I think this might be the “hold my beer game.” On Monday, the Cubs lost a game that was 4-4 headed into the eighth inning by 10 runs. After Tuesday’s game, I put a brave front on and said that we shouldn’t over react to the five game losing streak. In one game, the Cubs tried to tell both of those things to step aside as new information came in.
If you weren’t watching this one, you’ve already read about it somewhere. It can’t be said enough, the Cubs batted around in the first inning. Their starting pitcher scored a run before he ever got to bat. They gave a rookie starter more or less the worst greeting ever. They had a 7-0 lead before taking the field. And then they lost by eight runs. All without denting or even threatening much to dent the scoreboard ever again.
Look, this Brewers team is talented and we’ve known for years that their bullpen can steal a game. You may dislike Craig Counsell and the manager might get way too much credit for things that happen, but that guy (and his coaching staff if you like) have to be near the top of the charts year in and year out on games stolen through effective management. And that’s to completely ignore anything he (or they) might do motivationally or just with the mundane day-to-day roster management. I’m talking about getting a starter out, possibly even while he’s still throwing well and getting into that bullpen and then just out matching up your team.
As with everyone else, some of his moves fail spectacularly. Certainly, if you watch a team enough, you are going to see them belly flop. But at this point, it’s become a pretty regular thing to see Craig proverbially eating the collective lunches of the Cubs coaching staff.
If one game was ever going to change my mind, Wednesday’s was certainly it. There were some crazy scores around baseball yesterday, including a 20-2 game against a first place team (the Mets). To be fair, the Mets also stormed out to an early lead. Two runs. Whoopdedoo. The Cubs have surrendered more 2-0 first inning leads this year than you can shake a stick at. Losing by 18, losing by 8, losing by 3, losing by 1. They all count the same. I’ll usually take the blowout because you don’t use any reliever that you don’t want to get some work for. You can get some guys a few innings off if you want. You can get a guy some work at a secondary position.
But blowing a seven-run lead can have lasting psychological damage on the wrong team. I actually don’t think this one will implode from it. But we’ve certainly seen that happen. Some teams will tear at the seems and get into infighting after horrible losses like that. I think there are enough veterans to probably put the brakes on this one pretty quickly. But boy, the Cubs just gave the Brewers the boost of a lifetime. I’ve always believed that a big comeback like that has season long impact for the comeback team. It’s quite a weapon to know that you are never out of any game.
I still have enough old school in me that this is the kind of game that makes me want to hear that someone was fired, sent down, released, whatever immediately after the game. I want to hear about a closed door player meeting. Those are the kinds of knee jerk reactions I grew up with. They probably have a collective value somewhere between 0 and -10. Baseball is not a sport that meshes well with knee jerk over reactions.
Of course, I don’t think it’s knee jerk or an over reaction to start looking at Jake Arrieta’s place in the rotation. That pains me to say. I was never a Cubs jersey guy. But Jake’s was the first one I ever wanted and then got. In 2015 and 2016, he was superhuman. This era in Cubs baseball has been so good and so many amazing things have happened that the awesomeness of Jake gets less attention than some other feats in Cubs history. Most of those other achievements in Cubs history happened with the backdrop of a lousy team. So the focus ended up just being on that person and their achievement. But Jake’s happened in the middle of one of the most amazing things in Cubs history.
The sad thing is, if Jake was the fifth starter on this team, and the other four guys were going good, you could probably deal with what Jake is bringing to the table. He is mixing average to slightly above average starts with bad to awful ones. At the back of the rotation, that’s what you expect. But with the rotation this year being well below average, he stands out as one of the biggest problems.
Obviously, the Cubs bullpen has been a strength and isn’t really looking for a lot of help, but one has to wonder if Jake’s stuff can play up out of the bullpen. He certainly has the mental make up for late game relief work. Maybe if he was only facing batters once, maybe if he could really cut loose. So many maybes. But I have to hope the number of starts he has left is diminishing quickly. Man, do I feel like a heel for suggesting that.
I’m a broken record with trying to turn the page on these bad losses, but particularly knowing that we are going to have to stew on this one and the collective badness of the last six games, I want this one over with. Let’s go to the numbers. As you’ll recall, the Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA (Win Probability Added) and are not in any way subjective. Many days WPA will not tell the story of what happened, but often it can give at least a glimpse to who rose to the occasion in a high-leverage moment or who didn’t get the job done in that moment. And now, let’s get to the results.
Game 81, June 30: Brewers 15, Cubs 7 (42-39)
- Superhero: Javier Baez (.136). 1-3, BB, 2RBI, R
- Hero: Jake Marisnick (.124). 1-4, BB, RBI, R, SB, K
- Sidekick: Patrick Wisdom (.110). 2-2, 2RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Tommy Nance (-.271). 1⅔ IP (10 batters faced), 2H, BB, 5R (3ER), 2K, 2HBP, WP
- Goat: Jake Arrieta (-.235). 1⅔ IP (14 batters faced), 4H, 4BB, 6R (3ER), 2K
- Kid: Rex Brothers (-.224). 1⅓ IP (7 batters faced), 2H, 2BB, 3R, 2K (L 2-1)
WPA Play of the Game: Jace Peterson faced Tommy Nance with runners on second and third and one out in the fourth inning. The Brewers were trailing 7-6. Peterson singled and two runs scored, He advanced to second on the throw home. The comeback, though not the indignity, was complete. (.165)
*Cubs Play of the Game: With the bases loaded and no outs, Javier Baez singled, scoring two runs and sending the other runner around to third to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. (.121)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
No one (there should be no POTG in a game like that)
Other (Tom should have allowed the normal selection process, despite the awfulness)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Craig Kimbrel +18
- Patrick Wisdom +15
- Kris Bryant +12
- Jake Marisnick +12
- Ryan Tepera +6.5
- Ian Happ -8
- David Bote -8
- PJ Higgins -9.5
- Jake Arrieta -11
- Eric Sogard -11.5
Up Next: As noted, the Cubs get a whole day off to stew over that embarrassing loss and disastrous road trip. Imagine a trip that started with a no hitter reaching disaster status. Unbelievable. But wait, the trip isn’t actually over. It has three more games to go, this is just a pause in that trip. Now they head to Cincinnati. Alec Mills is scheduled to start the Friday game. Alec is 3-1 despite a 5.11 ERA. The Reds counter with Sonny Gray, the first of three starters with sub 4 ERA’s that the Reds will start in the series. Gray is 1-4 despite a 3.42 ERA. Baseball can be stupid and wins and losses can certainly be fickle. But at just a glance it sure looks weird that the guy whose ERA is not too far off from two runs better has a far worse record. Let us hope it stays that way.