A Cursed Wind: Yankees 3, Cubs 2

On this kind of windy, cold afternoon at Wrigley, it's hard to predict what the respective offenses will do. All of today's runs came on long balls, some of them sweet and one of them casting a pall over the afternoon.

Kyle Hendricks ran into almost immediate trouble, looking as though he might fall victim to giving up first-inning runs as the Cubs starters have been so prone to do. After getting Brett Gardner to line out to right field, Hendricks surrendered a double to Aaron Hicks and then grazed Gary Sanchez with his first pitch. That quickly, the Yankees were threatening to score early and put the Cubs in an all-too-familiar hole, but old friend Starlin Castro lined out very hard to right; in fact, hard enough that Heyward was able to catch Hicks lingering off of second base for a double play.

In the bottom frame, Kyle Schwarber led off with a groundout, and then Kris Bryant hit Michael Pineda's 1-1 pitch to right center, and instead it was the Cubs with the first-inning lead.

No more scoring occured until the 6th, when Schwarber hit Pineda's first pitch slider for a solo home run. This extra run was especially nice to see after the Cubs worked out of a jam in the top of the 6th, Hendricks' last inning. Hendricks got Sanchez out, but then a string of singles drove him from the game. Brian Duensing took his place and promptly gave up a single to Didi Gregorius to load the bases with just one out.

But somehow again a lineout to Heyward in right produced a double play, though this one was a little more strange. Castro, standing on third, had taken perhaps two too many steps off of the bag, and when Heyward caught Chase Headley's liner, he had too much ground to make up to try and tag up to score. He attempted, but Heyward's throw was right on line, and a collision between Castro and Willson Contreras at the plate left the catcher slightly rattled but Castro out.

Things looked downright simple for the Cubs going into the 9th, but even the wins haven't been that way for them this season, and Hector Rondon's failed attempt to close in Wade Davis' place altered the course of the game. Rondon got Gregorius to ground out but allowed a single to Headley, setting the table for what was to come next. Headley advanced to second on a wild pitch during Chris Carter's at bat, but Carter struck out, leaving New York with just one out left. Pinch-hitter Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk, and then after working Brett Gardner to a 2-2 count, Rondon tried to sneak a slider past him. Ellsbury tagged it, and at first it looked as though it would be a lazy flyout to right to end the game and secure the win, but instead the wind just kept carrying it, and like that, it's 3-2 Yankees.

Addison Russell started the bottom of the 9th by reaching second on Headley's error, setting up the chance to tie, but none of Heyward, Contreras, nor Javy Baez could drive him in.

Get 'em tomorrow, Cubs.


Source: FanGraphs

Old friends return

There are a lot of Cubs connections on the New York squad, from Castro to last year's second-half closer Aroldis Chapman, and of course Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild.

I wrote today elsewhere about what Castro has always meant to me, especially since departing. Here's a snippet:

In the years that followed, Castro gave Cubs fans reason to watch in the leanness of losing seasons that can only dull enthusiasm even among the most fervent of fanbases. Any look back at the Cubs lineups of 2010-2013 or so is a mostly frightening venture, but there was always Starlin. He never seized a leadership role like Anthony Rizzo did when he came from San Diego, and his final season in a Cubs uniform was clunky and ill-fitting, forced to move to second base to make room for Addison Russell, but he did it with some degree of grace and then eventually returned to the lineup for a torrid September that helped lead the Cubs to the second wild card spot. The memory of his month at the plate might be buried in Jake Arrieta’s Cy Young run, but it was an apt regular-season finish to his tenure in Chicago.

Chapman holds a different place in the hearts of Cubs fans, and I'll choose to remember him---on the field, at least---for gutting through the 9th inning of Game 7 last fall to give the Cubs another chance.

Both Castro and Chapman have complicated and troubling personal histories, but their time between the lines for the Cubs was mostly good.

Hector Rondon tries to close it out

It was not a pretty inning at all, but Hector Rondon took on a familiar role this afternoon and was assigned the 9th. Even while gritting my teeth waiting for that last out, I was at first happy to see Wade Davis get the chance to take a day off. Yesterday's 13-inning affair almost totally sapped the bullpen, so the Cubs really needed Rondon to polish off the Yankees in the 9th.

He could not come through, however, and that left the Cubs to try and force their old teammate Chapman to blow the save, only to come up short.

This should not mean we give up on Rondon in key innings, however. He has looked much more like his former self this season, sporting a 1.59 ERA and a 0.882 WHIP, and today was the kind of aberration that happens even to the best of them.

