of those starts were way back in April, so some things have changed since then. In his last five starts against the Brewers dating back to last July 5, he is 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in 29 innings of work. He’s coming off of a six inning, eight hit, no walk, two runs allowed no decision against the Nationals last Friday. Let’s hope he can continue his upswing.
Junior Guerra is the opposition. Junior is 6-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 121⅔ innings of work. Over his last seven starts, he’s trending a little bit in the wrong direction as he is 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA over 39 innings of work. Last time out he lasted six innings in a no decision against the Padres. He allowed eight hits, three walks and two runs while only striking out three. He’s made two starts against the Cubs this year and he is 0-1 in 12 innings of work. He’s thrown 12 innings and allowed eight hits, four walks and just two runs. Yes, he pitched in one of those games in April when the Cubs were totally wiping out the Brewers and lost a game with only one run allowed. Dating back to May 2016, he’s made five starts against the Cubs and is 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA in 28⅓ innings of work. So things aren’t getting any easier for the Cubs. This is my shocked face that the Brewers lined up their two best options for facing the Cubs.