Through five games, the Cubs‘ game plan for 2020 is readily obvious. At the plate, they appear to really be trying to get back to not trying to do too much. Get on base, keep the line moving. Put the ball in play and pressure the defense to make plays. Interestingly:
Cubs with an up the middle/opposite field approach through the first 5 games. It's what Maddon was begging for.— Mark Grote (@markgrotesports) July 29, 2020
On the mound, four of the five starters have worked in the zone, focusing more on keeping hitters off balanced than blowing them away. Of course, in that instance they are working with what they’ve got. They don’t particularly have guys who will just blow you away with their stuff. So they function with command and rely on the defense to execute.
So far, it’s all working. Even the one lesser start, the one by Yu Darvish, he left trailing 4-3. He didn’t put them in a position to win per se, but he didn’t dig them an unrecoverable hole. Really in modern baseball, that’s about what you are asking of your starter: Keep us in the game. Through one turn of the rotation, that’s been achieved. Of course, when you don’t have overwhelming stuff, the margin of error is slim. Some, like Kyle Hendricks, can consistently operate within that margin of error. We’ll see how the others do as the season wears on.
The bullpen looked slightly less awful last night. And yet, they still gave up three runs in three innings. Deep thoughts: maintaining a 9.00 ERA out of your bullpen is not conducive to long term success. I apologize for dropping a hot take like that on all of you this early in the morning. I will at least say that the three Cubs relievers largely worked in the zone last night. They did issue one walk, but that was a big step forward over the walk-a-than sponsored by Monday night’s bullpen.
More than anything, the Cubs appear to be all in on trying to have some fun. I’ve always felt like Anthony Rizzo is one of those people who lives like the lead out of a song. Faced with the idea that his life might be cut very, very short, he embraced enjoying every day. I’m sure he has ups and downs like all of us do, but he always seems to be trying to enjoy the moment on the field. That appears to be speak widely for the Cubs approach to 2020. These games are like borrowed time and they appear to be trying to soak in and enjoy as much of it as they can.
The 4-1 record to start the season does not mean this team is going to go all 2016 and steamroll the competition on the way to another championship. There will be tough times. As we’ve talked about, that pen is a problem waiting to cause losses. This lineup goes through funks as almost all do. I’ll be interested to see if they are better able to stop the backslide the first time this team hits a collective funk. But for now, I’m loving watching this team enjoy the game and having success doing it.
Game 5, July 28: Cubs 8, Reds 5 (4-1)
- Superhero: Jason Kipnis (.160). His sun-aided triple got the offense started for the Cubs in the third. He had a pair of hits, scored a run and drove in one.
- Hero: Alec Mills (.142). Six innings of two-hit, two-walk, two-run pitching. That’s going to get it done most of the time.
- Sidekick: David Bote (.137). Bote had a big night at the plate. He hit his first homer and added another hit besides that and drew a walk. Kipnis and Bote did a nice job giving Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras a full night off.
- Billy Goat: Anthony Rizzo (-.105). Rizzo had a hit and a run in five plate appearances.
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.103). Happ was hitless in five at bats and struck out three times. Ouch.
- Kid: Victor Caratini (-.030). Vic had just one hit in five at bats and struck out once.
WPA Play of the Game: Nick Castellanos hit a two-out, two-run homer off Alec Mills to tie the game at 2-2 in the fourth. (.226)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Kyle Schwarber had a two-out, RBI-single in the fifth to put the Cubs right back out in front. (.136)
Up Next: The two teams meet for the third of a four game set tonight. Each team sends its opening day starter to the mound: Sonny Gray for the Reds and Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs. The odds makers are pretty squarely in favor of the Reds in this one. That seems super interesting given the way things have been going.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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