The Dodgers took three of four from the Cubs over the weekend, cooling off the previously red hot Cubs. In fairness, the Cubs became red hot in part by winning two out of three in Los Angeles. In the end, the Dodgers take four of seven in a 10-day stretch. I think at some point, I used to like the home and home sandwich series. But I think that came in a time when all of the teams played each other at least two series home and away. In those days, these back-to-backs were much more common. It wasn’t unheard of to have two weeks where you basically played the same two teams. I went back to my notes from my 1984 season series I did once upon a time. One example: From April 18-April 29, all of the Cubs’ games were against the Cardinals and Pirates, playing both at Wrigley before heading to St. Louis and Pittsburgh (the Cubs won seven of 11!).
These days, the Cubs will only see the Dodgers twice and both of those are done. Along with the Rangers, Mariners and A’s, the Cubs have completed their season series against four of their 29 MLB opponents. For the American League foes, there really isn’t an ideal cadence for when to play them. Obviously, facing another California team while playing the Dodgers makes sense. Having some level of optimizing travel makes sense.
The current schedule is a jumbled mess. Working with two 15-team leagues forces interleague play on every day of the season, including the first. The idea that a team can be fighting for its playoff life on the last weekend of the season and facing a team for the other league is appalling to me.
I don’t love seeing the same team twice in 10 days. I think where possible you try to balance things out. It would be possible to really catch a team at a time when the advantage is tipped really far to one side or the other. I don’t think that was particularly the case here, though if the Cubs had won four or five of the games, the Dodgers wouldn’t be crazy to think they had caught the Cubs while they were hot or while the Dodgers are trying to work some things out in the early going.
I think at least some factor here was the last-minute injury to Jameson Taillon. In total fairness, after the Cubs used six relievers Friday, Drew Smyly gave the Cubs a real reset. So I don’t think Saturday and Sunday suffered so much from fatigue on the Cubs side. I do think by the time the Cubs completed seven games in 10 days that the Dodgers had seen an awful lot of the Cubs relievers.
Certainly, they have Michael Fulmer’s number. Fulmer has thrown 9⅓ innings on the year and allowed a ghastly nine runs. But he’s allowed eight of the runs in three innings of work against the Dodgers. I understand every bit of frustration with Fulmer. I’ll never dismiss the idea of some sort of fatigue or soreness injury to get a couple weeks off to reset. That said, before I’m giving up on him, I want to see a lot more. He’s allowed one run in 6⅓ innings against the rest of the league. You can’t dismiss the worst outings a pitcher makes. But, you certainly can try to understand all of what goes into the numbers.
Marcus Stroman finally had a little bit of a clunker. He wasn’t bad through five innings, but I’m certainly sending him back out to start the sixth and I think he’s been just too good this year to not give him any rope. Certainly, the decision backfired Sunday. I’ve certainly had problem with David Ross’ decisions over the years, but I have no problems with his handling there.
Six hits and two walks isn’t enough offense. To the Cubs credit, they did push three runs across with that output. That’s not bad at all. Even better when there are no steals involved. The Dodgers executed well against the Cubs in all but the Friday game, and the Cubs weren’t able to get any kind of running game over the weekend. I’d wondered previously how the Cubs would look against teams that execute a game plan better and limit the running game. To be totally fair, I think the Mariners are probably going to be competitive again and the Rangers could be as well. So I’m not dismissing good work to date.
The Padres will be next, we’ll get another chance to see how the Cubs stack up against a good team. But first, we’ll need to look for three positives on a disappointing Sunday.
- The Cubs have generally been winning when Yan Gomes starts this year. They didn’t Sunday, obviously. It generally hasn’t been Gomes’ bat that has been shining. But on Sunday it did. Gomes had two hits including a solo homer.
- Cody Bellinger occupied Ian Happ’s familiar No. 3 spot in the order and he continued the Cubs’ strong production out of that spot in the order. Cody had a single, a double, an RBI and a run scored.
- With a tip of the cap to Brandon Hughes who retired all three batters he faced, striking out two, I’m going with Keegan Thompson. Keegan needed only seven batters to retire six. The one blemish was a walk. He struck out two. He’s faced 47 batters on the season, allowing two hits and one run. Eight walks isn’t great, but he’s been terrific. Without a lot of great options for the Taillon spot in the rotation, depending on what goes on Tuesday, I’d consider starting Thompson Wednesday. I know he is in no way stretched out. But has has pitched into a fourth inning once this year and has starting experience. You might be able to get three from him and then use Adbert Alzolay and Michael Rucker for a total of three to four innings behind him. That idea is particularly attractive to me if Justin Steele can work into the seventh on Tuesday night.
Game 21, April 23: Dodgers 7 at Cubs 3 (12-9)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Yan Gomes (.150). 2-4, HR, RBI, R
- Hero: Trey Mancini (.113). 0-0, BB
- Sidekick: Cody Bellinger (.068). 2-4,2B, RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Marcus Stroman (-.399). 5IP, 6H, BB, 5R, 5K (L 2-2)
- Goat: Nick Madrigal (-.169). 0-4, DP
- Kid: Luis Torrens (-.131). 0-4, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: The Cu bs were leading by one when Max Muncy faced Marcus Stroman with a runner on first and no outs. Muncy’s homer gave the Dodgers the lead. (.273)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Yan Gomes took Clayton Kershaw deep leading off the fifth to give the Cubs that one run lead. (.147)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Keegan Thompson (7 batters, 6 outs, walk, 2 strikeouts)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Player of the Game: Nico Hoerner (Superhero is 13-7)
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/Ian Happ +8
- Keegan Thompson/Justin Steele +7
- Mark Leiter, Jr./Dansby Swanson +4.5
- Hayden Wesneski/Luis Torens -4
- Julian Merryweather -4.5
- Trey Mancini -5
- Yan Gomes -7
- Michael Fulmer -8
Up Next: The Cubs enjoy an off day Monday after 10 straight games. Tuesday night, they’ll face the Padres. Like the Dodgers, the early season hasn’t been kind to the Padres at 12-12. However, the Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Padres are separated by just half a game for the NL West lead in the early going.
At the time I’m writing this, the Cubs were planning to start Justin Steele (3-0, 1.44, 25 innings) on Tuesday. The Cubs lefthander has been nothing short of brilliant in the early going. He’ll look to pick up his fourth win of the young season.
The Padres are scheduled to start Blake Snell (0-3, 6.00, 18 innings). The Cubs catch yet another left handed starter. The Padres’ veteran left hander will be making his 164th career start. Over those starts he has a 3.47 ERA, but this year it hasn’t clicked yet for him. Last time he allowed two earned over five against the Braves though, so at least a step in the right direction for him, though he was the losing pitcher. He’s allowed 21 hits and 12 walks in his 18 innings of work. Both are high and he’s seeing way too much traffic. That was quite a bit more controlled the last time.