The Cubs lost to the Dodgers 7-1 Sunday night in Los Angeles.
If you thought I was going to provide a traditional-style recap of this stinker, think again.
Here are three key takeaways from this game, about the only things you need to know, and then we move on:
- Adbert Alzolay just didn’t have it. You could tell his command was off in the first inning and he only got out of it with a double play. Then... that awful second inning. I’ll spare you the play-by-play carnage, but when Alzolay wasn’t missing the strike zone, his pitches were being sent out of the ballpark.
I have to think Alzolay might not be 100 percent yet after the blister that sent him to the injured list earlier this month.
That was the Cubs’ only run and one of only four Cubs hits.
- The bullpen did solid work. Tommy Nance (career-longest outing, three innings) and Rex Brothers (two innings, longest outing since 2017) combined for five innings, allowing three hits and one run and striking out nine. That lowered the Cubs bullpen’s MLB-best ERA to 2.67. (No, you don’t want to know the Cubs starters’ ERA. You do? All right, it’s bad, but not as bad as I thought. It’s 4.60, ranking 23rd in MLB.)
What I want to do with this recap instead is to look at where the Cubs and Brewers have been over the last month as the teams head into an important matchup beginning tonight in Milwaukee.
On May 27, the Cubs defeated the Pirates 5-3 in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals were in first place in the NL Central; the Cubs were half a game behind and the Brewers three games back.
Since that date the Brewers have gone 20-8 to take over first place; in that same span the Cubs are 15-14. (The Cardinals have been awful since May 27, going 9-19 and falling into fourth place.)
But let’s take a look at the teams the Cubs and Brewers have been playing since May 27.
Of the 29 games the Cubs have played since that date, just six have been against teams that were under .500 at the time the Cubs faced them (Marlins and Reds, and the Reds have gone on a hot streak since and are currently at .500). They’ve played 14 games against the top three teams by record in the NL (Giants, Padres, Dodgers) and four more against the NL East-leading Mets. Their record in those 18 games: 8-10. Not great, but not horrid, either.
Meanwhile, the Brewers have had possibly the easiest schedule of any team in MLB over the 28 games noted above. Of the 28 games, just three were played against a team that was over .500 at the time the Brewers played them — a three-game set against the Reds in Milwaukee June 14-16. The Reds swept that series.
Fourteen of the 28 games were against the last-place Pirates and two teams bringing up the rear in the NL West — the Rockies and Diamondbacks. You will not be surprised to learn the Brewers went 11-3 in those games — and one of the losses was to the D-backs, breaking Arizona’s 17-game losing streak.
So while it might appear that the Brewers are hot and the Cubs are not, consider the quality of the opposition. The Brewers, true, are doing what a good team should do against bad teams. The Cubs, meanwhile, are holding their own against the league’s best and are 21-14 (.600) against teams currently under .500. Meanwhile, the Brewers are 27-22 (.551) against teams currently under .500. They’re 8-3 against the Dodgers and Padres and have yet to play the Giants or Mets. Their schedule gets tougher after the All-Star break while the Cubs’ gets somewhat “easier.” In fact, after this road trip concludes, the Cubs begin a stretch of 27 games against teams currently at .500 or below (it includes a four-game set at Wrigley vs. the .500 Reds). That includes six against the awful D-backs and three vs. the Rockies.
The Brewers took six of nine from the Cubs in April, with two of those three series at Wrigley Field, but that was when the Cubs collectively were not playing well. You’re going to say, “But Al, the Cubs aren’t playing that well now, either,” and you’d be right about that. The Cubs will definitely have to get the bats going to have any chance in the series beginning tonight.
The Cubs trail the Brewers by three games entering the series beginning this evening in Milwaukee, so the best-case scenario — an unlikely Cubs sweep — would result in a division-lead tie. I’m certainly not expecting that, but it would be nice for the Cubs to go there and take two of three. It won’t be easy. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs in Monday’s series opener and Freddy Peralta is the Brewers’ scheduled starter. Game time is 7:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.