The Cubs, 15-21 on the road entering this nine-game trip, surely needed to begin it in a better way than having Cole Hamels leave the game with what appears to be an oblique injury and losing 6-3 to the Reds.
But here we are:
Maddon: Hamels will go on IL with left oblique strain. More info Saturday after MRI.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 29, 2019
Hamels allowed a run in the first inning, then threw two warmup pitches for the second and walked off the mound [VIDEO].
Oblique injuries can be tough to come back from and often take a month or more for full recovery. So... the Cubs just lost their most consistent starting pitcher for several weeks.
Mike Montgomery entered the game and served up a home-run ball to Phillip Ervin on the first pitch he threw. By the time he left in the fourth inning the Cubs were down 6-0, and I’ll spare you the carnage.
The rest of the bullpen did all right: Brad Brach, Kyle Ryan and Steve Cishek combined to throw 4⅔ scoreless innings, allowing three hits and two walks, striking out four, but the deficit was too much to overcome.
In the seventh, Javier Baez led off with a single, scooted all the way to third on a wild pitch, and one out later, Jason Heyward continued his current hot streak [VIDEO].
The blast was Heyward’s 12th of 2019. That’s a personal best for him as a Cub (he hit 11 in 2017) with almost half the season remaining.
In the eighth, the Cubs brought the tying run to the plate when Kris Bryant walked and Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch with one out. But Baez and Willson Contreras grounded out to end that inning, and the Cubs failed to score in the ninth, and that was that.
Here’s an intriguing note on the Hamels injury:
No official moves by Cubs, but expecting them to call up two arms Saturday. In clubhouse, veteran Carlos Gonzalez was gathered with some teammates. Received a few handshakes and hugs.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 29, 2019
So this could be the end of the line for CarGo as a Cub. As I’ve noted before, it was certainly worth giving him a shot after the Indians let him go. But watching him hit, you could clearly see his bat speed wasn’t what it was during his heyday with the Rockies, and he hit just .175/.306/.300 with one home run and one really nice sliding catch [VIDEO] in his four weeks as a Cub. I wish him well, but I suspect this might be the end of the line for CarGo.
Thus it appears that the Cubs will go with three bench players for a brief time, given that the bullpen has been somewhat overworked over the last few days. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d think Dillon Maples and Alec Mills will be the arms called up, with Mills eventually replaced by a position player. Rowan Wick and Tony Barnette could potentially also be recalled. Both have been optioned within the last 10 days, but the 10-day period optioned players must stay in the minors is waived in case of an injury.
Beyond all that speculation, the Cubs, amazingly, remained in first place in the N.L. Central thanks to the Pirates, who defeated the Brewers Friday evening. On June 9, the Cubs defeated the Cardinals and were 37-27, tied for first place. They’ve gone 7-11 since then and... gone one game ahead in that time, as the Brewers are 5-11 in that span. The Cubs have either been in first place, or second no more than one game behind, since June 4, despite an 11-12 record in that span.
That’s amusing and horrifying at the same time. This team is simply going to have to play better to win the division. I believe they can do so, but they’re now also going to have to deal with the absence of Hamels for an unknown amount of time. Other starters are going to have to step up.
The series in Cincinnati continues Saturday afternoon. Jose Quintana will start for the Cubs and Luis Castillo goes for the Reds. Game time is 3:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via ABC7 Chicago.