A frustrating end to a frustrating day. If you were a Cub fan, your Thursday included the Cubs returning to Chicago after a week in California. They came home and announced Jameson Taillon would be headed to the injured list with a sore groin. The Cubs were clearly aware of the issue as Javier Assad was back from Iowa in time to start the game. Then there was a rain delay and then, of course, one of the few clunkers the Cubs have turned in so far this year.
Hopefully, the majority of you who are angry about Michael Fulmer are going to have gotten that out of your system in the recap thread. I’ll report the facts here. Fulmer got the ninth inning and only retired one of five batters he faced. The other four scored on a grand slam. That produced the third largest negative WPA score of the year.
I’m also not going to jump on David Ross. The Cubs needed six relievers to cover the final six innings of the game. All but Keegan Thompson and Mark Leiter Jr. were used. I can only guess that the plan is to not deploy both Adbert Alzolay and Thompson in the same day as well as splitting Leiter and Brandon Hughes. Those are all decisions, to be sure. Also using Michael Rucker and Adbert Alzolay for one inning each are choices.
Look, the Dodgers lineup poses problems. That’s been true for a number of years. They are down right now, but they are far from out. If you think a slow start will derail their season, you haven’t been paying much attention. With Assad not being stretched out, you knew you had six innings to cover. I was unsurprised to see Alzolay first. He wasn’t sharp and so I guess I see why he doesn’t get two. Then Brandon Hughes, only recently back from the injured list, threw two. Then Michael Rucker went just one inning.
So the Cubs clearly tried to get favorable matchups and I just don’t know how well that works when you are trying to scrap together six innings of relief. What you got was Fulmer getting the ninth inning and well, that didn’t work. Fulmer certainly failed to execute. Also, I don’t think Ross particularly managed a strong game.
Left unsaid in all of that is an offense that managed only two runs despite six hits and four walks. Despite all those baserunners, the Cubs stole no bases. I’d certainly be interested to know if that is a fluke, if the Dodgers changed up something or if the Cubs managed differently because the wind was blowing out.
Also left unsaid is that the Cubs were immediately behind the 8-ball when they had a starter only able to give them three innings. Of course these things often have a cascading effect, because now you head into a Drew Smyly start with six relievers who just threw. Smyly has yet to finish six innings in any start this year. Not ideal. Early season injuries to starting pitchers are often particularly devastating because minor league pitchers are usually at least a week behind in fully building up their pitch count. In this instance, Assad started the year in the Cubs bullpen and hadn’t really been stretched out much at all yet. With an upper limit that sounded like about 60 pitches, best case scenario was going to be a very efficient four innings of work. At home, I was suggesting they pull him after two. He didn’t look particularly effective against Dodger hitters and I thought once through the order was plenty.
Let’s try to find three positives and move on.
- I’m going to go with Brandon Hughes for the top spot. He retired all six of the batters he faced, striking out four of them. Hughes is my choice for closer, though that is made difficult by being the only lefty in the pen. Regardless of how he is deployed, Hughes is a key weapon in the Cubs arsenal.
- Cody Bellinger was one of the few effective Cubs hitters. He had a long solo homer and was hit by a pitch twice in four plate appearances.
- Trey Mancini hit a sharp grounder through the infield for his first hit of the night, a five hopper that just missed being picked up. Then he made a bit more solid contact the next time with a double. It’s amazing how a seeing-eye grounder can snap a slump.
Game 18, April 20: Dodgers 6, at Cubs 2 (11-7)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Cody Bellinger (.213). 1-2, HR, 2HBP, RBI, R
- Hero: Brandon Hughes (.139). 2IP, 6 batters, 4K
- Sidekick: Trey Mancini (.121). 2-4, 2B, 2K
- Billy Goat: Michael Fulmer (-.485). ⅓ IP (5 batters), 3H, BB, 4R (L 0-2)
- Goal: Patrick Wisdom (-.295). 0-4, DP
- Kid: Nick Madrigal (-.126). 0-2
WPA Play of the Game: The game was tied at two in the ninth when James Outman batted with the bases loaded. His grand slam put the game out of reach. (.268)
*Cubs Play of the Game: The Cubs trailed by one in the fourth when Trey Mancini batted with one out and a runner on first. He doubled, setting up the Cubs’ second run. (.142)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave a comment below)
Yesterday’s Player of the Game: Justin Steele (Superhero is 11-6)
* Yesterday’s Superhero finished sixth out of six suggestions for Player of the Game
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
The award is named for Anthony Rizzo, who finished first in this category three of the first four years it was in existence and four times overall. He also recorded the highest season total ever at +65.5. The point scale is three points for a Superhero down to negative three points for a Billy Goat.
- Marcus Stroman +11
- Keegan Thompson/Justin Steele +7
- Mark Leiter, Jr./Dansby Swanson/Patrick Wisdom +4.5
- 4 at -3
- Julian Merryweather -4.5
- Trey Mancini -6
- Yan Gomes/Michael Fulmer -8
Brandon Hughes became the 29th different Cub to appear in Heroes and Goats. 29 players have played for the Cubs so far.
Up Next: The Cubs will try to even the series at one apiece. Drew Smyly (1-1, 4.70, 15⅓ IP) is coming off of his longest start this year. He came one out short of finishing six innings in a game Sunday that the Cubs ultimately won. Julio Urias (3-1, 1.90, 23⅔ IP) will start for the Dodgers. This is a rematch from last Sunday. The Dodgers lefty also came one out short of finishing six innings. It was the first time this year that he didn’t work exactly six innings. The Cubs managed eight hits against him, though they still only managed two runs.