I’d like to know
Can you tell me, please don’t tell me
It really doesn’t matter anyhow — Chicago, “Questions 67 and 68”
I have questions about the Chicago Cubs after yet another frustrating loss in a game that could have been won, 4-2 to the Dodgers Saturday night in Los Angeles.
A couple of weeks ago I asked why Rowan Wick is still on this team. I’ll ask it again, and I don’t think I’ll get a satisfactory answer. Wick, in 17 appearances since May 31, has an 8.15 ERA, 2.038 WHIP, four HR allowed in 17⅔ innings, .999 opponents OPS, 5.87 FIP... all the numbers are bad. Which suggests perhaps an undiagnosed injury? Or if not, why not option him to Triple-A to work on this?
Here’s a question that was posed on Twitter, and the answer... leaves something out:
Cubs bullpen has thrown most innings in MLB coming into tonight, slightly ahead of Rays. Next closest team's bullpen has thrown 11 fewer innings.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 10, 2022
Cubs relievers have been asked to carry heavy load with starter injuries & that means ideal reliever can't be used in specific spots. https://t.co/4gXFITfAwi
Well, yes, the bullpen has been asked to do a lot. And going into this game, we knew it would be again, because Marcus Stroman hadn’t really been stretched out with only one rehab start. So you knew four, or maybe five, innings would be all he could handle (four, as it turned out, and four very good innings, which is encouraging).
So here are more questions. Anderson Espinoza was recalled Wednesday when Kyle Hendricks was placed on the injured list. He has not pitched since that recall. Matt Swarmer also has not pitched during that time. So essentially, David Ross has been using a six-man bullpen instead of the eight-man bullpen actually on the active roster. No wonder they seem overworked; no wonder they’re giving up runs in critical situations.
Granted, Swarmer and Espinoza are the last guys in the pen. But when your starting pitcher goes only four innings, isn’t that exactly the time to try to get a couple of innings out of them? If these pitchers are going to succeed at the MLB level, and if they are rostered, why not use them? Getting outs against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the best team in the league, would be not only good for the team, but a confidence-builder for guys like Swarmer and Espinoza.
That’s not 67 or 68 questions, but it’s enough, I think. This game was winnable. In fact, the Cubs led two different times.
After Stroman and Clayton Kershaw matched zeroes for four innings, the Cubs took the lead in the fifth. Seiya Suzuki singled and Nico Hoerner hit a book-rule double to right, advancing Suzuki to third. Yan Gomes brought Suzuki home with this sac fly [VIDEO].
As noted, Stroman held the Dodgers down for four innings, allowing only two hits and a walk. This is really encouraging going forward. He threw 59 pitches; perhaps next time he can be stretched out to 80 or so. Brandon Hughes threw a scoreless fifth, but Scott Effross got touched up for a run in the fifth — on a ball he nearly caught [VIDEO].
So close. If Effross catches that ball, well, the entire sequencing of hitters going forward is different, the Cubs maintain a lead, and...
But he didn’t, and the score was tied.
Not for long, though — the Cubs took the lead again in the top of the seventh. Patrick Wisdom led off with a double. One out later, Wisdom was thrown out trying to steal third, but the call was overturned on review [VIDEO].
With Wisdom on third, the Dodgers brought the infield in. Nico Hoerner grounded to short, but Trea Turner’s throw bounced away and Wisdom scored the lead run [VIDEO].
Up to this point, the Cubs had played very well, and scored two runs (one earned) off Kershaw, who struck out 10.
But against a team as good as the Dodgers, you have no margin for error and Rowan Wick gave them that margin, allowing Jake Lamb’s second homer in as many nights and allowing four other hits, including a two-out, two-run single by Freddie Freeman.
Again, I ask: Where were Swarmer and Espinoza? Sure, those guys have struggled, but how much worse could the result have been? Swarmer, in fact, has been very good since moving to the bullpen: four appearances, 7⅔ innings, 2.35 ERA, 10 strikeouts.
The Cubs did have a chance in the eighth. Christopher Morel singled with two out, and Kershaw was removed for Evan Phillips. Willson Contreras batted against Phillips, and hit a fly ball that looked at first glance like it might have a chance to reach the seats for a game-tying homer. But it died near the warning track and the inning was over.
Craig Kimbrel, who had struggled in the first game of this series, entered to throw the ninth. This time he set down the Cubs (after a leadoff walk to Wisdom) and the Dodgers had their third straight win over the Cubs.
The Cubs played fairly well... just not well enough against this very, very good Dodgers team.
And I still want to know why David Ross has played the last four games with essentially a six-man bullpen.
The Cubs will try to avoid the sweep Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. (Count me among those who are happy there’s not another 9:10 p.m. CT start.) The Cubs announced after Saturday’s game that Drew Smyly would be activated from the injured list to start. (This probably means goodbye for now to Espinoza, who will likely be optioned to make room on the active roster.) Julio Urias will start for L.A. Game time is 3:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.