The Cubs made big news over the last day or so by making three major-league trades at the deadline.
And then, unfortunately, someone forgot to remind them that there was a baseball game to be played as August began.
Well, everyone except new acquisition Nicholas Castellanos, anyway. Castellanos provided most of the “offense,” such as it was, for the Cubs in an 8-0 loss to the Cardinals, with a single and walk in his first game for the North Siders.
Thank heavens for Castellanos, because his sixth-inning single was the only Cubs hit of the game. It’s the third time the Cubs have been one-hit since Cole Hamels’ no-hitter in 2015 (also May 31, 2016 by the Dodgers and September 19, 2018 by the Diamondbacks).
The Cardinals plated a run in the first inning on a double by Tommy Edman and RBI single by Jose Martinez, and really, everyone could have just gone home after that, because the Cubs offense was nearly completely absent all evening.
Still, Jon Lester did a decent job of keeping the Cubs in the game, allowing two runs over the first five innings. There was one Cubs highlight worth looking at during that time, a terrific diving catch [VIDEO] by Jason Heyward to end the fourth inning.
In the sixth, three straight hits off Lester made it 3-0. Derek Holland was summoned to relieve Lester, to face righthanded hitter Matt Wieters. And here I thought Holland was to be used as a LOOGY, but... just after Len Kasper said on the broadcast, “This is manageable at 3-0, but ...” ... that’s when Wieters smashed a three-run homer off Holland and that was pretty much that.
Brad Brach entered to throw the seventh and had what seems now to be a typical Brach inning: Walk, strikeout, single, sacrifice fly. One out later, Brach was removed and another of the Cubs’ new acquisitions, David Phelps, finished off the inning with a strikeout after another base hit. I wouldn’t think it’s too long before we find out that Brach has a strained (fill in the blank) and he’ll go on the injured list Saturday so that Cole Hamels can be activated to start that day at Wrigley Field against the Brewers. (Hamels is definitely starting Saturday, per Joe Maddon after the game.)
Here’s a valid point raised after the score went to 6-0:
Just get Bryant, Rizzo, and Baez out of the game at this point. Let Happ, Almora, Bote, etc get some playing time for a few innings. The few stars could use a breather and the early game tomorrow anyway.— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) August 2, 2019
And yet, Joe Maddon did not do this. It might have been useful. One final run scored off Tyler Chatwood in the eighth to make it 8-0.
On the other hand, this game might have been chalked up to “the 60 you’re going to lose no matter what.” Unfortunately, the Cubs are getting close to that “60” — this was loss number 51, and they are now 21-33 on the road. This is absolutely inexplicable, given their dominance at home (36-18). How can a team be so good at their own park, and yet look like the worst team in baseball away from home? The Cubs have 27 road games remaining (as well as 27 home games) and will have to go 20-7 just to have a winning road record. That seems an impossible mountain to climb right now. For the record, Cubs players are as mystified as we are about the inability to win on the road:
Lester, on the Cubs' woes on the road:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 2, 2019
"No idea. If I knew, we'd fix it. I can't answer it. Obviously, we like Wrigley and we don't like anywhere else."
This was game 108 of the 2019 season, and so we are now exactly two-thirds of the way through the campaign. The current won/lost percentage would have the Cubs winning 86 games. In this wacky year when no one seems to want to take control of the N.L. Central, that might well wind up being enough to win the division. But I’d certainly like to see the Cubs play better away from Wrigley Field.
They will begin a six-game homestand at Wrigley Friday afternoon after this horrid 3-6 road trip, facing the Brewers, who currently stand second in the division, one game behind the Cubs. Jose Quintana will start for the Cubs Friday and Zach Davies will go for the Brewers, a rematch of Sunday’s contest at Miller Park which was won by the Cubs. A repeat of that would be nice. Game time Friday is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago (with a national broadcast on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Brewers market territories).
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are off Friday while they travel to Oakland for a two-game series against the Athletics Saturday and Sunday (a similar schedule to the one the Cubs had last month, when they had a Friday off, then a two-game set vs. the White Sox). Hopefully the A’s can do a number on St. Louis the way they did to Milwaukee, and then the Cardinals follow that with a three-game set at Dodger Stadium. This would be a good week for the Cubs to move into first place and stay there.