Ivy isn’t feeling well these days so if you have a chance go find @Sweet_Loops and send well wishes. Which means you’re stuck with me for the time being…
After a beatdown of sorts in Miami, the Chicago Cubs went to Cincinnati to face the Reds, a team they had whupped on numerous times already. It was a whupping this series, but not in the traditional sense as strange things kept happening in every game. Thankfully, the Cubs were the beneficiary of most of the strange things, so all is well in our neck of the woods. Here are the box scores and stuff:
Chicago Cubs @ Cincinnati Reds
There were some issues with Jake Arrieta‘s command, but the Cubs were able to still feast on Reds pitching in the first game as Kris Bryant set all kinds of ridiculous records. The bullpen had their hiccups, but the good news about being good in so many different ways (even if it doesn’t seem that way lately) is that if one part of the team is struggling, another aspect of it is more likely than not to pick them up. In the first game, it was the offense outslugging the bullpen slump, so that was a ton of fun.
The second game was supposed to be a Jon Lester complete game shutout, but not-Hall-of-Famer Billy Hamilton hit a solo home run off Lester late, and then Hector Rondon blew a rare save opportunity to send the Cubs to extras for a long, frustrating stretch where nobody could get a hit. And then more strange things happened as the Cubs ran out of position players and needed Spencer Patton, Travis Wood, and finally Pedro Strop to stand out in left field. It was nice to see Bryant get another big hit before Javier Baez blew the save opportunity for Travis Wood. It was a very nice way to end the ball game for us super-patient Cubs fans, and after the game I think every player enjoyed the goofiness.
You can see the various beat writers commenting on Joe Maddon‘s post-game statements, but Maddon was absolutely confident in Wood’s ability to play the outfield, and his minor league managing experience allowed him to be so creative and free with using all those players out of position. You may also have seen Len Kasper comment on the restriction on the rule (see the comment under Rule 3.03):
Rule 5.10(d) Comment (Rule 3.03 Comment): A pitcher may change to another position only once during the same inning; e.g. the pitcher will not be allowed to assume a position other than a pitcher more than once in the same inning.
So Maddon had to pretty much trust that a- the guys he put into the field at end game would be able to get the outs, or else they’d lose the matchup ability; b- he would not have to force any of the starters slated to start the upcoming games (including Kyle Hendricks) to pitch or exert themselves too much; c- that the offense would eventually come through so he wouldn’t have to go through this again the NEXT inning. As a proponent of weirdness in baseball, I absolutely loved the last two innings of this game. I probably would have enjoyed it anyway, but I’m of course very happy that the Cubs got the win.
I especially liked the getaway game, not because there was any major weirdness (but see below), but because the Cubs just went crazy against Reds starter Cody Reed. This included Albert Almora‘s first career home run, which was caught by a Cubs fan (how appropriate), as well as an Anthony Rizzo inside-the-park home run off Billy Hamilton’s face (hope he’s gonna be OK):
And since this team employs Baez, here’s the insane play of the series:
The Cubs are good. They rode a good offense to bookend the series and used their solid bullpen and defense to earn the sweep after a key steal of the second game after it looked like they didn’t deserve to win. The Cubs are now 9-1 against the Reds, which is always nice after a tough stretch, eh?
Appreciate the fact that this team got to their 51st victory in their 77th game of 2016, one year after it took 94 games to get to the same milestone. If you can believe it, the 2016 version of the team has been extremely unlucky, as they were expected to win five more games than they actually have, whereas last year’s team won seven more than they actually did based on run differential. Baseball!
The Cubs hop a plane to the Big Apple where they will face an underachieving New York Mets squadron. While it is possible that something like what happened last year will happen again, the Mets are dealing with elbow issues for at least two of their starting pitchers (Steven Matz definitely has a bone spur that is an issue, and Noah Syndergaard‘s bone spur is apparently not that bad), David Wright is probably out for the season, and the team as a whole is struggling. Because baseball is baseball, though, it’s probably a good idea for the Cubs to not overlook anybody and try to weather the storm until Tommy La Stella and Dexter Fowler can come back. Jorge Soler is doing well in his pre-game workouts and might be on the way as well, at which point the Cubs will have a number of very interesting roster decisions. For now, the matchups and what not…
Chicago Cubs @ New York Mets