London, from which the Cubs just returned, used to have a reputation as being quite foggy. It certainly wasn’t during the week I was there; the weather was generally pleasant and sunny. In fact, the traditional “London fog” was mainly smoke from coal that was being burned for heating and manufacturing.
Smoke is what we saw in Chicago Tuesday, blown thousands of miles from Canadian wildfires. Some reports said Chicago had the worst air quality in the world Tuesday and there was some thought given to possibly postponing the Cubs game against the Phillies because of the conditions. That, per Paul Sullivan in the Tribune, was up to Major League Baseball:
Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office and the MLB Players Association convened during the day to determine whether to postpone the game, but the league opted to play on.
The collective bargaining agreement dictated the decision on such a cancellation would be in the hands of MLB with input from the union, not the teams involved.
So they played. As you can see from my photo at the top of this recap, the smoke was quite visible at times, though I think that was exacerbated in the photo by the lights. It wasn’t as bad as it had been earlier in the day, when you could smell the smoke just by stepping outside.
If you are thinking I am avoiding talking about this game, you’re partly right, because from a Cubs standpoint, there’s not much worth talking about. Whether the team was flat after a long flight back from London or whether it was Jameson Taillon getting hit hard — again — the Cubs didn’t look good in a 5-1 loss to the Phillies.
Taillon served up a leadoff double to Kyle Schwarber, who scored on a Trea Turner single. If you’re counting, that’s eight pitches, one run. The Cubs had a baserunner in the bottom of the first when Seiya Suzuki reached on an error, but Ian Happ ended the inning by hitting into a double play.
Another run scored off Taillon in the second on a homer by Brandon Marsh. At that point the game might still have been competitive, but Taillon got hit for three more in the fifth, including Marsh’s second home run of the night, that one a two-run job. At 5-0, the game was essentially over.
Taillon — man, I cannot figure out what’s wrong with him. His velocity seems decent, the pitch selection is okay, but he continues to get hit hard in Every. Single. Start. Still injured, maybe? Tipping his pitches? Possible, I suppose. He did strike out eight and didn’t walk anyone, but his ERA nearly reached 7. Again. In order to get his season ERA under 4 — close to where it was last year at 3.91 — he’d have to throw 43 consecutive scoreless innings. Pretty sure that’s not going to happen. This appears to be a lost year for Taillon. If he’s still showing effects from the early-season injury, put him back on the IL. Hayden Wesneski can take that rotation slot for a while.
Taillon is just not giving his team a chance to win:
2023 Cubs record in games started by Taillon: 2-11
2023 Cubs record in all other games: 35-29
At the present time, Taillon’s ERA is the worst in Cubs franchise history for anyone who’s pitched in at least 13 games in a season:
That’s a pretty dreadful list. Hopefully, Taillon gets off of it.
Give a bit of credit to Phillies starter Ranger Suárez, who held the Cubs bats down pretty well. Through seven innings the Cubs had only two hits and got just two runners past first base. They finally scored a consolation run in the eighth. Cody Bellinger, who had two hits on the night, led off with a single and advanced to second on a single by Nick Madrigal.
The Cubs thus had two runners on base with one out in that inning, with a tiny chance to perhaps get back into the game, but Suzuki and Happ both struck out to end the inning.
Old friend Craig Kimbrel allowed a one-out single to Dansby Swanson in the ninth, but that was all, and the game was lost.
Here, let me say one nice thing about this game: The bullpen did a good job. After Taillon was lifted, Michael Rucker and Javier Assad combined for four shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks, with three strikeouts. That rested the higher-leverage relief guys for another day.
Despite the loss, the Cubs remained fairly close to the N.L. Central lead, still trailing by just 3½ games. They’ll face the Phillies in the second of this three-game set Wednesday evening at Wrigley Field. Drew Smyly will start for the Cubs and Aaron Nola will go for Philadelphia. Game time is again 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.