Worry not about Schwarber

Kyle's slow start to the 2017 season has engendered some worry, but I think it is worth remembering the small number of at bats he has had in the regular season in his career. There are growing pains and adjustments taking place as he plays his first real full season in the majors.

After a long cold stretch that put him far below the Mendoza line, Schwarber has two home runs in his last four games. He has not gotten a hit otherwise, so there's still work to do. I'd recommend reading Nicolas Stellini on what he thinks needs to happen for Kyle to get back on track.

My only real concern with Schwarber is that he is playing far more than I thought he would, and I wonder at the possibility that some degree of fatigue might be a factor. This is pure speculation, however.

Random Reference

Three Stars of Game
Third Star- Kyle Hendricks (5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 5 K)

He was not flawless, giving up 6 hits, but Hendricks kept the Yankees hitters from plating any runs. A shame his start was later spoiled.

Second Star- Kris Bryant (1 for 3, HR, BB)

Schwarber deserves some mention too, but remember when Bryant started the season 0 for 14? Yea, nobody remembers that anymore.

First Star- Brett Gardner (1 for 4, HR, 3 RBI)

That home run, however wind-aided it might have been, can't be ignored.

Comments

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  • Oh well. Hard to feel down as the Cubs played well and I expect if Davis had pitched the Cubs win that game. And I actually thought the homerun pitch to Garner was a good pitch. Maybe not? I'd be tempted to give Heyward a star. He had an amazing catch and threw a runner out at home.

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    There's a big reason Rondon is not the closer.

  • In reply to Dave Cookfair:

    And he's not. Ordinarily he would not be pitching in that spot, but Davis needed to work yesterday, so he was not available today. Easy thing to criticize in hindsight.

  • In reply to Dave Cookfair:

    I have been a cub fan since 1939 and have seen the good with the bad (mostly bad). This is kind of an example of why the Yankees have been so successful and the cubs have not. Yes it is early and I expect the cubs to bounce back but this is so like what I have seen over the years.

  • Who wears the goat horns? Rondon for too many fastballs in a row to a had hitting veteran, or Contreras for calling too many fastballs in a row? BTW on Gameday it looked like a pretty good pitch. Still ….

  • In reply to RiJo:

    Or the umpire for not calling the low strike. Or the wind

  • In reply to RiJo:

    Gardner hit a slider, BTW

  • The 10-2 loss to the Phillies didn't bother me. It was just that... a loss. Oh, well. We didn't deserve to win that game.

    This one hurts.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Would've much rather lost 14-0 than this.

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    It was looking like we were a good Brett Anderson start away from putting a sweep on the Bombers. Now its quite possible, Lester will be pitching Sunday night for us to avoid getting swept.

    Boy, perception can change so darn quick.

    Why the hell did Rondon throw a cement mixer down and in to a dead low ball hitter like Gardner? Damn ump did squeeze him on Ellsbury though, but still no excuse for not attacking the light hitting potential tying run vs putting it on 1st base.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    John posted a graph on twitter from Brooks Baseball. Gardner slugging a career .111% with pitches in the zone where Rondon threw him. It's baseball.

  • This was the first time this year that the joy of 2016 hasn't mitigated the incredible frustration. Blowing games like this, against superior teams that you are lucky enough (tons of luck in this game) to have on the ropes, is incredibly demoralizing. I'll be shocked if Anderson keeps them under 7 runs tomorrow.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    I've come to expect, and even enjoy, your self-professed eternal pessimism as a Cubs fan. To each their own, and I respect that. But calling the Yankees a superior team is Just rubbing salt in a wound, whether that's your own or others. No way are the 2017 Yankees a superior team to the 2017 Cubs. Not even close.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Feels that way, what with our SP woes and their ridiculous offensive prowess to date. I get the sample size is small, but we haven't played anyone other than Boston and LA, and they're taking care of a tough AL East.

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    It was a situation where you most likely have a win if you use your regular closer or you hope you get it with Rondon, your choice is a win today or saving him for tomorrow where likely the Yankees will light up Andersen, my daddy always mentioned something about a bird in the hand,etc.,don't worry about tomorrow.

  • In reply to tater:

    I agree. I just don't understand why Joe would waste him on a 8-2 game on Tuesday and then in a game like today it shows up as a bad move. Besides how can a closer not pitch 4 days in a row. Or use Edwards.

  • Maybe superior is a strong word but the Yankees are playing better baseball right now and came into series scoring a ton of runs.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Against better competition.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    That's a fair point, and the Yankees are a good team. Many fans will piss and moan after a tough loss, but Stubbs' level of genuine pessimism is honest and refreshing. He has his apocalyptic comments down to an art form, and often makes me laugh and attempt to ruin his day by pointing out something positive. The "superior teams" jab was no accident, and I just wanted to let him know I caught it.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Touché good sir. Touché.

