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Braves 8, Cubs 0: Somebody, ANYBODY for the defense

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That was ugly. (And that’s being nice.)

No error was charged on this play, but there were sure enough of those
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s hope the Cubs got all the bad defense out of their system in Monday night’s horrific 8-0 loss to the Braves. This game wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, but it might as well have been.

Mark Zagunis dropped a foul popup in the bottom of the first inning, after which Ender Inciarte led off that inning with a home run.

Javier Baez threw away what could have been an inning-ending double-play relay in that same inning, allowing a run to score and leading the way for two more runs. All of the four Braves’ first-inning runs were unearned as a result.

Anthony Rizzo made two errors on the same play, first booting a grounder allowing Brian McCann to reach in the third inning, then throwing the ball weirdly into the dugout, putting him on second base. The only saving grace to these is that they didn’t result in any further Braves scoring. Errors, of course, aren’t the best way to measure a player’s defensive skills, but it should be pointed out that Rizzo made just seven errors all of 2018 in 153 games at first base. He’s generally one of the smartest, surest-handed first basemen in the game.

David Bote threw a ball in the general direction of third base with the bases loaded in the fifth inning for no particular reason; after the play no Braves runner was going anywhere, but after Bote’s throw, an additional run scored for Atlanta on the play.

Kris Bryant booted a ball in the sixth that was a tough play, to be sure, but a play he usually makes. That helped lead to yet another unearned Atlanta run.

And you probably didn’t want to know this:

Ugh. Oddly enough, the Cubs spotted the Dodgers a 7-0 lead in that game, came back to take an 8-7 lead, blew that in the ninth but won 9-8 in 11 innings. Obviously, the same thing didn’t happen in this one.

Honestly, I didn’t think Kyle Hendricks pitched that badly overall. Yes, he allowed a first-inning home run (which shouldn’t have happened due to Zagunis’ error). But:

Oh. There was another home run Monday night off Hendricks after the first inning. And yet, in general Hendricks was also getting weak contact, which could have resulted in outs had the fielders simply done their job. Only two of the seven runs charged to Hendricks were earned due to the errors (and the single run off Randy Rosario was also unearned), and of course the errors also made Hendricks throw more pitches than he otherwise would have. It’s entirely possible that Kyle throws six innings and allows two runs if not for the defensive messes made behind him and the game is still competitive.

And overall, Cubs pitchers allowed 12 hits and seven walks, which is... pretty bad. That makes 27 walks issued by Cubs pitchers in four games this year. Only the Diamondbacks (29) have allowed more.

Mark Zagunis... I dunno, he does have decent on-base and hitting skills but he does not appear to be anywhere near a major-league outfielder. In addition to the error, he helped misplay the ball shown in the photo at the top of this post and then completely misplayed a line drive by Freddie Freeman in the sixth inning. Back to the drawing board here, I think, and at this point I have to agree with some here who say Kyle Schwarber should play every day. Even against lefty Sean Newcomb, Schwarber could not possibly have played worse than Zagunis did Monday night.

You’ll note that there’s no video in this recap. That’s by design; there weren’t any Cubs highlights. The Cubs certainly had their chances; they had nine hits and four walks and took advantage of none of them by going 0-for-8 with RISP, including Zagunis being doubled off second base for the last out on a popup to short center when he apparently forgot how many outs there were, another symbol of this horrendous performance by the Cubs.

And the Cubs might be frustrated, but this isn’t helping:

I suppose all of this would be easier to take — teams have games like this every once in a while, even good ones — if the Cubs hadn’t blown those late-inning leads in Texas Saturday and Sunday.

I am on the road back to Chicago from spring training and decided to watch the ESPN broadcast of this game featuring Jon Sciambi, David Ross and Tim Kurkjian mainly so I could have it on a screen of decent size in my hotel room. There’s a reason people are turning off ESPN in large numbers. I think Ross had interesting things to say, but those seemed lost among the joviality among the three men, most of which was pointless laughing (and Kurkjian, who is also knowledgeable, is very difficult to listen to when he’s laughing with that weird high-pitched voice). Between that and the constant “live look-ins,” it was almost unwatchable. (I get the look-ins, when there’s a non-competitive main game, up to a point. Either cover the game you’re carrying, or don’t.)

Lastly, I was obviously joking around with my April Fool’s post yesterday, but here are the game times for the four Cubs games so far this year:

3:07
3:47
3:46
3:12

This is obviously not the way we wanted to see the Cubs start this year, and you can be assured they didn’t want it this way either. I remind you: 158 games remain in the 2019 season

The Cubs will have Tuesday off, and at this point I’m pretty sure they need it. Wednesday night in Atlanta will feature a matchup of Opening Day starters for the two teams: Jon Lester for the Cubs, Julio Teheran for the Braves. TV coverage in Chicago is via WGN and there’s another ESPN broadcast (blacked out in the Chicago and Atlanta markets) with the same announcing trio. Perhaps they can tone the hysterical laughter down a bit by then.