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White Sox 4, Cubs 3: Same old, same old

A not-quite-good-enough defense and not quite enough runs. Where have you heard this before?

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

How many times this year have you seen this situation?

The Cubs are in a pronounced shift toward the right side. There could be runners on base, or not.

Then this happens [VIDEO].

It’s driving me nuts. Another baseball poked through a gap in the infield which, if the defense had been in a normal arrangement, would have been a routine out and ended the inning. Instead, that run tied the game and eventually proved very important in yet another Cubs one-run loss, 4-3 to the White Sox Wednesday evening before a nearly full house at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are now 2-6 in one-run games and 3-12 in night games (6-3 in day games) and don’t ask me to explain the latter split, because I don’t get it at all.

Back to the situation leading to the run depicted in the video above: There are two out and two runners on base. In a normal alignment, not only could that be a routine 6-3 play, but a force was also in play at second base. The Cubs shift more than most — this ranking has them sixth in total shifts, but third in the percentage of times they shift against lefthanded hitters — and this defense is just not good enough to help out a pitcher like Kyle Hendricks, who relies on weak contact and ground balls. All this shifting isn’t helping any, either; per that ranking the Cubs are tied for the sixth-worst wOBA in shift situations, .330.

I used to be adamantly against any “ban the shift” movement in baseball. I’m almost completely turned to the other side now. Ban it completely? Maybe not, but a recent proposal to require teams to have two infielders on each side of second base is a good idea, in my view, and I hope MLB adopts it next year. In the meantime, given the results cited above, maybe the Cubs ought to modify their shifting.

All right, rant over, let’s look at the rest of this game.

After Hendricks served up a two-out homer to Jose Abreu in the first inning — a “blast” that barely made the LF basket — the Cubs came back with three in the bottom of the second.

Frank Schwindel walked with one out and Nico Hoerner put a baseball in the bleachers [VIDEO].

One out later, it was Patrick Wisdom’s turn [VIDEO].

Or was that some other kind of wisdom?

Things were looking pretty good after that homer and a 3-1 lead, but the next 12 Cubs went down in order until Nick Madrigal singled with two out in the fifth. That might have started a rally, but Madrigal took an ill-advised turn to second and was thrown out.

Meanwhile, another Sox homer, this one by Leury Garcia in the third, made it 3-2. The single through the shift by Gavin Sheets that I showed you above tied the game, and the Sox took a 4-3 lead in the sixth. A leadoff single and walk put runners on first and second with nobody out, but Hendricks induced a double-play ball. Then, A.J. Pollock blooped a ball to short right field [VIDEO].

Madrigal almost made the catch of the year on that ball... but he didn’t, and a run scored to make it 4-3.

Hendricks didn’t pitch too badly, I thought. He got hit pretty hard in the early innings — the two home runs and some long fly balls to the outfield — but did get some ground ball outs in the fourth, fifth and sixth, despite giving up two runs in those innings, one on Sheets’ ball through the shift, the other on that bloop hit.

In the bottom of the sixth, Ian Happ walked with two out. Willson Contreras then hit a baseball not quite far enough [VIDEO].

Running into the brick wall at Wrigley is not advised, Luis Robert, especially before the ivy has fully grown in. That’s a fantastic catch, though.

The Cubs had one more good chance to score. Wisdom led off the eighth with a single and Madrigal singled him to third. Yan Gomes, batting for Alfonso Rivas, smacked a line drive that looked headed to left for a game-tying single, but Tim Anderson snared it. Seiya Suzuki — who is in a terrible slump — fouled out and Happ was called out on strikes.

David Robertson continued his fine pitching with a 1-2-3 ninth, but Liam Hendriks also retired the Cubs in order in the bottom of the ninth and that was that. This is how dominant Robertson has been this year:

The Cubs didn’t play a bad game here. They just didn’t play a good game either. And stop shifting so much!

Weather permitting — and again, it might not — the Cubs will host the Dodgers in the first of a three-game series at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon. Justin Steele will start for the Cubs and Clayton Kershaw is the Dodgers’ scheduled starter. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.

About the weather, you’re not wrong if you’re thinking (like I am) that this has been the worst Chicago spring in memory. First, there’s this — and they were even talking about it on Wednesday night’s Dodgers broadcast:

Sox groundskeeper Roger Bossard, who helped oversee the re-sodding of Wrigley Field in 2007, confirms all that, quoted by Paul Sullivan in the Tribune:

“This is my 56th year (as Sox groundskeeper). Never seen it like this. It’s horrible and it’s not just the Sox and Cubs. It’s the golf courses and everybody is just suffering. The plant isn’t growing the way it’s supposed to. The weather pattern is brutal. It’s as bad as I’ve ever seen.”

Bossard said it’s also the absence of sun that’s hurting his grass and plants.

“The turf people, we’ve been suffering,” he said. “There is just no sunshine. There are 17 positive ultraviolet rays that come from sunshine that affect plant growth and we haven’t been getting any of them. Well, obviously some, or it wouldn’t grow at all.”

The weather conditions Wednesday evening were tolerable. The temperature hovered around 50, winds were lighter than Tuesday, and it was dry throughout. That’s still not real good baseball weather in Chicago in early May, though. Personally, I’m kind of hoping they call off Friday’s game — and do it early, to be considerate to everyone from players to gameday staff to fans. Since the Dodgers are here for a Sunday night game, they could make it up by playing a split doubleheader Sunday. Here’s hoping.

Poll

The Cubs’ defensive shifting...

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Too much!
    (275 votes)
  • 2%
    Too little!
    (8 votes)
  • 11%
    Just right
    (35 votes)
318 votes total Vote Now