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    I was so bummed after Gardner hit that HR. It reminded me of Game 7 of the WS and Rajai Davis except that let's say he hit a go ahead HR. After all that beautiful pitching we couldn't close it out. Again, it showed me how close we were to losing game 7. I'm still bummed while writing this. Then we had Russell on 2nd, no outs, and couldn't do a thing--now Chapman throws spliters. I am not down on him but it shows again how close the line is between winning and losing is. We'll just have to win the next two.

  • To me this loss stems from Tuesday's 8-3 win where joe for whatever reason decided to use CJ rondon then Davis against a bad philly team with a nice lead. I felt our bullpen had been getting overworked and that was a perfect time to utilize your other relievers like strop as this cub team hasn't won many games by 5+ runs like that one. I wasn't pleased at the time because you never know if you end up playing tight games the rest of the week so why not get wade Davis an extra day off now that the team finally had a sizable lead? So what happens we end up needing Davis the next 2 days and now he's not available against a hot Yankee offense. This organization owes a lot to joe and the environment he created for these young players to succeed in but he's not very good at managing his pitching changes. Pulls his starters quicker then any manager I know of as well

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    "Reiben, now pay attention. THIS is the way to gripe. Continue, Jackson."

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Yes! Thank you! Exactly right!

    This is crazy (because he did the impossible and managed us to a WS championship and therefore should, on that basis alone, be forever revered and worshiped) but i am starting to develop very harsh views about Maddon"s handling of the pitching staff. Shame on me, I'm starting to dislike the guy.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Great call out. This is true. Joe would say he brought Davis in "to win THAT game" taking a one day at a time approach. Well, you can't use that as an excuse when you make a pitcher unavailable a couple of days later. Do we have a closer to get outs with a 5 run lead or a 1-2 run lead?

    Bad job by Joe. This reminds me of Joe extending Chapman in the WS. Complete mismanagement of the pen. Great leader and absolutely the right guy for the Cubs, but sometimes he out thinks himself.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    I am glad I am finally not the only one in the room who feels like this now. By all accounts and a cumulative skills, he's a top 5 manager in the game, but his in game management can make almost no sense at times. I know I KEEP saying this, but it comes down to Maddon feeling like he's always the smartest baseball man in the room along w trying to reinvent a game that has been played for 100+ years. Pretty much anything anyone can think of has been tried to some degree throughout time.

    We need Anderson and the offense to step up big tonight, because I would hate to be looking to avoid the sweep on Sunday night Baseball.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I expect Joe to continue to pull his starters early, since he is saving bullets for October, plus he has one of MLB's best pens. He has stated along the lines "I'd rather end the regular season with 170-inning starters than 200+ inning starters", a strategy with which I fully concur.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    Plus, Joe delegates far more than any other manager I have observed (watch spring training, read "Cubs Way"). I wouldn't be surprised to ultimately learn that last night was primarily Bosio's call, but we'll probably never know, since Joe would be the last person to throw a player or coach under the bus.

  • Guess my even bigger gripe is Hayward not bunting Russell to 3rd. Never was a chance he was going to hit the ball off Chapman. He made some nice plays in the outfield but he is wending his way back towards .230 which is where I told you he would end up. Keep him in the lineup for his defense but don't think he is going to be a guy for the 5 or 6 hole.

  • In reply to veteran:

    Maddon was asked this exact question in his press conference after the game. He laughed and asked if anyone in the room had ever tried bunting a 100 MPH fastball, especially left vs. left. Heyward would surely have a hard time bunting, but harder than swinging?

    Joe is known for making jokes and getting a hearty laugh out of the room full of reporters, but his response drew barely a couple chuckles. Joe continued to laugh by himself, either from amusement of a reporter asking such a stupid question, or as a defense mechanism after possibly second-guessing himself, IMO. Maybe I misread the whole thing, but it seemed a strange moment that stood out to me.

  • It was an excellent ballgame. Got beat.

  • Maddon did a remarkable job guiding a young talented team to our first Wold Series in a century. The way in handled Chapman and staff has shook our confidence in him. The question now isn't whether we could have won without Joe in 2016, but if we can win with him going forward.

