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Tigers 7, Cubs 1: Lessons learned

This was not a good game, but the Cubs got some useful information from it.

Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Cubs lost to the Tigers 7-1 Tuesday evening, and perhaps the less said about the score of the game, the better.

Nevertheless, David Ross and the coaching staff likely learned some things from this game. You and I certainly did, so let’s go over them.

For some reason, the 2018 version of Tyler Chatwood showed up for this game, his first after a stint on the injury list. Chatwood couldn’t throw strikes — only 27 in 55 pitches — and walked five of the 12 batters he faced. Is he still injured? If so, get him back on the IL. If not... I think he’s headed back to the bullpen.

Despite Chatwood’s poor performance — he also gave up three hits — the Cubs trailed only 2-0 when he was removed, and thanks to Duane Underwood Jr. that score remained the same at the end of the second inning. Underwood entered the game with the bases loaded and one out and calmly struck out Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum. Nice work, Duane, you might have saved your spot in the bullpen with that one.

So that’s lesson one.

Lesson two: Jose Quintana, despite cutting his thumb open and not pitching at all since spring training, had an excellent 2020 debut. He threw three strong innings, the third, fourth and fifth, allowing just two singles in those three innings and facing just one over the minimum due to a double play.

Q ran out of gas in the sixth, allowing a single and double that made it 3-0. After he walked Austin Romine, Ross summoned Casey Sadler.

Well, that was a mistake. Sadler, who was signed by the Cubs primarily because he had a very good walk rate, has been miserably bad in that category this year. He walked Isaac Paredes, loading the bases — that gave Sadler eight walks in nine innings in 2020 — then got one out on a fly ball. That gave some brief hope that the damage could be limited, but Jonathan Schoop then smashed a baseball out of Comerica Park for a grand slam.

That, in addition to putting the game away for Detroit, made Quintana’s line look worse than his actual pitching, since two of the runs on the slam were charged to Q. Quintana threw 55 pitches, struck out three and walked one, and generally looked effective. Recommendations from here, not that anyone on the Cubs will listen:

  • Chatwood should go back to the bullpen, or to the injured list if he’s still hurt
  • Quintana should take over that spot in the rotation
  • Sadler should be designated for assignment and one of the lefties in South Bend (maybe Matt Dermody or Danny Hultzen) should be added to the bullpen. Sadler isn’t a prospect — he’s 30 — and the Cubs could use the LH help.

Once again, the Cubs did have some chances to score when the game was still close at 2-0. They had RISP in the third, fourth and fifth innings but failed to push any runners across the plate.

Finally, in the ninth, Willson Contreras put the Cubs on the board [VIDEO].

That’s actually very good news. Willson had been in a horrific slump. Over his 15 games prior to Tuesday: .116/.304/.140 (5-for-43) with one extra-base hit (a double). He had walked nine times, to be sure, but that kind of hitting should have gotten him a day off here or there. More good news about the home run:

Hopefully, this gets Willson on a hot streak. Javier Baez went just 1-for-4, but keeps hitting the ball hard:

And Jason Heyward’s 1-for-3 included a triple, and over his last 14 games since August 11 he’s hitting .343/.489/.657 (12-for-35) with four doubles, two triples and a home run. He’s also walked 10 times and struck out just six, one of the Cubs’ best hitters over the last two weeks.

So there were some silver linings in this loss and elsewhere Tuesday, where the Cardinals lost to the Royals. That allowed the Cubs to maintain a three-game lead in the NL Central.

The Cubs will go for the series win Wednesday evening in Detroit. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and Michael Fulmer will go for the Tigers. Game time is again 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.

SITE NOTE: A reminder that the Heroes & Goats feature is on hiatus until Saturday.