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Diamondbacks 4, Cubs 3: The importance of defense

If the Cubs had better defenders, they might have won this game.

Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

The boxscore from the Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the Diamondbacks does not show any errors made by the Cubs.

And yet, I am going to assert to you that poor defensive play was the major cause of this defeat.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Drew Smyly put the D-Backs down scoreless in the first two innings and then the Cubs got to work offensively. Jason Heyward led off the third with a double and advanced to third on a single by Jonathan Villar.

That brought up Ildemaro Vargas [VIDEO].

Both runners scored when the ball got past D-Backs right fielder Pavin Smith. Rafael Ortega batted next [VIDEO].

The throw was offline and Vargas scored to make it 3-0 Cubs.

All of that was off our old pal Zach Davies. Incidentally, at one point in the broadcast it was noted that Davies had “off-field issues” in 2021, without elaborating. Hmmm — we didn’t hear anything about that last year, or at least I didn’t.

Anyway, that top of the third was good!

What happened in the bottom of the inning wasn’t. A one-out triple by Cooper Hummel was followed by another ground out, so Smyly was one out away from getting out of the inning. A double down the left-field line scored Hummel to make it 3-1.

That’s where the sketchy defense started.

Check out this play [VIDEO].

Now, that’s not necessarily an easy play but I have the sense that Nico Hoerner, who was unavailable to start, would have made it, or at least knocked the ball down and kept the runner at third.

The next hitter was Smith [VIDEO].

Sorry, but Ortega is not a good major league right fielder. Seiya Suzuki, who was also unavailable to start, would have made that catch because he’s a good right fielder. Or, with Suzuki out, why isn’t Jason Heyward in right field? (I know, I know, the Cubs don’t really have a decent choice in center other than Heyward.)

So the game is now tied, and with better defense maybe only one run scores in that inning.

The D-Backs took a 4-3 lead in the fourth on a wild pitch by Smyly with runners on first and third with one out.

Smyly completed six innings. He is the first Cubs pitcher not named Hendricks or Stroman to accomplish that this year (and it’s only the fifth time any Cubs pitcher has done that). The bullpen, on this night Robert Gsellman, Conner Menez and Chris Martin, did a good job of keeping the Cubs in the game, throwing three shutout innings and allowing two hits, no walks and striking out three. Incidentally, Menez looks like a keeper. He had some MLB success with the Giants the last couple of years and I’d like to see him stick around. Fun fact: Menez is the grandson of Bill Plummer, who played in two games for the 1968 Cubs. Plummer was traded in early 1969 for Ted Abernathy, played most of his career as a Reds backup and eventually was a long-time coach and manager, mostly in the Mariners system, managing the MLB Mariners for one year, 1992.

The Cubs did have a chance to get back in the game in the eighth. With two out, Willson Contreras reached on an error and Ian Happ and Patrick Wisdom walked. But Alfonso Rivas flied to center to end the inning, and the Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the ninth, retired by Mark Melancon on just 11 pitches. The Cubs fell to 2-8 in one-run games.

Here is one bit of good news: Frank Schwindel had two hits and is hitting the ball with authority:

About the Apple TV+ broadcast, I have these comments: Visually, the broadcast is first-rate. The cameras look sharp and the graphics are easy to read. The announcers are ... just okay. As usual, a TV channel thinks a three-person booth is a good idea and it’s ... just not. I simply do not see what Katie Nolan added to the broadcast at all. If it had just been Stephen Nelson and Cliff Floyd with Heidi Watney as field reporter, that would have been fine, though there were times when Watney’s interviews distracted from the action. And Nelson mis-called a couple of plays, When Menez entered and retired Smith to end the seventh, Nelson said, “One pitch, one out,” except Menez had thrown two pitches to Smith. And when Hummel struck out to end the eighth, Nelson said he was called out on strikes — nope, Hummel swung and missed. Overall, though, the broadcast was all right and I didn’t have any of the technical glitches that some others reported.

Seriously, though, the Cubs need better defense. Some complained when the Cubs signed Andrelton Simmons because he was such a bad hitter last year, but Villar’s OPS is currently .554. How much worse could Simmons be?

The Cubs will try to even up the series Saturday evening. Kyle Hendricks will get the start for the Cubs and Zac Gallen will go for Arizona. Game time is 7:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.

Poll

Grade the Apple TV+ broadcast of the Cubs/Diamondbacks game.

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    A
    (3 votes)
  • 14%
    B
    (44 votes)
  • 13%
    C
    (41 votes)
  • 10%
    D
    (32 votes)
  • 6%
    F
    (20 votes)
  • 18%
    I could not watch this game for technical reasons
    (56 votes)
  • 29%
    I chose to not watch this game
    (88 votes)
  • 5%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (16 votes)
300 votes total Vote Now