Routine Hiccup or Cause for Concern?
The Chicago Cubs continued their track of dominating their opponents to start this past series with the Milwaukee Brewers. Yu Darvish had his best outing in a Cubs uniform, as he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Justin Smoak launched a solo home run to right field to break it all up. The Cubs then turned to Casey Sadler in the eighth and Rowan Wick in the ninth to secure the victory, and keep the winning streak running.
It all fell apart this weekend though. Three straight games, the Cubs jumped out to a decent sized lead over the Brewers, and for three straight games, the Cubs pitching allowed Milwaukee right back into it. Things didn’t help that after the Cubs secured their leads, over the span of three days, they scored only four runs total after the fact, and one of those runs came courtesy of the new extra innings rule with a man on second base to start the inning. As a result, Chicago lost their first series of the 2020 season, going 1-3 against Milwaukee in four games at Wrigley. So what went wrong for the Cubs, and is this a concern for the team moving forward?
The answer? No. The panic button does not need to be hit.
Pitching: The Cubs had to re-work their rotation yet again during the midst of this series, as they sent Tyler Chatwood to the 10-day IL with a mid-back strain. All manager David Ross had to say on the matter Sunday morning of the move was, “[Chatwood’s] back flared back up on him,” according to Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald. This should not be a reason for fans to freak out yet even with Ross originally stating on Saturday he expected Chatwood to take one of the double header matchups with the Cardinals. Yes, the 10-day IL is a big deal, because that’s guaranteed missing 1/6 of the season now, but it is also out of an abundance of caution. The Cubs still hold a great lead in the NL Central, and the Cubs are going to need Chatwood at his best down the stretch if they are going to carry this thing into October.
As for starter Jose Quintana, who is still making his way back from a thumb injury, Tony Crumpton of CubsHQ wrote of an interview with Ross this past weekend, “Yeah, I think he’s still a little bit away. He’s going to throw Sunday, another sim gam, four innings, and we’ll get a better judge there talking to him… I didn’t get the feel that he’s quite ready yet. I think we’ll get a lot of feedback from Sunday. But rushing a guy like that is so important just doesn’t make a lot of sense in this scenario to me.” It will be interesting to see if the Chatwood IL move affects the decision on whether or not to insert Quintana into the rotation this week, or if the Cubs will play it safe and hold off.
The Bats: I know we have seen this before under Maddon where the bats get hot, and then go missing for the rest of the game. We have to remember that that has not been the case at all this season. The Cubs have scored multiple runs in multiple innings and have made come backs this season as well. Regardless of Milwaukee’s record and their average 10-10 start, they are still a good baseball team. The Brewers have had one of the best bullpens the past few seasons, and 2020 is going to be no stranger to that notion. In this four game series Milwaukee’s bullpen allowed a combined total of 10 H, 3 ER, 6 BB and recorded 31 SO. Three earned runs. That’s all Chicago’s offense managed to get from Milwaukee’s bullpen. The Brewers had the better bullpen, and it showed. The Cubs bullpen for comparison allowed 11 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, and recorded only 13 SO. The Cubs don’t have to face a bullpen as good as Milwaukee’s again for quite some time, but it will be interesting to see how the Cubs handle the White Sox’ bullpen this upcoming weekend.
Javier Baez will be the bat to watch moving forward after an abysmal series. Baez went 0-for-14 with just 1 RBI and 7 SO, and was given the day-off during Sunday’s loss. Kris Bryant did not fare well either after missing the first two games following a wrist injury suffered in Cleveland, as he went 1-for-9 with 0 RBI and 3 SO. The Cubs will need both Baez and Bryant’s bats to shine moving forward if they are going to get back into the winning column.
Key to the 2nd Half of the Home Stand: The Cubs will now get their first crack at the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2020 season after the Cardinals struggles in overcoming COVID-19 cases in their clubhouse. The Cardinals took their first series back in play from the White Sox 2-1, following big performances this past Saturday. The bright side for Cub fans though is that the Cardinals will be without “Cub Killers” such Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong this week at Wrigley. The key for the Cubs to take this series is to stay who they are. The Cubs are having fun. It’s clear and evident every night/day when watching their games. David Ross needs to make sure that his team isn’t letting their first series loss shroud over this clubhouse. It’s all fun and games when you start 13-3, but how do you overcome adversity? Taking advantage of the Cardinals starting pitchers early like they did with Milwaukee will be instrumental in securing wins this series. The bats cannot go cold like they did against the Brewers bullpen if Chicago is to earn more wins, and while St. Louis has a decent bullpen, it’s nowhere near what the Brewers have.
If the Cubs can get their groove back, they’re going to take three or four out of the five games from the Cardinals.
The Chicago Cubs (13-6) will next take on the St. Louis Cardinals (4-4) this evening in a 7-inning double header matchup. Game 1 will start at 5:15pm EST and feature Kyle Hendricks (3-1) 3.08 ERA facing off against Kwang Hyun Kim (0-0) 9.00 ERA, who is getting only his second appearance of the season; his first as a starter.