The Rundown: Wicks Quality Start Gives Cubs Big W, Bellinger Hurt, Busch Slumping, Umpires Failing at Record Pace

“Locked and loaded…Still, the same old decent lazy eyes fixed through your gaze.” – Silversun Pickups, Lazy Eye

Cubs manager Craig Counsell needed somebody to step up and give him innings, and Jordan Wicks answered the call. The rookie starter pitched six quality innings to lead the Cubs to a 7-2 win over the sinking Astros. Wicks allowed two runs on five hits with four strikeouts to help the North Siders pull to within a half-game of the NL Central lead. It was a ballsy performance that showed, once again, Chicago’s ability to avoid elongated losing streaks. The Cubs have not lost more than two in a row this season.

The win did not come without its share of trouble, however. Cody Bellinger slammed into the ivy-covered bricks trying to catch a ball hit by Yainer Díaz in the 4th inning and left the game in the top of the 7th. Counsell said x-rays on Bellinger’s ribs were negative, so the center fielder will probably be listed as day-to-day.

“Honestly didn’t feel much at first,” Bellinger said. “As the innings went on, I started to get a little more uncomfortable. It was nothing serious. It’s a very dull pain, even now, which is a good sign. But at first, I didn’t feel anything.”

The bigger news of the day was the series of roster moves Chicago made before the game. Kyle Hendricks and Drew Smyly were placed on the 15-day IL, Garrett Cooper was DFA’d, and Hayden Wesneski and Matt Mervis were recalled from Iowa. Hendricks has a lower back issue and Smyly has a right hip impingement. Mervis started last night but didn’t get a hit in three at-bats.

Hendricks, 34, has been out to an awful start this year, allowing 28 earned runs in 21 innings across five starts. He’s also stranding only 50.3% of runners while a third of his fly balls have gone over the fence. He’s going to rest for two weeks and then head to the minors for some rehab work. Counsell is counting on Hendricks to return to form once the Professor rejoins the team.

Jameson Taillon takes the bump tonight in another favorable matchup for Chicago. Let’s get the series win out of the way with another strong performance.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

I sure hope somebody told Jhosmer Alvarez that there is no bonus for recording five strikeouts in one inning.

High & Tight

A couple of Cubs pitchers contributed to an article by ESPN about pitching injuries and the recent spike in Tommy John surgeries.

  1. Smyly, on increased velocity: “Players know that ‘the harder I throw, the nastier my pitches are, the more money teams will throw at me.’ That’s a real thing, too, and something every team promotes. The time of commanding pitches down and away and mixing speeds, that’s just not how the game is. Players know how to make money. That’s another element. There is so much information now. It goes all the way down to the high school kids. They know what spin rate is, what vertical movement is, and what velocity they need to get to.”
  2. Mark Leiter Jr., on the pitch clock rules: “It’s probably the main factor. You have less time to recover. It’s really like we’re a big experiment and they’re seeing what they can do.
  3. Wicks, on different types of baseballs: “I think the ball is fine. Balls are going to be different. You can’t make every ball the same. They tried last year at Double-A, that was terrible. Balls in April, in Boston, are going to feel different than balls in Miami in July. That’s just a part of the game.”

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“Happiness is one step behind. This inner peace I’ve yet to find.” – Extreme, Hole Hearted

The Cubs are averaging 5.5 runs per game but I think we can all agree they’ve yet to hit their peak. Four NL teams have fewer hits than Chicago, but the Cubs are fourth overall in runs scored. It hasn’t been that noticeable yet, but Chicago’s North Side Baseballers are becoming more of a power-oriented team under Counsell. They’re also walking a lot more this year, and they’re fourth in the league in SLG at .414., and fifth in OPS (.742). Don’t forget  Suzuki has missed eight games, and Ian Happ has just one tater.

On the flip side, Michael Busch is just 2-for-12 on the current homestand and Happ has a higher slugging percentage than Morel.

