(Author's Note: Between the time the game ended and I finished and posted this article, the Cubs announced that Junior Lake will be optioned to Iowa to make room for Dan Straily. I'm sure that John will have something to say about this later on. I personally wish this had happened around the All Star Break before complet frustration had set in for Lake. Hopefully he can find a bit of himself that saw him perform pretty well last season. I'm not sure what his future with the Cubs is, but I always wish guys well.)
So I'm going to have to apologize for the negativity in advance. This was the type of game that wears on me, even when I remember that this is a young team, with a few guys trying to adjust to Major League Baseball. Still, it was a winnable game against a mediocre team, and the majority of runs allowed could easily have been preventable. Let's get down to business.
The Cubs took a 2-run lead in the third with a walk, a couple of hits, and some aggressive base running. Somewhat ironically, it was pitcher Travis Wood who was the key to the inning. He led off with a walk, and advanced to third on a hard-hit single by Javier Baez. The aggressive play allowed Baez to advance to second on a throw to third base. This was key, as Anthony Rizzo grounded out to second. It drove Wood home, and Baez went to third on what might have otherwise been a double-play ball (had Wood not have advanced to third). Starlin Castro knocked in Baez with a two-out single.
When games are slow, you find entertainment where you can. Tonight my entertainment came via a text conversation with my sister. With her work schedule, and only access to live Cubs baseball being WGN TV, it was a rare occasion for her or watch the game. Around the fifth inning, I received this text:
"Other than Spangles ads, I don't think any commercial has made me less inclined to try a product than the Lionel Ritchie-invoking Bud Light Lime-a-Rita spot."
It is a truly awful ad, and WGN is terrible about replaying ads, often at each half-inning break. I doubt that it was played as much as the epic 16-inning game of a few weeks ago, but when the Cubs aren't playing well, it is an easy target for vitriol.
Note: Spangles is a Kansas thing. If you've never seen/heard one of their ads, consider yourself #blessed.
Don't You Know How Much I Hate Losing to the Mets?
Travis Wood was done in by the same issue he has struggled with for the majority of the season: command. He left pitches up, which resulted in a high percentage of fly balls. Still, it seemed as though he might be able to pitch around the issue. He escaped the first three innings unscathed despite control issues. Unfortunately, the lack of command led to back-to-back walks to start the 4th inning. One out later, Eric Campbell deposited a ball into the left field seats to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. It was all they would need. Wood's night ended having thrown 5.1 innings, allowing 3 earned runs on only 4 hits. The major issue was 4 walks against 5 strikeouts.
The bullpen did fine, as Everyday Grimmy got out of the sixth with a routine 9-3-2 double play. Rock n' Roll McDonalds Wesley Wright wiggled out of a jam with the help of a routine 7-5 double play, and Pedro Strop pitched a scoreless 9th.
Three Stars of the Game
#3 - Welington Castillo - it was difficult for me to find a Cub for this honor. I suppose you could go with Castro for his 2 hits, RBI, and extending the hit streak to 14 games. However, I'm going to go with Castillo who toughed out a rough game. His hitting line may not look too impressive at 1-for-2 with a BB and HBP, but he displayed about the best approach of anybody on a team that struck out 14 times. He also took a foul ball off the shoulder behind the plate. Sometimes catching is a thankless job.
#2 - Eric Campbell - 1-for-3 with a BB and all three runs batted in for the Mets
#1 - Zack Wheeler - Wheeler threw 6.2 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 4 hits. He struggled with his command as well, but a 95+ mph fastball combined with a pretty solid breaking ball was good enough to strike out 10 Cubs
One nice thing about baseball is that there is usually a game the next day. I'm looking forward to Dan Straily's Cub debut, as he's been pretty impressive the last three time out for Iowa. He will face lefty Jon Niese.
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