I’d think if most of you had been told, middle of last week or so, that one of the four games of the Cubs/Brewers series would be postponed but the Cubs would win two of the other three, you’d have been pretty happy.
And actually, pretty happy is what we should be. The Cubs got outstanding starting pitching all three games, some power, some very good at-bats, but it wasn’t enough Sunday and the Brewers salvaged the final game of the series 5-4 over the Cubs.
Seiya Suzuki gave the crowd a thrill in the first inning. Rafael Ortega led off with a walk, but was caught stealing. Then Jonathan Villar walked and Alfonso Rivas singled. That brought up Suzuki [VIDEO].
Suzuki’s first MLB homer was crushed!
Let me go back to Ortega’s caught stealing for a moment. Ortega did steal 12 bases in 18 attempts last year, but I don’t see him as a guy who should be doing that in the first inning. Now, we don’t know if the rest of the inning sets up the same way if he’s safe — or doesn’t try — but maybe that inning off Freddy Peralta is bigger if not for the CS.
Anyway, the Cubs have a 3-0 lead and Marcus Stroman is dealing. Stroman threw five strong innings, making just one mistake, a fastball that Willy Adames drove even farther into the bleachers than Suzuki’s homer:
Other than that and three walks, Stroman was on his usual game, which is ground balls. Nine of Stroman’s 15 outs were recorded on grounders, and two more were on this slick double play [VIDEO].
Pretty sure we’re really going to like having Marcus Stroman as a Cub. For his part, Stroman seems to like it already:
So it’s 3-1 after five and Jesse Chavez, who had a good spring, entered the game.
Whoops, that didn’t continue. A walk, a double and a three-run homer by Rowdy Tellez gave Milwaukee the lead. I found myself wondering why David Ross called on Chavez instead of Daniel Norris for that inning, since a couple of lefthanded hitters were due up, and both of them (Christian Yelich and Tellez) had extra-base hits off Chavez. Norris finally entered to finish off the inning.
The Cubs would not give up on this one, though. In the bottom of the sixth, Clint Frazier walked with two out, then Jason Heyward hit a ball toward Adames that was booted. That put runners on first and second, and then Jake Cousins entered to pitch to Yan Gomes. Cousins wild-pitched the runners up a base, and then threw another wild one that tied the game 4-4 [VIDEO].
This is something we’ve seen early on from this Cubs team — not giving up. That’s a good sign.
Unfortunately, another homer, by Mike Brosseau off Norris, gave Milwaukee a 5-4 lead in the top of the seventh.
In the bottom of the inning, Nico Hoerner led off with a single and stole second. After a strikeout, a groundout advanced Hoerner to third with two out.
That’s via the Brewers broadcast. Here’s the key part of the play:
Here's the slo-mo of Jonathan Villar sliding into first.— Andy Martínez (@amartinez_11) April 10, 2022
The original call of out stood. What do you think? pic.twitter.com/wpnAwq9NWp
On that angle, Villar looks safe. In fact, if he had been called safe, “call stands” would probably have applied the same way it did on the call made, which was that the “out” call on the field stood.
I will say that the announcement by the umpire at the ballpark was clearly audible by everyone. Despite the announcement — which was heartily booed — at least fans at the park heard exactly what the call was. This is a good thing.
That would have tied the game and kept the inning going. As you hear on the clip above, if Villar just runs through the bag he’s probably safe. So it goes.
The Cubs couldn’t score off Devin Williams or Josh Hader and so posted their first loss of 2022.
Even so, there were lots of good things that happened over the weekend. The Cubs drew 17 walks in the three games — almost six per game. Now, you can’t keep up a pace like that but I like the way this team is working counts and being patient. That will absolutely help them down the road. The starting pitching has been great: 1.17 ERA (two earned runs in 15⅓ innings), and the starters combined have allowed just one home run, with seven walks and 15 strikeouts. They’ll need good performances out of Drew Smyly and whoever’s going to be the fifth starter beginning this Saturday, but the top three starters look good.
The bullpen? Uh... not so much. There have been good performances and bad. David Robertson and Mychal Givens at least kept the game close over the last two innings today.
Overall, then, I’m very pleased with the look of the 2022 Chicago Cubs, so far.
Weird pitching note: The 1973 Cubs used 12 pitchers the entire season (and one of them, Juan Pizarro, appeared in only two games). The 2022 Cubs have now used 12 different pitchers ... in three games. Such is baseball in 2022.
The Cubs have Monday off and then travel to Pittsburgh for a two-game set starting Tuesday afternoon, which is the Pirates’ home opener. Drew Smyly will go for the Cubs and our old friend Jose Quintana will start for the Bucs. Game time Tuesday is 3:12 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.