I’m going to be the glass-half-full guy and say the Cubs had a successful homestand, winning seven of the nine games.
Yes, the 5-1 loss to the Padres left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth on Sunday afternoon, but I’m going to look at it this way: The Cubs came out of the break with a half-game lead in the N.L. Central, and they improved on that, probably, by two games over the course of the last nine. That’s a good homestand’s worth of work, I think.
Now, let’s get to the good part of this game, which was an outstanding start from Kyle Hendricks. He didn’t allow a hit until two out in the fourth, and got touched up for one run in the fifth and another in the seventh. Most starting pitchers who do what Kyle did Sunday (seven innings, four hits, two runs, four strikeouts) are going to win the game for their team, or at least put the team in position to win.
But you can’t win if you can’t score.
The Cubs did score a run in the first inning off Adrian Morejon, who was making his MLB debut as an “opener.” Javier Baez singled, Kris Bryant blooped a double to left and Baez scored on an infield grounder by Anthony Rizzo.
And then... there was a whole lot of nothing from Cubs bats. They had just four singles after the first inning, and the only Cub who got past first base in the last eight innings was Rizzo, who took second on defensive indifference with two out in the ninth. Yikes.
Give credit to Cal Quantrill, who threw 5⅔ outstanding innings for the Padres. He allowed two singles, didn’t walk anyone and struck out six.
Still, the game was within reach until the ninth. Brad Brach actually threw a decent eighth, issuing a leadoff walk but then striking out Manuel Margot and getting Manny Machado to hit into an inning-ending double play.
After the Cubs failed to score in the eighth, Kyle Ryan entered to throw the ninth. He issued a one-out walk and Francisco Mejia, who had homered off Hendricks, laid down a perfect bunt that died in the grass between third and home for a single. I was a bit surprised that Joe Maddon left Ryan in to throw to Wil Myers, but he got Myers to pop up for the second out. It might have been a case of, “Let me see what this guy can do in a high-leverage situation.”
Perhaps he should have left Ryan in to throw to Luis Urias, who entered the game hitting .107 (3-for-28). Instead, Joe called on Carl Edwards Jr. for his first outing since being activated from the injured list.
CJ was awful, and there’s no sugarcoating it. He walked Urias to load the bases, hit Greg Garcia (who used to just kill the Cubs when he was in St. Louis) with a pitch and then Fernando Tatis roped a two-run single to right, and that, pretty much, was that. Edwards’ velocity topped out at 93, he threw only nine strikes in 17 pitches and looked like he had command of none of his pitches. He hadn’t pitched in five days, but I doubt that was the reason. CJ had looked good for a month before he was placed on the IL in June, so I don’t know what was going on in this outing. He’s certainly not going to be placed in any more high-leverage situations until they figure out what happened in this one.
Usually I have some video to show you, but there weren’t many (or any, really) Cubs highlights. So have a look at all four of Hendricks’ strikeouts [VIDEO], and check out the movement on some of his pitches.
Also, check this out:
Kyle Hendricks, 86mph Fastball (called strike) and 78mph Changeup (backwards K), Overlay.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 21, 2019
These kinds of games are going to happen. You might say the Cubs need some offensive help, but given what happened in the ninth inning perhaps they should also look at acquiring some assistance for the bullpen as well.
Weather delayed the start of this game by 32 minutes. Rain had stopped and the tarp was off about 12:45 with Hendricks beginning to loosen up in the outfield, but it started raining again and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy came out and waved Kyle off his warmup, and both headed to the dugout for a bit until the rain stopped for good.
The Cubs’ lead over the Cardinals, as noted, stands at 2½ games. At this writing the Brewers and Diamondbacks are tied in the middle innings. If Milwaukee wins they pull to within two games. The Cubs will play both those clubs on the upcoming road trip, so it’s imperative for the Cubs to figure out how to win on the road, something that has not been easy for the ballclub this year. They’re 36-18 at home, which, with 27 home games remaining, puts them on pace for 54 home wins. But the 18-27 road record isn’t going to cut it. They’re going to have to go 23-13 in the remaining road games to finish over .500 away from Wrigley. That’s doable, and if they can do both those things that’ll be a 95-win season, likely enough to win the N.L. Central.
First things first: The Cubs begin their road trip in San Francisco with a three-game set against the Giants beginning Monday night. The Giants have actually played better on the road (27-23) than at home (22-27, with Sunday’s home game for them still in progress), so perhaps the Cubs can take advantage of that. Alec Mills will get the start Monday, and Shaun Anderson will go for the Giants. Game time Monday is 8:45 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via WGN.