Cubs @ Rockies Series Review: Cubs Lose Series, Avoid Sweep Behind Dominant Cole Hamels
Westward road trips have a nasty habit of being unkind to the Cubs. Seemingly every year they’re flummoxed by playing the Dodgers or Diamondbacks late in the evening or mystified by unknown pitchers in San Diego or San Francisco. Coors Field can often be a house of horrors, and that was the case in this series to some extent despite Cole Hamels avoiding a sweep with a win on Wednesday.
This series offered up all those familiar pitfalls, along with the challenge of facing one of the past few years’ most consistent heels, Daniel Murphy. The king of current Cub killers managed to make his extremely annoying presence known in the Rockies’ two wins with bloops, liners, and everything in between.
In those first two games, Murphy recorded five hits in eight at-bats and was in the middle of most Rockies scoring opportunities. Apropos of nothing, Murphy went hitless in the Cubs’ Wild Card loss to these Rockies last year. In the end, the Cubs walked away with two big wins as they got out of Colorado: the one they recorded on Wednesday and the fact that they won’t have to see Murphy again.
And as un-fun as those first two losses were, Wednesday’s win almost erased them. It’s like the inverse of the “win the first two and fail to sweep by getting your teeth kicked in” problem that we saw so often in 2018. Winning on Wednesday, and doing so in a manner that was both extremely entertaining and thoroughly dominant, went a long way toward taking the sting out of having dropped the series.
We can only hope that it also takes the sting out of Steve Cishek‘s knee, which was bizarrely injured in a game of catch with teammate Brandon Kintzler. Fingers crossed!
Monday sure feels like a missed opportunity, doesn’t it? The Cubs got off to a quick 4-0 lead on the strength of a trio of 3rd-inning home runs by Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, and David Bote. The lead would be short-lived, though, as the runs were given back almost as quickly as they were scored.
Yu Darvish wasn’t as good as you’d want him to be, but it’s hard to be too harsh on a pitcher for giving up four runs in the difficult pitching environment that is Coors Field. Still, there’s very little more frustrating than having a big inning with the bats and then immediately coughing up the runs you gained.
If that’s one of the worst things you can see as a fan, I think one of the very best things you can see is a fan is a beloved player returning to their old stomping grounds for the first time. The Cubs got to be a part of such a moment as long time Rockie Carlos González played in Denver for the first time as a visitor. I always find these moments to be among the things that makes baseball really special.
CarGoes home. pic.twitter.com/KpIW0d2twk
— Cut4 (@Cut4) June 11, 2019
While Monday’s game had its moments, the only real highlight for the Cubs in Tuesday’s game is that it ended. José Quintana wasn’t terrible, but he’s just not well suited to pitch the curveball at that altitude and the Rockies took advantage of him and all the pitchers that followed.
Wednesday’s game largely made up for what Tuesday’s lacked by producing a glut of Cubs highlights on both sides of the ball. Hamels was magnificent all day, but it didn’t always look like that was going to be the case. He got into a 1st-inning, bases-loaded jam before eventually escaping it and giving his teammates the momentum they needed to go onto a big day.
Plenty of Cubs had big games at the plate, but no moment stands out more than Javier Báez‘s absolute no-doubter of a home run in the 8th inning. Fueled at least in part by beanball antics earlier in the game, Javy took some time to admire his work on this one.
Lineup protection. #EverybodyIn pic.twitter.com/PPTIduJUnk
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 12, 2019
A single home run isn’t often gonna be worth two videos, but this one is. I mean, just watch.
This is how you retaliate. pic.twitter.com/K0YemUMSaY
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) June 12, 2019
Javy is clearly on board with the “stop hitting Kris Bryant 2019” campaign.
- It’s always worth reflecting upon the fact that, with all due respect to the other players involved in the deal, the Cubs got Cole Hamels for essentially nothing. In Wednesday’s game, the left-hander escaped a huge jam and went on to pitch seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts. He drove in a pair of runs at the plate, too! Hamels has pitched 22 innings over his last three start and hasn’t allowed a single earned run, which is just bananas.
- Kyle Schwarber had an interesting series. He hit two home runs, but those were his only hits in 14 at-bats. The Cubs are certainly happy with the overall production they’ve gotten lately, as Schwarber is batting .310/.344/.724 over his last seven.
- Things are not going well for reliever Brad Brach. The righty gave up five runs in just 1.2 innings over the final two games of the series, with the bulk of those coming in Tuesday’s contest in which he put the game totally out of reach for the Cubs. There’s a lot to be alarmed about regarding Brach’s performance and it’s reasonable to suspect that he could be in danger of pitching himself off of the roster if things don’t turn around fairly quickly.
While the Cubs weren’t able to slow down the budding narrative that they have trouble winning away from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, they did manage to avoid a sweep and there’s something to be said for that. This was always going to be a tough series due to the strength of the competition and the wackiness of the playing environment, so sometimes walking away with a win can feel like dodging a bullet.
The fact that the Cubs managed not just to win this past weekend’s series against the Cardinals but to take all three has such an enormous impact on this road trip. It wasn’t easy in Colorado and it’s not going to get easier as the Cubs pack their bags for a trip to Dodger Stadium. Securing a sweep before leaving for this trip builds in a nice buffer for the kind of road trip that you almost expect to lose ground during.
Stealing the last game made a series loss feel a little better. This weekend’s series with the Dodgers will exemplify the idea that you don’t need to win them all to feel good about yourself, as the Cubs will almost certainly feel content with a split, an end to this road trip, and a much needed off day.