I don’t get this team, I just don’t get it. Now it’s twice this year — and fortunately, the Cubs are done with the White Sox until 2020 — where they faced a guy who had dominated the rest of the league and crushed him, but in the other game faced someone who has been horrific against everyone but the Cubs and got absolutely nothing off him.
How do you explain this? I can’t.
Lucas Giolito this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 7, 2019
2 starts 8.1 IP 12 ER 12.96 ERA
vs everyone else
15 starts 91.2 IP 23 ER 2.26 ERA
Iván Nova this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 7, 2019
16 starts 89.1 IP 61 ER 6.15 ERA
2 starts 10.2 IP 1 ER 0.84 ERA
I suppose I could just say “because baseball,” but seriously, you give me a better explanation of the Cubs’ 3-1 loss to the White Sox on a beautiful afternoon on the South Side of Chicago.
Kyle Hendricks didn’t give up anything in the first three innings, but you could tell he didn’t have his usual pinpoint command, either. Changeups that usually go for strikeouts either missed the zone or were fouled off, which ran up Kyle’s pitch count early. He allowed two hits and two walks through three, but the Cubs couldn’t touch Ivan Nova, either. Two singles and a double through three was all they could muster, and no Cubs runner got past second base in that time. Anthony Rizzo led off the fourth with a double, but he was stranded on third base when none of the next three hitters could hit the ball safely.
Then disaster struck. Former Cub Jon Jay led off the fourth with a single, bringing up Eloy Jimenez. Jimenez smashed a ball just foul down the left-field line, which left Cubs fans heaving a sigh of relief. That sigh lasted three pitches, because that’s when Jimenez absolutely crushed a ball over the center-field wall for a 2-0 Sox lead.
Hendricks was done after four, and really, they weren’t awful innings, he just made one bad pitch. 86 pitches through four is too many, though, and so Randy Rosario entered to throw the fifth. He got two outs on three pitches. Then Joe Maddon succumbed to the “by-the-book” that most managers will go by: Can’t let the lefty pitch to Jose Abreu, oh no, nuh-uh.
Well, you know what’s coming next: A home run from Abreu off the righthanded pitcher Joe called on, Brad Brach. This tweet is from a Sox beat writer:
It's funny how many matchups are played out of the bullpen when you get the feeling the left-hander on the mound probably had a chance to retire the right-handed hitter just as well or the other way around.— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) July 7, 2019
Seriously, I think Scott Merkin is correct here, particularly when Rosario had two decent Sox hitters off-balance and hitting ground balls. This time, “by-the-book” did the Cubs in. And I have to wonder how much longer Brach will be a Cub, never mind his player option for 2020. He’s just been bad almost all year and since June 1: 11.57 ERA, 1.886 WHIP, .367 opponents batting average. Seriously, give me the rest of the season with Dillon Maples in the bullpen instead of that.
The Cubs again had a chance to score in the sixth. Kris Bryant doubled with one out, and one out later Willson Contreras walked. Both men moved up on a wild pitch, with the chance to plate two runs on a single. Jason Heyward was the next due hitter and Rick Renteria called on lefthander Jace Fry.
You know, I think I would have batted David Bote for Heyward there. Yes, that would have hurt the Cubs defense in the later innings, but coming into this game Heyward had a .190/.250/.286 slash line against LHP this year (68 PA) and up to that at-bat was 2-for-14 this month. Do you want the possibility of some runs now, with a little worse defense, or an almost obvious out?
Maddon chose the latter, and predictably, Heyward grounded to second to end the inning.
In the bottom of the inning Robel Garcia booted a possible inning-ending double-play ball, but the next hitter, Charlie Tilson, hit a DP ball right to Javier Baez, who took the DP relay himself.
Garcia is 4-for-11 since his callup with two home runs and four strikeouts. He appears, in a very small sample size, exactly as advertised: Hitting for power, striking out fairly often, and playing sometimes suspect defense. The latter two can be worked on, I suppose. He’s earned some more playing time after the break.
The rest of the bullpen — Brandon Kintzler, Kyle Ryan and Steve Cishek — managed to keep the Sox off the board while the Cubs tried to even the score. Despite one-out baserunners in both the eighth (walk by Bryant) and ninth (single by Heyward), they could not score, as the Sox turned double plays in both innings. The game-ending DP by Victor Caratini was particularly rough, as I wouldn’t have minded if he had just made the second out of the inning because that would have brought Garcia to the plate again. Alas, the DP was turned and the game was over with the Cubs having gone 0-for-8 with RISP.
Thankfully, the Brewers lost again to the Pirates, this time 6-5, so the Cubs hit the All-Star break still in first place by half a game, with a 47-43 record. Not ideal, but it’s better than not being in first place.
The Cubs’ next game is Friday at Wrigley Field against the Pirates, with Yu Darvish scheduled to start against Chris Archer. Game time that day will be 1:20 p.m. CT, with TV coverage on NBC Sports Chicago (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Pirates market territories). But stick around here over the break, we’ll have plenty to talk about, and open discussion threads for both the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game.
Hang in there. I think this team will regroup and go on one of Joe Maddon’s patented second-half runs beginning Friday.