The Rundown: Epic Bullpen Meltdown Costs Cubs, Imanaga Has ‘Ace’ Stuff, PCA Hurt, Hendriks Calls MLB Free Agency ‘Bullsh*t’

“They stood there laughing. They’re not laughing anymore.” – The Call, The Walls Came Down

It was just one game and just one loss, but what an epic failure. The Cubs blew an 8-0 lead to lose 9-8 to the Padres, and Jed Hoyer’s piecemeal bullpen proved to be the cause. It’s a neverending storyline since Hoyer took over for Theo Epstein. Chicago’s president of baseball operations treats relievers like pull-tab tickets, hoping to score $5 in returns for every $100 investment. It’s tiring, and yesterday’s game was a killer with the extended postseason format where one loss is the difference between playing on and sitting home.

The Cubs have a dynamic offense that can seemingly score in bunches at any given time. Unfortunately, eight runs mean nothing if you in turn give up nine. I have nothing else to say except that today’s a new day with an imperative need for a quick rebound. Let’s hope Ben Brown shuts San Diego down tonight and takes some pressure off the bullpen. I fear that if Brown struggles, he may have to take one for the team and stick around longer than he should have to thanks to a taxed but woefully pedestrian relief corps.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

I don’t know if I should applaud Juan Soto or razz Yankees fans.

Central Intelligence

  • Pittsburgh (9-2): The Pirates are 9-2 for the first time since the 1992 season. Pittsburgh started hot last season as well — they were in first place into May — but fizzled and finished fourth. This year’s team is much better, though.
  • Milwaukee (6-3): Brewers fans who pregame tailgate are among the heartiest in all of baseball.
  • Cincinnati (6-4): Jonathan India was scratched Monday after he was hit by a batted ball during batting practice, adding another issue to the team’s long list of injuries. The Reds also announced that reliever Tejay Antone is going to have season-ending surgery on his right arm, likely on Friday.
  • St. Louis (5-6): The Cardinals’ best hitters continue to struggle and show no signs of getting untracked anytime soon. Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Gorman, and Nolan Arenado finished last night’s 5-3 loss to the Phillies a combined 2-for-15 with seven strikeouts.

Climbing the Ladder

“When your day is long… and the night, the night is yours alone. When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life, well hang on.” – R.E.M., Everybody Hurts

José Cuas, Yency Almonte, and Héctor Neris have a combined ERA of 11.74 across 12.2 innings spanning 14 appearances. They have also accounted for 24% of the earned runs scored against Chicago this season. Adbert Alzolay has an FIP of 7.31, which won’t cut it for a closer. Hoyer is going to have to retool his bullpen on the fly or the Cubs are going to blow a lot of late leads. It’s also worth asking if Alzolay will ever be the lights-out closer that successful teams must have.

The Cubs’ top five players by WAR are Imanaga (0.9), Javier Assad (0.7), Seiya Suzuki (0.4), Merryweather (0.3), and Justin Steele (0.3). That’s impressive when you consider how good Chicago’s offense has been, but it also proves the team’s scoring prowess is a collective effort.

Cody Bellinger had three RBI last night and is second on the team behind Suzuki with 10, but is still hitting just .231, though he is hitting the ball a little harder this season. His BABIP is only .233 which is about 80 points less than last season and well below league average, so he should turn that BA around quickly.

  • Games Played: 10
  • Record: 6-4 (.600), 3rd place in NL Central
  • Total Plate Appearances: 395
  • Total Strikeouts: 76
  • Strikeout Rate: 19.24%
  • Team Batting Average: .262
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 25-for-89 (.281)
  • Runs Scored: 64
  • Runs Allowed: 51
  • Pythagorean Record: 6-4
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 76.3%, 5.3% chance to win World Series 

How About That!

Liam Hendriks thinks MLB free agency is “bullshit” because he believes owners are always looking for the slightest reasons to pay players less.

Gerrit Cole is “frustrated” by the fight between the league and the players’ union over the pitching clock. Cole said the two sides sound like “bickering parents in the middle of a divorce.”

The Astros scratched Framber Valdez before yesterday’s start due to elbow soreness. The 30-year-old was sent back to Houston for further evaluation, though manager Joe Espada added, in his pregame media availability, that not placing the veteran on the injured list is a sign the club doesn’t believe the injury is serious.

Shohei Ohtani has been able to distance himself from the early-season gambling scandal that has followed him.

The Guardians allowed fans to enter the park early before yesterday’s game against the White Sox to let them witness the solar eclipse. Cleveland was in the path of totality for the stunning celestial event.

Blake Snell made his first start of the season for the Giants but things didn’t go very well.

MLB has an optics problem with umpires’ strike zones and televised displays.

Reggie Jackson says the A’s are an embarrassment to the game of baseball.

Jim Bowden of The Athletic said the Orioles’ Triple-A team at Norfolk is better than the big league team Oakland is fielding.

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. Elly De La Cruz – The Cincinnati star hit two home runs, one from each side of the plate, and one of the inside-the-park variety, as the Reds topped the Brewers 10-8. He also scored four runs and added a stolen base for good measure.
  2. Brandon Nimmo – The outfielder was 4-for-5 and also hit two home runs with five RBI, leading the Mets to an 8-7 win over the Braves.
  3. Victor Caratini – The ex-Cub plays for the Astros now, and he plated three runners on a 2-for-4 night that also included his first tater of the season.

Extra Innings

This is an incredible throw by Crow-Armstrong.

They Said It

  • “People have to step up. I think what [Merryweather] does incredibly well is he’s platoon-neutral. You can kind of give him an inning and you don’t have to worry about what pocket it is. And I think that’s the hardest part is that other guys are probably a little bit more pocket-oriented and platoon-oriented. He gives us a guy that’s neutral and [that’s] beneficial.” – Hoyer
  • “We just couldn’t stop it anywhere, really. It was one of those nights where they had some good at-bats and we couldn’t make the next pitch and get the next out and they made us pay for it.”Craig Counsell
  • “Momentum’s a real thing and they were able to capture it. We weren’t able to push back away a little bit. You have to give them some credit for really piecing together some good at-bats in the late stages of the game.”Dansby Swanson

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

The Cubs are 5-1 at home and 1-3 on the road.

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