Jon Lester had another one of those games where he likely didn’t have the “feel” that he’s mentioned previously, and do you really want me to detail the carnage?
I didn’t think so.
The final score was Athletics 11, Cubs 4, and it wasn’t that close. But there were a few things worth noting from this stinker. First, let’s hear from Lester:
Lester: "When it comes down to it, the injuries are the injuries but I'm pretty much the weakest link in the rotation right now and need to figure out a way to right the ship, pick my end up, and do better. Flat out do better."— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) August 7, 2019
Considering Jon’s ERA went from 3.86 to 4.46 Tuesday evening and this is the third time he’s allowed at least seven earned runs in a start this year, I’d have to agree with Jon. Random weird fact about Lester’s outing:
Jon Lester (11 R, 6 K): first #Cubs pitcher to allow 10+ runs yet still collect at least 5 strikeouts since Pat Malone (10 R, 7 K) on August 28, 1929 (gm 1 of doubleheader)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 7, 2019
Duane Underwood Jr., who has transitioned from starting to relieving this season and who was recently recalled from Triple-A Iowa, took over in the fifth inning. It was his first-ever appearance at Wrigley Field and just his second big-league outing.
I’d say his two innings made people take notice. [VIDEO]
Underwood struck out all six batters he faced, and these are all pretty good major-league hitters, the Oakland squad. Underwood threw just 29 pitches in his two innings, and baseball-reference’s database has just 10 other games listed in which a reliever threw two innings, recorded all six outs by strikeout, and allowed no baserunners. None of those — until now — have been Cubs:
Duane Underwood Jr.: first #Cubs pitcher in modern era (since 1900) to face at least 6 batters in a game and strike them all out (from @EliasSports)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 7, 2019
Impressive. Underwood was touching 96 on the Wrigley pitch-speed meter. Seems to me he’s earned the right to some high-leverage innings.
After Nicholas Castellanos doubled to lead off the sixth, Kris Bryant eliminated the shutout Brett Anderson was working on [VIDEO].
That ball: Crushed!
#Athletics 11 @ #Cubs 2 [B6-0o]:— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) August 7, 2019
Kris Bryant homers (22): fly ball to LCF (2-run)
Hit: 439.42ft, 107.98mph, 26.79°
Pitch: 89.1mph Sinker (LHP Brett Anderson, 16) pic.twitter.com/q4mRNXfSKS
So, that’s good. Not the runs, as the game was well out of hand, but that was KB’s first home run since July 24 in San Francisco — that was the game he left early because he tweaked a knee during an at-bat. He had not hit well since then. Hopefully, a good sign for him going forward.
And, fun Castellanos fact:
Nicholas Castellanos now with a hit in all 9 games he has ever played at Wrigley Field.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 7, 2019
Derek Holland also threw two solid innings of relief, issuing a walk, but having that erased on a double play. It wasn’t all lefthanded hitters he faced, either. That’s another good sign, I think, having the ability to use Holland to eat up innings like this instead of having him be just a LOOGY.
Finally, we reached the ninth inning with the Cubs trailing 11-2 and those who stuck around were rewarded with some fun: Taylor Davis pitching. Davis, throwing “fastballs” at around 66 miles per hour, allowed three singles (one an infield dribbler). But then he got a comebacker for a force play at the plate, a fly to left and a ground ball to short for a scoreless inning. That was far better than his pitching appearance three weeks ago for Iowa, in which he faced five batters and allowed three home runs. And if you’re keeping track:
5 of the 12 were regularly catchers— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 7, 2019
Caratini, Ross, Montero, Gimenez & Davishttps://t.co/F5p3WqJ3yf
Kyle Schwarber, who had begged Joe Maddon to let him catch after Willson Contreras went down with his hamstring injury, caught Davis in the ninth. It was his first time behind the plate in almost two years, when he caught the ninth of a similar blowout at Miller Park September 9, 2017. He looked fine behind the plate and nearly turned that force play into a double play.
The Cubs made a bit of a go at some offense in the ninth. David Bote walked and Victor Caratini doubled him to third. Schwarber scored them both with this flare to left [VIDEO].
Schwarber, last three games: 5-for-7 (.714) with a double, home run and three RBI.
That was the end of the scoring, though Castellanos moved Schwarber to third with his second double of the evening. Castellanos now has five doubles in six games as a Cub, and 42 overall, which leads the major leagues. Only seven players in MLB history have hit 60 doubles in a season, none since 1936. He’s got a shot at it. (Here’s the complete list.)
So there was entertainment value and it only counts as one loss, even though it felt worse, and at 2:37 it was the fifth-fastest game played at Wrigley Field in 2019. The Cardinals lost again to the Dodgers Tuesday night, so the Cubs’ N.L. Central lead remains at 2½ games. The Brewers defeated the Pirates to move to within three games of the Cubs.
Oh, you probably want to know about Dustin Garneau’s three-run homer [VIDEO] that landed very close to my group in left field.
A Cubs security officer caught it. It wasn’t quite close enough for me to get a good angle on it.
One thing Joe Maddon did with this game that was good: He checked out some guys at positions they don’t normally play after the game was out of hand at 11-0 in the fourth. Ian Happ played some second base, David Bote shortstop and Tony Kemp left field. Those are things Joe has talked about possibly doing, and now they all have half a game’s experience at those positions.
The Cubs still have a chance at a series win and a 5-1 homestand Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Jose Quintana will start for the Cubs and old N.L. Central pal Homer Bailey goes for the A’s. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.