Friday, I attended a baseball game for the first time in the calendar year 2023 (other than a spring game between the Tigers and Red Sox). Unlike the overwhelming majority of any of you out there who also attended a game Friday, the home team was the winner. The home team rode a couple of late homers to a 7-4 victory. And then there was a second win when we got to see Montell Jordan, Rob Base and Vanilla Ice in a post game concert. Please everyone contain their envy.
Before I left for Tropicana Field, I had time to watch the overwhelming majority of the Friday afternoon loss on the north side of Chicago. As tricky as it is to throw around ‘hat tipping’ after back-to-back losses and a total of two runs, I’m going to high road this loss too. First and foremost, the performances by Jameson Taillon, Julian Merryweather and Adbert Alzolay outweigh the downside of this loss. Second of all, they legitimately lost the game by an inch, maybe two at the outside. Seiya Suzuki missed, by no more than that amount, making a nifty sliding catch that would have kept the game scoreless.
Certainly, the concern is with the offense that has been stuck in neutral now for two straight games. I can’t buy that the offense has gone into premature hibernation. This team is going to get their offense back in gear. Just like they have all year long. I’m reminded of the quote Theo Epstein made popular about a guy having to struggle along the way as part of their development. To be fair and clear, this isn’t how that quote was utilized. And yet, I’m not sure it’s wrong.
I’m certainly not saying that anyone isn’t trying or putting forth maximum effort. I definitely wouldn’t say that in the context it is used which is looking at prospects trying to finish realize their dreams of making the major leagues. I think the whole idea is that part of the progress is the struggle. I’m sure some take that like egos need to be brought down a notch and the like. But I think much larger than that, it looks at you dealing with how you are challenged. What they do to make you struggle.
Friday, Zac Gallen pitched one of the best games of his young and very successful career. He found a groove, found an approach and then just executed it over and over again. I’m reminded of something I’ve always believed. When the best pitchers in baseball are in that spot where they have their good stuff and are consistently executing their game plan, they are damn near unbeatable. Most days, even the best eventually get off script. But in this instance, Gallen just didn’t really make any mistakes.
Turn the page. Move it on. Expect the team to bounce back today. Three stars:
- Jameson Taillon. Six innings, one hit, one walk, season-high nine strikeouts. Probably the second best outing of the year for him. Now they just need to be more than two months between them.
- Julian Merryweather. Many days, I’d put his three batters, three strikeouts up top.
- Seiya Suzuki stays hot and collects two of the three hits. But for his caught stealing, he might be a notch or two higher. Base stealing is one skill Seiya has not shown any command of.
Game 142, September 8: Diamondbacks 1, Cubs 0 (76-66)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Jameson Taillon (.354), 6 IP, 20 batters, H, BB, 9 K
- Hero: Seiya Suzuki (.088). 2-3, K, CS
- Sidekick: Julian Merryweather (.087). IP, 3 batters, 3 K
- Billy Goat: Ian Happ (-.196). 0-4, 2K
- Goat: Jeimer Candelario (-.154). 0-3, K
- Kid: Nick Madrigal (-.130). 0-3, K
WPA Play of the Game: Corbin Carroll’s two-out, RBI-single that Seiya Suzuki narrowly missed catching. (.266)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Seiya Suzuki’s single leading off the eighth and Jose Cuas’ strikeout of Jordan Lawler with runners on first and second with no outs each added .098 to the Cubs’ chances of winning.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Seiya Suzuki (Superhero is 96-45)
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.
- Cody Bellinger +43
- Justin Steele +19
- Ian Happ +18.5
- Adbert Alzolay +16
- Marcus Stroman +12
- Dansby Swanson -13.5
- Patrick Wisdom -15
- Drew Smyly -17
- Trey Mancini -20.5
- Jameson Taillon -23
- Brewers win
- Phillies lose
- Diamondbacks win was their third straight
- Marlins win
- Reds lose their second straight
- Giants bounce back with a win
Therefore, the Brewers lead the Central by three games over the Cubs. The Phillies lead the Cubs by two for the first Wild Card. The Diamondbacks trail the Cubs by two and hold the final Wild Card. The Marlins trail the DBacks by half a game for the last spot. The Reds trail the Marlins by 1½ and the Giants trail by 2½ as they stay alive.
Up Next: Another pitcher’s duel awaits, most likely. Justin Steele (16-3, 2.55, 152 IP) is starting for the Cubs. Rather than look at the last seven starts, I’ll point out his last 15, 10-1 with a 2.38 in 87 innings.
34-year-old Merrill Kelly flies a little under the radar. He’s 11-6 with a 3.22 ERA in 148⅓ innings this year. He’s 2-1 with a 3.19 over his last seven starts and just held the Rockies to one run on four hits and a walk over seven innings and struck out 12 last time. Merrill was a bit of a late bloomer, but has never had a season ERA over 4.44. Last year he was 13-8 with a 3.37 ERA and was one of a diminishing number of pitchers who reached the 200 inning plateau.
This is a tough one, but I trust in Steele (and the offense to bust out).