Man, Craig Kimbrel.
Not only is this shaping up as the worst free-agent signing in Cubs franchise history, years from now the Kimbrel signing will probably rank high on a list of “worst free-agent signings in major-league history.”
Kimbrel failed again Saturday evening, with a no-command outing that ended with him wild-pitching in the winning run in a 6-5 Cubs loss to the Reds in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, ruining a stirring Cubs comeback from a 4-1 deficit. Believe it or not, as bad as Kimbrel has been this year, that was his first blown save of 2020.
I don’t know what’s wrong with Kimbrel, neither do you and neither, apparently, does the Cubs coaching staff. His velocity was good — he touched 99 on a couple of pitches — but he has no command nor control. The game-ending wild pitch was one of three he threw in a disastrous seventh inning that also included three walks, and it would have included a hit batter except for the fact that Mike Moustakas swung at the pitch that hit him in the foot.
And that was only one of several interesting things that happened in the nightcap of the doubleheader.
The Cubs took an early lead. Very early, in fact — the leadoff hitter of the game, Ian Happ, smashed a home run that just made it over the wall in right [VIDEO].
“High and deep!”
From @ESPNStatsInfo: Ian Happ's leadoff HR was hit with a launch angle of 46 degrees.Tied for the highest launch angle on a HR this year and is the highest launch angle on a Cubs HR in the Statcast era (since 2015). It had a 2% hit probability based on exit velo and launch angle— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) August 30, 2020
That lead didn’t last long, as Joey Votto, leading off for the Reds, homered to start the bottom of the first. That brought out the record books:
Happ & Votto:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 30, 2020
First time #Cubs & opponent both had leadoff HR in same game since 5/1/2018 - Blackmon & Rizzo at Wrigley
Ian Happ & Joey Votto: Second game in GABP history where both teams hit a leadoff homer.— Doug Kern (@dakern74) August 30, 2020
Other: Felipe Lopez & HOU Orlando Palmeiro, Jul 2 2005.(also the back end of a DH, for what that's worth).https://t.co/FyI78frNIX
Thanks to @EliasSports :— Jamie Ramsey (@Jamieblog) August 30, 2020
Prior to tonight's Reds/Cubs game, the last time both leadoff batters homered to begin the game came on 09/02/2019 (Joc Pederson Los Angeles Dodgers, Trevor Story Colorado Rockies).
In the third, the Reds took the lead. Curt Casali homered to make it 2-1 and then with a runner on, Jesse Winker homered to make it 4-1.
And then the fireworks began. Anthony Rizzo, who had homered twice in Game 1, had a ball thrown over his head by Tejay Antone. That didn’t make David Ross very happy at all [VIDEO].
It was Ross’ first career ejection. Cubs coach Mike Borzello was also asked to leave. After the game, Rizzo had these comments:
Here’s Anthony Rizzo, on whether he felt Antone’s high-and-tight pitch in fourth was intentional... pic.twitter.com/iCAyNCLbpd— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 30, 2020
That’s all well and good, but in the bottom of the inning, Adbert Alzolay threw a ball in the general direction of Shogo Akiyama’s head. That cleared the benches [VIDEO].
By the time it was over, Votto, Winker and Reds manager David Bell had been tossed. There was a lot of discussion on the Cubs broadcast about whether things like this could be legislated out of existence, a “third man” rule. There doesn’t seem to be any reason why all the relief pitchers should run in from the bullpen or benches should clear — particularly in a pandemic, when MLB has issued rules about potential severe punishment for such things. No one was hurt in this kerfuffle, but in other similar instances this year, suspensions have been issued. I don’t think any will come from this one, but really, throwing at heads needs to stop, no matter who’s doing it.
When things settled down, Rizzo walked, and two outs later, David Bote made it a 4-3 game [VIDEO].
That ball reached the second deck!
The Cubs tied the game in the fifth. Nico Hoerner hit a fly ball to right that was botched by Nick Castellanos, and Happ doubled him in. They took the lead in the next inning when they loaded the bases on a single and two walks. Hoerner batted next [VIDEO].
After starter Alec Mills departed, Alzolay, Ryan Tepera and Rowan Wick did a good job of holding the Reds down: three combined innings, two hits, two walks and six strikeouts.
And then came Kimbrel. He did manage to strike out two hitters, but walked three (one intentional), allowed an RBI single to Aristides Aquino (who was only in the game because of Winker’s ejection) and threw the three wild pitches.
I don’t know what the answer is for Kimbrel but he simply can’t close games anymore. That game was winnable and he was just all over the place. He’s leading the team in walks (12) — with only eight innings pitched! Next is Mills (10), who has thrown 32⅔ innings.
All pitchers have some sort of nagging injuries. Figure out one for Kimbrel, put him on the injured list and let him rehab in South Bend. Jeremy Jeffress can close games.
All right, I’m done with Game 2.
In the first game, Yu Darvish continued his dominance with six outstanding innings and the Cubs shut out the Reds 3-0.
Once again, home runs were the story of the day. Jason Heyward provided the Cubs’ first run of the game with an RBI fielder’s choice in the second.
In the third, Rizzo hit his second home run in as many days after a nine-pitch battle with Trevor Bauer:
But the real star of this game was Darvish. I mean, just look at this ridiculous pitch:
Bell came out to protest that pitch or claim it was a balk, but that’s perfectly legal.
Yu thought it was funny:
Rizzo gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead with his second homer of the game [VIDEO].
That one went a long, long way:
Darvish was clearly running out of gas in the sixth inning when he allowed a leadoff single to Akiyama in the sixth. Then the Cubs turned one of the weirder double plays you’ll ever see. Mark Payton hit a ground ball that hit in front of the plate and didn’t leave the batter’s box. But the ball was ruled fair, picked up by Rizzo, who stepped on first and then caught Akiyama between first and second.
Darvish finished the sixth with a flourish, striking out Tucker Barnhart on a 96 mile per hour fastball. Darvish now has a 0.92 ERA over his last six starts, with 47 strikeouts and eight walks in 39 innings. For whatever individual pitcher wins are worth, Darvish now has six this year — all in his last six starts, and a season ERA of 1.47. He had six wins last year in 31 starts.
He’s got to be considered a frontrunner for the NL Cy Young Award (for which he’ll pocket a pro-rated bonus of about $740,000).
The Cubs will try for a series split Sunday afternoon. Tyler Chatwood will start for the Cubs and Luis Castillo will go for the Reds. Game time is 12:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage is again on Marquee Sports Network.