The Rundown: Cubs Steal Series From Cardinals, Báez Clutch, Tepera Nails, Bacchus Awful, Joe West Set to Break MLB Record
“And my time is a piece of wax falling on a termite that’s choking on the splinters.” – Beck, Loser
Last night’s 2-1 win over the Cardinals gave the Cubs two wins in three games in St. Louis and moved them to within two games of first place. The Cubs are looking more and more like a contending team as the season wears on, and a lot of credit has to go to a bullpen that has been incredibley hot all month.
Timely hitting has been a factor, too, as the Cubs seem to produce at the plate when it matters most. Javier Báez is a prime example, as his two-run shot in the top of the 10th inning led the North Siders to the win against their arch-nemeses. Báez now leads the team with 11 home runs and 32 RBI as piece-by-piece, Cubs hitters have awakened from a terrible April slumber just as our own Ryan Thomure predicted they might.
The bigger story last night was the team’s inability to hit thanks to the exaggerated strike zone of rookie umpire Erich Bacchus. It’s tough to beat St. Louis veteran Adam Wainwright on any night, but if the zone is widened a couple inches to each side, it’s damn near impossible. That’s not to say Cubs pitchers didn’t benefit, but things seemed really egregious with Wainwright on the hill. Perhaps it was veteran intimidation or his national television debut, but Bacchus seemed very averse to giving hitters the benefit of the doubt.
30-year-old rookie umpire Erich Bacchus ejects Cubs manager David Ross for arguing balls and strikes pic.twitter.com/P5oQKag79L
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) May 24, 2021
Give bench coach Andy Green the win, as David Ross was tossed in the 4th inning for arguing balls and strikes. After getting Monday off, the Cubs head to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates. The Cardinals travel to Chicago to take on the White Sox starting today, so perhaps that gap in the standings can closer further this week.
- The Good: That home run by Báez was about as clutch as it gets.
- The Great: Ryan Tepera was a monster working his way out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the 7th inning. Tepera induced a force play at home by Tommy Edman, got Paul Goldschmidt to pop out to Willson Contreras, and struck out Nolan Arenado.
- The Bad: The Cubs had just two hits entering the 10th inning, both singles by Kris Bryant, and ghost runner Contreras gave Chicago’s baseballers their first runner in scoring position to that point.
- The Ugly: Bacchus had one of the worst nights umpiring I’ve ever seen.
- The Worst: With two nationally televised tilts in the three-game set, Chicago viewers were treated to the St. Louis-skewed Joe Buck and John Smoltz on Saturday night, and Matt Vasgersian and Álex Rodríguez in the series finale.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs are among 14 teams that have failed to reach the league-mandated 85% vaccination rate in order to loosen restrictions per COVID protocol, and Jed Hoyer is pretty unhappy about it.
- The Cardinals believe reaching that threshold gives them a competitive advantage over the Cubs and other teams.
- Báez said the series win was huge but that the Cubs still have a long way to go to accomplish their goals.
- Buster Olney of ESPN reported that Wainwright received 31 called strikes from the home plate umpire in this game, which is the highest total of any pitcher in any game this season.
- The Cubs bullpen stretched its streak to 25.2 innings without allowing an earned run. They’ve notched 34 strikeouts in those games while allowing just 11 hits.
- Kyle Hendricks has turned his season around and is pitching like the ace the team needs.
- Anthony Rizzo tried trading a baseball for a box of nachos on Saturday night.
- The Contreras brothers are chasing the Molinas as baseball’s first family of catching.
- Ross would rather see baseball enact a mercy rule than debate the merits of old- and new-school baseball and the game’s outdated unwritten rules.
- Joc Pederson has a mustache and that’s apparently newsworthy.
Apropos of Nothing
Rodríguez can be excruciating at times, especially when he overanalyzes any situation and then repeats himself a time or two. In fact, he sounds a lot like Gary Potter, the Kevin Nealon character in the movie Happy Gilmore. It almost makes you want to go full Bob Barker on him, so it’s no surprise he made more than a few golf references last night.
Vasgersian is equally awful and needs to learn to let the game do the talking on more than a few occasions. Of course, Buck is Cardinal crimson through and through and Smoltz is almost as annoying as Rodríguez, especially when he’s right or he’s talking about Yadier Molina.
Apropos of Nothing II
I hope the Cubs are buyers at this year’s deadline, because they may be a good starter or two away from taking the division with a deep postseason run included. Oh, for Zack Greinke or Max Scherzer.
Climbing the Ladder
“Living is easy with eyes closed.” – John Lennon, Strawberry Fields Forever
- Games Played: 46
- Total Plate Appearances: 1,733
- Total Strikeouts: 445
- Strikeout Rate: 25.7%
- Team Batting Average: .237
The Cubs could muster just three hits last night and they struck out 10 times against Cardinals pitchers or the numbers would all be season bests. I normally try not to blame shoddy strike calling but it can’t be ignored in the aftermath of last night’s game. That said, only one hit mattered. Fly the “W.”
Odds & Sods
It’s not on par with the lyric “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” from the song Subterranean Homesick Blues, but it’ll do.
Happy 80th Birthday Bob Dylan! ~ He once said, "I'd like to be able to hit a hundred-mile-an-hour baseball. But you have to know your place." pic.twitter.com/aOxYH4ybjz
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) May 24, 2021
How About That!
White Sox skipper Tony La Russa is eager to see Molina and the rest of his Cardinals teammates this evening.
Sox shortstop Tim Anderson says the team’s clubhouse may be a bit dysfunctional and that his teammates may not always agree with their manager, but they remain dedicated to their leader nonetheless.
Rangers outfielder Adolis García has become the team’s leader and is a star in the making.
Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper is slumping and he’s not happy about it.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Apparently, the definition of a six-tool player is a guy who just has fun playing the game to the adoration of the fans while drawing the wrath of those who believe in old-timey baseball.
You gotta be kidding me! Cowboy Joe West is about to break the MLB record for most games umpired. West will ump the series between the White Sox and Cardinals at Guaranteed Rate Field starting tonight. Where’s Hawk Harrelson when television really needs him?
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Ryan Tepera – The gutsiest pitching performance in the biggest win of the year so far will be looked back at as the turning point if the Cubs somehow take the NL Central when all is said and done.
- Fernando Tatís Jr. – The Padres shortstop had two home runs and six RBI in San Diego’s 9-2 win over the Mariners, including a 7th inning grand slam.
- Austin Riley – The Braves third baseman nearly matched Tatis Jr., swatting two taters of his own with five RBI as the Braves capsized the Pirates 7-1.
Javy is good at baseball.
How you wanna do this, Javy?@javy23baez #CubTogether pic.twitter.com/b7zRHFfimM
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 24, 2021
They Said It
- “We’ve worked hard to try to convince or educate the people that have been reluctant. I think we’re at a place right now, candidly, where — I’m not going to give up hope that we can get there — but my level of optimism is waning.” – Jed Hoyer
- “You know, if you’ve got a guy who can execute pitches like Wainwright and you’re giving him an extra couple inches on balls off the plate, it’s going to be a tough night. I saw that trend early on and felt like I needed to voice my opinion to try and get him on the plate.” – David Ross
Monday Walk Up Song
Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Their cover of Springsteen’s attempt to be Dylan seems appropriate this morning. Somebody schedule Bacchus an eye examination soon, please and thank you.