All right, fess up.
Who stole Tyler Chatwood and replaced him with Max Scherzer?
Whatever has changed in this new version of Chatwood, let’s keep him around for a while, shall we? Chatwood tied his career high with 11 strikeouts in 6x excellent innings and the Cubs beat the Pirates for the second straight night, 4-3. The win was not without some unneeded ninth-inning drama, and I’ll get to that, but let’s talk about the good stuff first.
Over the first six innings, Chatwood was nearly unhittable. He allowed a leadoff double to Adam Frazier — and no other hits. He allowed a leadoff walk to Bryan Reynolds in the second inning — and no other walks, and that’s the best part of Chatwood’s game so far in 2020. Overall in two starts: 12⅔ innings, six hits, one run, four walks, 19 strikeouts. That’s a WHIP of 0.789, which would by far be Chatwood’s career best.
Just keep up the great work, Tyler. Look at this, for example:
Tyler Chatwood, 94mph Sinker and 90mph Cutter, Overlay pic.twitter.com/MF0mDYekK5— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 2, 2020
The movement on those pitches is just filthy. This is the talent that Chatwood has always had, and it’s great to see him finally get positive results on the field.
The Cubs did not score over the first two innings, but took the lead with one out in the third courtesy of Ian Happ [VIDEO].
The home run gave the Cubs homers in their first eight games for the first time since 1958, and one out later, Javier Baez made it 2-0 [VIDEO].
That ball, off the top of the batter’s eye suite in center field, was absolutely demolished:
Kyle Schwarber then singled and then while Pirates starter Mitch Keller was pitching to Willson Contreras, Keller stopped and signaled to the dugout. It was later reported that he left because of an unspecified left-side injury, which sounds like an oblique. Those are tough to come back from. Hope Keller is okay.
Chatwood ran out of gas in the seventh inning, allowing a dribbly little single to Kevin Newman. Two outs later he gave up another hit and issued a walk, and at 96 pitches David Ross removed him in favor of Jeremy Jeffress, who got out of the bases-loaded jam with a groundout.
Jeffress also threw an uneventful eighth and then in the bottom of the inning, the Cubs put some insurance runs on the board. Baez walked and Schwarber then left the yard [VIDEO].
Often, we talk about “insurance runs” and either the team doesn’t get them or they don’t wind up meaning too much. In this case, the Cubs got them and needed both of them and now is when I’m going to open the complaint department door, because the bullpen again nearly failed.
Kyle Ryan entered to start the ninth. Remember, it’s 4-0 and not a save situation at this time. Newman singled off him, and one out later Colin Moran made it 4-2 with a home run. After Reynolds doubled — bringing the tying run to the plate — Ross replaced Ryan with Rowan Wick. You will notice the name “Craig Kimbrel” did not appear in the previous sentence. Earlier, Ross had been asked about Kimbrel closing:
"I'll get back to you on that." --Cubs manager David Ross, when asked if Kimbrel gets the ball in next save chance, given that the veteran is working through some issues.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 1, 2020
Said he wants to have conversations with Kimbrel before going down that road with reporters.
So the answer to the question, though not stated to reporters, was “No.” The chance went to Wick. Reynolds took third on defensive indifference — seems odd in a two-run game — and a ground out scored him, making it 4-3. Now the bases are empty with two out, but the Cubs’ lead is down to one.
Wick then walked Phillip Evans, putting the tying run on base. Fortunately, he got pinch-hitter Jose Osuna on another ground ball, wrapping up the win. The Cubs now have two saves this year, and neither belongs to Kimbrel. It’s good that the Cubs have other pitchers who can nail down wins, but fixing Kimbrel is Job 1 right now.
It’s not just Kimbrel, either. After eight games, Cubs starters are pitching at All-Star level and Cubs relievers are pitching at “Iowa Shuttle” level:
Starters: 47 innings, 0.766 WHIP, 2.30 ERA, two home runs, 10 walks, 47 strikeouts
Relievers: 24 innings, 1.958 WHIP, 9.75 ERA, 10 home runs 21 walks, 27 strikeouts
The relievers’ walk and home run totals are ghastly. I don’t know what the answer is, but I certainly hope the Cubs’ coaching staff does. Sure, the team is 6-2, which is great, but they’re not going to be able to keep this up for long if the bullpen keeps throwing that way.
One other odd note about Saturday’s game: Kris Bryant was scratched very close to game time with what was termed “gastrointestinal issues.” Hope he’s okay.
The Cubs will go for the series sweep Sunday afternoon at 1:20 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field. Jon Lester, who threw very well in his first 2020 start, gets the call for the Cubs. Steven Brault will start for the Pirates, though Brault threw just two innings in his first start (not for performance reasons) and it’s likely this is a bullpen game for Pittsburgh. TV coverage again is on Marquee Sports Network.