I’ve been talking about getting a little bit of a breather on the writing. I assure you that I didn’t want it this way. But let’s be clear, you aren’t getting 2,000+ words on this garbage. It was a weird lineup and a tough opponent. One of those mattered a whole lot more than the other. Many times I’ll tell you it was the lineup. They could have let Cody Bellinger, Jeimer Candelario and Dansby Swanson alternate times at bat like we were kids again on the playground. Max Fried was back and the 2022 Cy Young runner up looked like he hadn’t missed a second. He sliced through the Cubs like butter.
This is one of those games where you wonder what might have happened if one inning goes away. It’s easy to say that the Cubs didn’t score and so everything else is irrelevant. However, the Braves scored seven of their eight runs in the fourth inning, that after the two starters had matched perfect starts through nine batters each. Aside from that one inning, the Cubs held the best team in baseball to one run on three hits.
What-ifs turn your head into a pretzel. You can’t remove the one inning. And again, the fact remains that the Cubs scored zero runs on four hits The offense was completely stifled from the first pitch to the last. You had to hope to see a little how the Cubs matched up and you sure as heck didn’t want to hear the answer, because this was a beatdown, pure and simple.
I will say this, nothing that happens this weekend will change any of my thoughts on this team. If the Braves wipe out the Cubs for three straight days, I’ll tip my cap and we’ll move along. I didn’t think they were really ready for prime time yet. If you want to jump up and down and be angry, I get it. Rant and rave and I won’t stop you. None of this undoes the positive that’s been happening and none of this sets this team back in its growth and development.
My two overriding thoughts haven’t changed and I don’t know if there is much that will happen over the final 52 games to change it. This team’s offense comes an awful lot from piling on when things are going good. Believe me, I’m not asking them to stop being good at that. I’m just looking for them to break through a bit against good pitching when it is executing well. My other thought is that this team will go as far as the starting pitching carries it. This is four of the last five games where the starter did not perform well. The one that I am okay with was a five-inning stint from Jameson Taillon where he allowed two runs.
As I say that, I’m very well aware that all of the teams that win games are good at piling on when things are going well. Fourth and fifth starters, seventh and eighth relievers. By and large they are down there for a reason and most teams beat up on those guys. When you get one of those guys going well, it often means your team is stacking wins. That’s bonus territory. Most times you are just trying to buy a handful of innings and keep the game close when one of those guys is going.
After that, you pile up stats against guys who are normally good but who are struggling on this occasion. None of this is revolutionary. Good pitching executed well stifles even most of the best hitters. There’s no great magic to it. In most series’ if you identify the better pitching staff top to bottom, you are identifying the winner. And most times when there is an exception it is because the lesser pitching staff ran hot.
That is one of the main reasons why I think the key to this team is getting its pitching right. The Cubs need to survive through this coming Wednesday. The series in Toronto is likely to be tough, but here’s the deal. Starting Thursday, the Cubs are in the most asinine part of their schedule. I understood three days around the trip to London and all of the time around the All-Star break. Starting Thursday, the Cubs are off three times in eight days. I mean, 16 games in a row before that stretch and 13 after it. Every team goes through these clumps of days off, but it shouldn’t be this way. The logistics of it might be tricky, but I cannot tell you how much my brain likes the simplicity of the minor leagues’ six straight games and then everyone is off. In an ordinary five-man rotation, one guy throws twice in a week and then he doesn’t do it again for a month.
I’ll try to find three positives in a train wreck game. Let’s see what we can do.
- Cody Bellinger had two hits in three at bats. The Cubs had four hits.
- Hayden Wesneski faced 11 batters, allowed a home run and a walk, retiring the rest. Against a lineup that vacationed together in Seattle over the All-Star break.
- Nick Madrigal had a hit and a walk. The Cubs drew one walk.
Game 110, August 4: Braves 8 at Cubs 0 (56-54)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective. (There is one exception to this rule. When multiple players tie at .000 because the game got lopsided, but one clearly outperformed the other, I will break ties)
- Superhero: Hayden Wesneski (.004). 3 IP, 11 batters, H, BB, R, 3 K
- Hero: Jose Cuas (.000). IP, four batters, H, K
- Sidekick: Christopher Morel (.000). 0-1, K
- Billy Goat: Kyle Hendricks (-.314). 4 IP, 20 batters, 8 H, 7 R, 3 K (L 4-6)
- Goat: Yan Gomes (-.038). 0-3, K, 2 DP
- Kid: Jeimer Candelario (-.030). 0-3, 2 K
WPA Play of the Game: There was a runner on first with no outs in the fourth inning, the game was tied at zero and Ozzie Albies was up. The run expectancy after a runner on first with no outs is just .88. Albies doubled setting the table for a seven run inning. That’s a couple of deviations off of the expected result. (.125)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Eddie Rosario led off the third inning against Kyle Hendricks. The game was scoreless at the time. He flied out to right. (.025)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Cody Bellinger (2-3)
Nick Madrigal (1-3, BB)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Mark Leiter Jr. (Superhero is 71-38)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Cody Bellinger +23
- Ian Happ +18.5
- Justin Steele +14
- Marcus Stroman +12
- Adbert Alzolay +11
- Michael Fulmer -10
- Drew Smyly -12
- Jameson Taillon -13
- Patrick Wisdom -15
- Trey Mancini -20.5
Up Next: The Cubs lost on Friday. Do you know who else lost on Friday? The two teams ahead of the Cubs in the NL Central. And who else? The four teams in front of them in the wild card race. So no harm, no foul, really. The biggest effect is that the Cubs lost an opportunity to gain on everyone else. So they once again wake up two games out of the Wild Card and 2½ in the Central.
With Marcus Stroman on the injured list, the Cubs turn to Javier Assad (1-2, 3.24, 50 IP) to start Saturday’s game. Javier has made one start this year, but that was back on April 20. He allowed two runs over three innings against the Dodgers that day. He wasn’t stretched out and he was making an emergency start for Jameson Taillon’s early season injury. Assad has largely worked as a long reliever. From June 27 to the present, Javier has appeared in nine games. He threw 22 ⅓ innings allowing nine hits and one run. He’s struck out 22. The only blemish is 10 walks in that time. Given the nature of the type of work Assad has done, he has pitched in 19 total games and the Cubs have lost 15 of them.
The Braves have Bryce Elder (8-2, 3.18, 121⅔ IP) starting. The 24-year-old right hander is 3-1 with a 4.42 ERA over his last seven games, a total of 38⅔ innings. He’s tailed off a bit lately, but he was sharp the last time out against the Brewers, throwing seven innings allowing four hits and one run. Nothing is going to be easy against Atlanta.