The Rundown: Cubs Effort Uglier Than Playing Conditions, Hoyer Acquires Hard-Throwing Lefty, Ohtani Does It All (Again)
“I know to you it might sound strange but I wish it would rain (how I wish it would rain)” – The Temptations, I Wish it Would Rain
You could use about 35 different expletives to describe last night’s rain-shortened 8-2 loss to the Rays, but if you’re looking for a ray of light to pop through the dark clouds, at least the Cubs get the Pirates for four straight at The Friendly Confines starting today. Even though the Cubs are in no position to consider any game or series a gimme, the Pirates come as close to that type of guarantee as to any team in the National League. A sweep would send the Cubs to Atlanta with a 10-6 record, and I think we would all take that.
Marcus Stroman had one of the uglier outings of his career last night, which just means he has a great opportunity to bounce back in his next start against the Brewers. The nice thing about Stro is he’ll give you the 411 without trying to sugarcoat it.
“Nothing seems synonymous. Every pitch essentially feels like I’m doing something different mechanically,” Stroman said. “It kind of comes and goes. In stretches, I feel great for an inning or a few batters and then kind of just lose it. I’ve got to be better.”
As Boog Sciambi might say, “No doubt.”
Let’s face it, the Cubs looked like playing baseball was the last thing on their minds last night and all the ingredients were there for phoning it in. They were playing an American League team in the final game of the series, the weather was a big ball of crud, and the Tampa Bay pitchers got after the Cubs right away. Drew Rasmussen and Jalen Beeks threw 18 of 23 first pitches for strikes, countering Chicago’s predilection to work the count. It’s no wonder Frank Schwindel was the team’s best hitter last night, as he is prone to entering the box ready to hack at a moment’s notice.
Heck, Seiya Suzuki struck out twice, which puzzled anyone who has followed the early season exploits of the exciting outfielder. The Cubs were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position on the rain-soaked evening, the lone hit being an RBI double by Schwindel with the home team down 5-0.
I don’t want to excuse them for last night’s pitiful performance, but three weeks ago most of us would have thought a 6-6 start would be a solid beginning. Rafel Ortega seems like a poor choice to bat leadoff and I’m not sure why David Ross continues to go that route when Nick Madrigal is a more obvious choice. Madrigal is struggling right now, as is his double-play partner Nico Hoerner, exacerbating the lack of power everyone expected from the middle infield.
Having both the Pirates and warmer weather this weekend may change things quite a bit. Gametime temperatures are expected to reach the mid-60s for tonight’s tilt and Chicago may see 80 degrees on Saturday. That won’t erase the stink from last night’s effort, but at least it will make it easier to put the dreariness behind us.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs got a hard-throwing reliever from the Braves in a trade that sent Jesse Chavez and cash considerations to Atlanta for Sean Newcomb. The big lefty drew comparisons to Jon Lester when he was drafted by the Angels in 2014 and the Cubs could potentially stretch him out to be a starter. Though he’s 28, Newcomb comes with three seasons of control.
- Chicago’s offense has been an early-season surprise, but their defense has been equally stellar.
- Suzuki joked that Jed Hoyer tricked him with bogus early-season weather charts when they were recruiting him.
- That thing Suzuki does when he circles behind the catcher and umpire after drawing a walk is a matter of respect. “It’s kind of disrespectful to walk in front of someone,” the former Japanese batting champ said through his team interpreter, Toy Matsushita. “Especially if it’s someone older than you. It’s Japanese culture. It’s not a good thing to do.”
- The offseason addition of Wade Miley coupled with the subtraction of Matt Duffy is worth a potential 14.3 WAR, making the Cubs this year’s winner of the offseason, putting them on the path of an accelerated rebuild.
- Mop-up relievers are a thing of the past and Keegan Thompson is a great example of a guy you can pitch in any situation to give a bullpen length without wasting a roster spot (subscription to The Athletic required).
- Nelson Velázquez made this week’s Baseball America’s prospect report for a four-hit game in which he totaled 12 bases.
- I’m not much of a podcast guy but I did enjoy the latest Cubs Talk Podcast over at NBC Sports Chicago, in which host David Kaplan, team insider Gordon Wittenmyer, and beat writer Tim Stebbins discussed the possibility of NPB sensation Roki Sasaki joining the Cubs.
Odds & Sods
Phil Collins of Genesis used to talk about synchronicity and oneness before the band played Domino in concert, which, truth be told, is a vastly underrated song. Its lyrics read like a synopsis of Stranger Things 2.
Speaking of Stranger Things, only Netflix suffered a worse pummeling than the Cubs yesterday. Their stock dropped nearly 40% in trading during the day and on the overnight desk.
When we attend sports events in person, our heart rate patterns sync up w/ other fans around us.
The physiological synchronicity then predicted feelings of transformation & identity fusion [“oneness”].
(h/t @BStulberg) #SportsConnectUs #SportsTech https://t.co/ahWBnrv1E0
— T.K. Gore (@TKGore) April 21, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Let me tell you the truth is in the eyes ’cause the eyes don’t lie, amen. Remember, a smile is just a frown turned upside down my friend.” – The Undisputed Truth, Smiling Faces
That the Cubs coaxed three bases on balls in last night’s game is nothing short of a miracle, and though Suzuki was hitless, he did walk, extending his streak of getting on base to 12 games. Schwindel plated his seventh run of the season, third-best on the team behind Suzuki (11) and Patrick Wisdom (10). Stroman’s ERA now sits at a hideous 8.78 after he allowed seven earned runs in 4.1 innings.
- Games Played: 12
- Total Plate Appearances: 439
- Total Strikeouts: 92
- Strikeout Rate: 20.96%
- Team Batting Average: .263
- Believe it or Not: Through 12 games the Cubs have yet to fall below .500.
MLB News & Notes
This week’s Boras Classic might provide a sneak peek of the game’s future greats.
Reds rookie starter Hunter Greene is averaging 100 mph on his fastball through his first two starts.
Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon is officially the first active MLB player to commercially endorse a sportsbook.
A’s legend Dave Stewart is fronting a bid to bring a team to Nashville in the next round of expansion.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Shohei Ohtani – The Angels sensation was perfect through five innings and struck out 12 Astros batters over six one-hit frames in a 6-0 drubbing. Ohtani also batted leadoff and finished 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI.
- Johan Camargo – The Phillies shortstop was 4-for-5 from the eight-hole with a home run and three RBI in leading Philadelphia to a 9-6 win over the Rockies.
- Carlos Rodón – The veteran lefty earned his second win and lowered his ERA to 1.06 with five scoreless innings and eight punchouts as the Giants beat the Mets 5-2.
These attendance numbers are unfathomable, though the ballclub has done a great job in discouraging its fans from attending games at the Coliseum.
Paid attendance for the A’s tonight was:
On Tuesday it was:
This commentary below is absolutely accurate. pic.twitter.com/6JCWiNEOYh
— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) April 21, 2022
They Said It
- “When I was coming up, there was a long guy in the pen that may have never really gotten used unless you’re up or down a lot. It was kind of a wasteful spot down there. Now that’s leverage length. I can bring [Thompson] in down two, up two, tied, men on base, clean inning. He’s done a little bit of everything, so he’s just an extremely valuable piece to have.” – Ross
- “[Suzuki] has joked about it a couple of times with me: ‘This is not what that chart said.’ I just tell him: ‘Charts are averages, right?’” – Hoyer
Thursday Walk-Up Song
Keep On Truckin’ by Eddie Kendricks – Bring on the Bucs!