One thing that is starting to drive me crazy is the shifting of infielders every time a batter comes to the plate, because supposedly placing the shortstop in right field is going to reduce the number of hits.
Maybe it works for other teams, but I cannot tell you how many times I have seen teams take the Cubs the opposite way from where they’re shifted, and in the first inning of the 8-3 loss to the Cardinals Thursday afternoon, it happened again. Twice.
Here, let me show you.
After Marcus Stroman retired the first Cardinals hitter on a ground out, he walked the next two Cardinals.
There’s too much of a gap on the left side. If the defense is in normal position, that’s an inning-ending double play.
So Stroman made his pitches, got his ground balls, and they weren’t hit all that hard. But since neither was an out, the fly ball that followed scored the third run of the inning.
If Rob Manfred & Co. want to modify defensive shifts, I’m all over that. Do it, Rob.
Now, obviously this is not the only reason the Cubs lost this game, but — if that inning ends with no runs scoring, maybe Stroman settles down and the Cubs come back, because they did make the game close.
They cut down a possible run in the second with a strike-out-throw-out double play [VIDEO].
In the bottom of the second, Ian Happ led off with a double and then Franmil Reyes batted [VIDEO].
Tommy Edman airmailed his throw (does anyone use actual “airmail” anymore?) and the Cubs had a run. They scored again in the third. Zach McKinstry led off with a single and went to second on an infield out and third on a single by Seiya Suzuki.
So, even with the hits against the shift in the first, the Cubs are trailing only 3-2. Unfortunately, that inning ended with a double play and the Cardinals pushed across two more in the fourth on four hits.
The Cubs had just one baserunner from the fourth through the seventh, a two-out walk by Nico Hoerner in the fifth. Meanwhile, St. Louis made it 6-2 in the sixth on a homer by Paul Goldschmidt off Sean Newcomb and put the game out of reach in the eighth when Goldschmidt homered again off Kervin Castro.
The Cubs got a consolation run in the eighth. Hoerner singled with one out and went to second on Suzuki’s second hit of the game.
The ball bounced over the right-field basket and back onto the field for a ground-rule double, otherwise another run would have scored. With runners on second and third with one out, the Cubs might have gotten back into the game with a hit, but Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks retired Reyes and P.J. Higgins to end the inning.
As noted, the hits against the shift were not the only reasons the Cubs lost this game. But I’m tired of seeing the Cubs defense supposedly positioned perfectly where the analytics guys say it should be, only to have hits pushed to the opposite field.
Silly bit of trivia that only I care about: The uniform numbers of the Cubs’ first three pitchers in this game (Stroman, 0; Newcomb, 15; and Michael Rucker, 59) added up to the uniform number of the Cubs’ fourth pitcher (Castro, 74).
Before the game, the Cubs honored the long Cardinals careers of Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, a well-deserved honor [VIDEO].
Cardinals note: Corey Dickerson singled in his first two at-bats. That gave him 10 consecutive at-bats hitting safely, which set a Cardinals franchise record. Tip o’ the cap to Dickerson.
Cubs note regarding Ian Happ’s two doubles in this game:
With a month-plus to go, Ian Happ is up to 33 doubles this season. No Cubs batter has reached 40 doubles since 2018 (Javier Baez). No Chicago hitter has had more than 40 since 2016 (Anthony Rizzo).— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 25, 2022
The Cubs had a 4-4 homestand against the two best teams in the NL Central, which is... not too bad, actually. Overall they’re 15-17 against St. Louis and Milwaukee with three games remaining against each. They were only blown out in one game (the 13-3 loss in the second game of the doubleheader Tuesday), even this one was competitive for most of the game. As I’ve said previously, squint and you can see the beginnings of a competitive Cubs team, if they make key additions this winter.
In the meantime, they’ll face the Brewers this weekend, the final matchup of the two teams this year. The Cubs need one win to clinch the season series against Milwaukee. Justin Steele will start the series opener Friday night in Milwaukee and he’ll face Freddy Peralta. Game time Friday is 7:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.
Regarding modifying or banning defensive shifts...
This poll is closed
Yes! Too much shifting is bad for the game
No! Managers should be able to put defenders wherever they want
Something else (leave in comments)