  • This loss was rooted in several previous games. The loss on Monday against the Phils, a game that could have been quite different had they not started the game in a torrential downpour to get it in, Anderson goes 1 and a 1/3 and basically the bullpen has to pick up the rest. True, the Cubs didn't want to play a split DH, but playing this game the way it turned out did them no favors. The next night, the Cubs win but since they used most of their blowout guys the night before, they end up using their primary guys to close out an 8-3 win. It's also frustrating that the Cubs #1 starter can't get into the 7th inning without getting to 100 pitches. Lester threw 106 through 5. The next night, the Cubs #2 starter throws 6 and is spared a loss when the offense scores 4 to give them a 5-3 lead which turns the game over to the primary BP guys to save it. On Thursday, we have a Cubs starter going 5 innings again, actually Lackey pitched to 2 in the 6th but didn't get anyone out and pitched to a 1.8 WHIP which means he was constantly in trouble through his start. The game ends up going 13 innings and the Cubs have to use everyone to win it. The culprit in this game isn't the bullpen and the starter though. With the sequencing, the Cubs managed to only give up 4 runs on 15 hits with 2 HRs which both were solo shots - hard to believe. There were guys on base in 10 of the 13 innings. The Cubs on the other hand had guys on base in 9 of the 13 innings. 2 of their runners were picked off base and both were picked off before a run scoring play (1st Inning, Jay picked before Bryant singled and Russell doubled him in) or potential run scoring play (9th inning, Zobrist picked off 2nd right before Bryant singles to left). I say potential because I'm not sure Zobrist scores on that hit, maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. The Cubs get 13 hits but go 1-14 with runners in scoring position and leave 11 on base. So they go from a terribly in-efficient game on Thursday to a real efficient game Friday - 2 runs on 4 hits but go 0-5 with runners in scoring position. This week all combines together that they lose on Friday because they can't use their closer and put in their 8th inning guy who blows the save by serving up a 3 run bomb. This is a team game. The starters need to start pitching more effectively and start pitching 6 innings at least. The hitters need to start hitting more effectively in run scoring situations. The runners need to stop getting picked off bases. 3 times in a week which was unheard of last year. What this shows in how last year, with everything working together, the team rolled through these games. Their SPs were pitching into the 7th, they got the timely hits, they were smart on the bases and they scored a lot of runs. This year, the SPs aren't pitching deep, the clutch hit isn't there as consistently as it was last year and the BP is being used more as they are giving up more runs and playing tighter games. Yesterday's loss was a chain reaction. It started with that stupid Sunday night game where they get in at 5am, was compounded by starting Monday's game in a monsoon and continued with in-efficient SP the rest of the week and timely, but not as timely hits from the offense. The offense has to take the lead but it also has to come from the SP as well. They need to get comfortable leads, pitch to contact and start going deeper. Lastly, they have got to stop hitting into double plays. It is ridiculous how far ahead of last year's pace they are in this statistic at this point.

  • I was only able to watch the first 6 innings and was able to see and appreciate the nice ovation for Starlin Castro.

    Did Chapman get a nice hand in the 9th? I'm in the camp that says we don't win the 2016 World Series without Chapman. And we sure don't get past the Giants if Chapman and been in their bullpen.

  • Good points, joparks. The bullpen has been great so far but they're used and abused right now. I know it's not popular to defend Joe Maddon today, but when Davis was brought in Tuesday, he had only pitched once in previous 6 games. Chances of needing him 3 games in a row after that are slim. But that's exactly what happened.

    Wade was on the DL twice last year with forearm pain. I don't want to see him pitching 4 days in a row, and I'm sure the Cubs brass feels the ssme way. Hector Rondon saved 77 games for the Cubs in 2 1/2 years. He is always thought of as our 2nd closer if something happens to Davis or last year Chapman. Joe made it clear before the game Davis wasn't available. Rondon came in with a 2 run lead and didn't get it done. It was a great at-bat by Gardner, but the previous walk was what did us in.

    This does not let Joe off the hook for his WS mistakes, but I'm not putting this loss on him. Going forward I do think we'll add Carl jr. getting more save opportunities, but he also he also has been used too much lately. Like joparks said above, the starting pitchers are just not getting it done.

  • For Christmas, My son-in-law gave me a framed plaque that includes a team picture of the 2016 WS champion Chicago Cubs. Every time I look at the picture, the manager looks almost exactly like the much maligned Joe Maddon .

    Not Dale, Lou, Dusty, Don Baylor, Zimmer, Lee Elia, Herman Franks, Leo, ....

    So, yeah, I'm in Joe's corner!

  • "I'm not a knee-jerk kind of guy." -Joe Maddon
    He plays the long game. Which is why he's one of the best managers in baseball history.

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