One thing is for certain in this very odd 2019 Cubs season.
If they cannot figure out how to win road games, they will not go far in the postseason. Oh, sure, they might win the N.L. Central with that gaudy .667 home winning percentage.
But an 18-28 record on the road? Only the Marlins are worse away from their home field among N.L. teams.
The Cubs lost to the Giants 5-4 Monday night after fashioning an early lead. And now the Cubs really do have to worry about Pedro Strop, because he got hit hard in the eighth inning, allowing a single, three doubles and three runs in trying to protect a two-run lead. He’s had three blown saves in his last six appearances and over that span has an 11.12 ERA, 1.765 WHIP and a .320 opponents batting average.
Is Pedro still suffering the aftereffects of the hamstring injury that kept him out most of May? If so, get him on the injured list and get someone else in the pen. This increases the urgency, I’d think, of the Cubs locating some late-inning relief help on the trade market. Eight days to go before the trading door slams shut for 2019.
Some good things happened in this game, so let’s look at them.
The game was scoreless in the second when Robel Garcia stepped to the plate [VIDEO].
A couple of fun facts. First, Garcia became the third Cub to hit a home run into McCovey Cove. The others: Corey Patterson (August 7, 2004 — the game where Greg Maddux posted his 300th win) and Ben Zobrist (May 20, 2016). And:
Robel García is the first #Cubs player with 4+ home runs & 2+ triples within first 13 career MLB games since Mandy Brooks in 1925— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 23, 2019
Mandy Brooks hit .281/.322/.513 with 14 home runs in 90 games for the Cubs in 1925. He played in just 26 games the following year, hit poorly and never played in the majors again. Here’s hoping for a better career for Garcia. At the very least, he’s earned more playing time in the immediate future.
Kyle Schwarber made the score 2-0 Cubs in the third [VIDEO].
Another Cubs run came in the fourth on an RBI single by Albert Almora Jr. After that, Martin Maldonado was walked to load the bases, but Alec Mills struck out after running the count to 3-0.
Mills threw pretty well before being removed in the fifth inning after allowing two runs, one of which scored on a double play. Part of Mills’ decent outing was through good defense. That DP was one of two turned by the Cubs in this game, and there was also this nice diving catch by Schwarber in the third [VIDEO].
But the Cubs offense disappeared after the fourth. 12 straight Cubs went down between Mills’ strikeout and a two-out single by Kris Bryant in the eighth. KB’s hit was followed by an RBI double from Anthony Rizzo [VIDEO].
At the time that looked like an important insurance run. Kyle Ryan, Brad Brach (!) and Steve Cishek threw 2⅔ scoreless innings in relief of Mills.
And then Strop entered and, well, we don’t need to rehash the details of his blown save. The Cubs did manage to get the tying and lead runs on base with two out in the ninth. Victor Caratini walked and Addison Russell singled, bringing up Schwarber, who popped up to end it. Kyle, frustrated, slammed his bat to the ground.
This is interesting:
#Cubs this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 23, 2019
10-12 when Kyle Schwarber homers
18-5 when Javy Báez homers
12-6 when Kris Bryant homers
11-9 when Anthony Rizzo homers
Random, but interesting
And this is depressing:
.404 Kris Bryant's OBP— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 23, 2019
.400 Anthony Rizzo's OBP
.391 Cubs road winning pct
And this circles back to the top of this recap. The Cubs simply have to figure out how to win on the road. Period.
With two off days within this nine-game road trip, the Cubs will go with a four-man rotation for now. Cole Hamels will make a rehab start for Triple-A Iowa Tuesday night, then possibly rejoin the rotation as soon as Sunday in Milwaukee. In the meantime, I’d think Mills probably gets sent back to Iowa today for some bullpen help (Dillon Maples, maybe?) and then the Cubs will have a decision to make if (as expected) Willson Contreras is activated from the injured list Wednesday. Perhaps that day will finally mark the end of Daniel Descalso’s tenure with the Cubs.
In the meantime, there’s another game Tuesday night. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs and Madison Bumgarner goes for the Giants. Game time again is 8:45 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via ABC7 Chicago.