  • Games Played: 23
  • Record: 14-9 (.609), 2nd place in NL Central
  • In One-Run Games: 3-4 (.429)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 880
  • Total Strikeouts: 198
  • Strikeout Rate: 22.5%
  • Team Batting Average: .245
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 53-for-183 (.290)
  • Runs Scored: 126
  • Runs Allowed: 103
  • Pythagorean Record: 14-9
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 81.3%, 3.9% chance to win World Series 

How About That!

Can you believe we are almost a full month into the 2024 season?

If you are a bobblehead collector, you’ll want to see the best of this year’s minor league giveaways. The Double-A Springfield Cardinals are giving away a John Goodman bobblehead in case that figurine is on your shopping list.

It’s no secret that MLB umpiring is on the decline. Managers have won 53.5% of challenges this year and umpires have been incorrect 73.5% of the time when calling balls and strikes, according to Zachary D. Rymer of Bleacher Report.

The White Sox lost again and are now 3-20 (.130) on the season, a pathetic 21-win pace.

Shohei Ohtani hit a 450-foot home run with an exit velocity of 118.7 MPH. That’s the hardest hit baseball this season.

Tuesday’s Three Stars

  1. Max Fried – Harkening to the heady days of Greg Maddux, Fried tossed a three-hit shutout and needed just 92 pitches to drop the Marlins 5-0.
  2. Pavin Smith – The Diamondbacks clobbered the Cardinals 14-1 thanks in part to Smith, who plated six runners on a 2-for-5 night that included a grand slam.
  3. Riley Greene – Detroit’s leadoff batter crushed two home runs to lead the Tigers to a 4-2 win over the Rays.

Extra Innings

Happy Birthday, Wrigley Field!

Wednesday Morning Six-Pack

  1. On Saturday, superstar Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis broke his own world record by clearing 6.24 meters (20.47 feet). His previous record was 6.23m set last September, then 6.22m before that. It’s by design: Duplantis gets a check (which can reach up to $100k) when he breaks the world record, so he raises the bar by one centimeter each time to maximize his earnings. I need that type of incentive at my day job.
  2. The artist formerly known as Twitter launched a video app that is compatible with most smart TVs, the company revealed yesterday. Jim Rome, Tulsi Gabbard, and Don Lemon are already signed to the new platform. One may assume that it won’t be long before X starts streaming NFL and MLB games on the regular.
  3. The Federal Trade Commission says you no longer have to be bound by noncompete clauses. Don’t worry, I’m not heading over to Bleacher Nation or Cubbies Crib, not that they’d have me.
  4. Eleven previously unreleased songs by Johnny Cash, which the country star recorded as demos in 1993 but never completed, are to finally see the light of day on a new album entitled Songwriter, due to be released on 28 June. The first single from that recovered trove dropped yesterday.
  5. Hollywood’s recipe for fake blood is going vegan, though I’m not sure Count Dracula approves.
  6. John Fogerty detailed the “tense” final years of Creedence Clearwater Revival, admitting he had no idea at the time why his bandmates were so exasperated.

Apropos of Nothing

MTV no longer airs its ‘Unplugged’ series, but this wonderful acoustic set by David Gilmour is just as good, if not better.

They Said It

  • “Kyle’s got very high expectations of himself. So when we get past this injury, he’ll go back to work. He’s going to commit to doing everything he can. Having an effective Kyle Hendricks is something that’s going to make this team better.” – Counsell
  • “What’s clear for me in this stretch is that we’re going to have to push our starting pitching a little farther in games. I think we’re in pretty good shape with the bullpen, but for the first 22 games, I’ve got some guys with 10 appearances and that’s a little on the high end for me. That means starters have to cover more innings. I think we’re equipped to do that.” – Counsell
  • “That’s something I take into every start, wanting to go deeper and deeper. Obviously, that I haven’t been able to accomplish that in the first four is frustrating to me. I’ve put a lot of stress on the bullpen and it’s something I never want to do as a starter. To be able to get out there and go through six tonight was awesome.” – Wicks

Wednesday Walk-Up Song

I don’t know about you, but I could use a little Justin Steele in my life right about now.

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