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Starting Now--Pirates 4 Cubs 3

Starting Now--Pirates 4 Cubs 3

We've been waiting for the Cubs to start playing like the team expected consistently. Last night the Cubs rallied for 6 runs in the ninth inning to perhaps help turn the tide of the season. The Cubs have had more than one of these supposed turning points, but haven't managed to stay above .500 consistently this season. Tonight left the Cubs waiting for that elusive turning point for at least another game.

Anthony Rizzo hit a two strike single to start the game on base yet again. Ian Happ rolled into a double pay in the next at bat. Ivan Nova struck out Kris Bryant to end the inning. Adam Frazier hit a ball right back to Jake Arrieta to start the Pirates half. Arrieta dropped the ball and then stumbled allowing Frazier to reach base. Francisco Cervelli had a productive out moving Frazier to second, but Gregory Polanco launched a 2 run shot to give the Pirates an early lead. Arrieta and Nova traded zeroes for 3 innings after the first.

Nova retired Jason Heyward and Javier Baez to start the fifth inning, but Nova issued a rare walk to Kyle Schwarber. Jake Arrieta smashed a two run blast to tie the game. Rizzo couldn't keep the line moving with a ground out to end the frame, but it was now a 2-2 ball game. Arrieta got a ground ball down the third base line from Jordy Mercer. The ball ticked off of Bryant's glove into foul territory. That allowed Mercer to reach second to start the fifth inning. Mercer advanced to third on a wild pitch from Arrieta, but Arrieta recovered to strike out Nova at the plate. Frazier was able to punch it through the drawn in infield to give the Pirates the lead again. Frazier advanced on a very wild pitch from Arrieta. The ball flew behind Cervelli at the plate. Cervelli grounded out back to the pitcher. Maddon called for the intentional walk to the hot hitting Polanco. Arrieta hit David Freese in the next plate appearance to load the bases. That would be it for Arrieta who failed to make it through five yet again. Brian Duensing switched Josh Bell around. Bell made solid contact, but Happ made a diving catch to save at least a pair of runs.

Nova pitched a clean sixth. The Pirates extended the lead as Andrew McCutchen pounced on the first pitch from Justin Grimm. McCutchen launched a solo shot to give the Pirates a 4-2 lead. Grimm would retire the next three batters. Addison Russell returned the favor in the top of the seventh. Russell's home run made it a 4-3 game. Jason Heyward singled and was sacrificed to second by Baez. Kyle Schwarber hit a ground ball to advance Heyward to third base. Jon Jay was the pinch hitter against Nova. Jay was ahead in the count 3-0, but Nova threw three straight strikes to retire Jay.

Carl Edwards Jr. pitched a scoreless eighth inning. The Cubs got a one out double from Ian Happ followed by a Kris Bryant walk. Albert Almora smoked a ball coming off the bench facing new reliever Felipe Rivero, but right at Polanco for the second out. Addison Russell grounded out to end the threat. Pedro Strop worked around a one out ground rule double by Josh Bell to keep the Pirates to a 4-3 lead. Rivero went back out there for ninth inning. Heyward stung the firt pitch but Rivero reached out to grab it for the first out. Rivero struck out Baez, and Contreras hit a grounder right back to Rivero to end the game. The Cubs will have to wait at least another night before starting now.

WPA CHART

Source: FanGraphs

Rickey Rizzo
Rickey Rizzo reached base another couple of times tonight. He lead off the game reaching base for the fourth straight game. He didn't come close to another home run, but Rizzo has been on a tear even prior to the lineup shakeup. Heading into tonight's game Rizzo was slashing .372/.500/.698 since June 4. The extra couple of hits should raise those numbers slightly more as at least one Cubs hitter remains hot.

Another Short Jake Day
Arrieta was going to be the story of the game. He was hit hard by Polanco twice, but really was a victim of sequencing as well with his error leading to an extra run. Arrieta found a groove after the Polanco blast and managed to pitch 3.2 scoreless innings. In the top of the fifth inning he sparked the Cubs offense with a two out home run. He then went back out there and just lost his feeling for pitches again. He spiked a wild pitch, and then lost the grip on a breaking ball as it flew behind Cervelli. The Freese hit by pitch ended his night early again. It will be interesting to hear if the finger was bothering Arrieta again in those middle innings because he was cruising up until that point.

#Bullpenisgood
The bullpen has been one of the bright spots for the Cubs all season. There have been a few momentary blips from each reliever, but as a unit it has been one of the few strengths of the 2017 Cubs. Today it was more of the same solid work. Justin Grimm hung a curveball to Andrew McCutchen for the only blemish from the Cubs relievers. They were helped by some nice defensive plays in the outfield. Happ's diving catch saved a couple of runs. An inning later Jason Heyward would make an even more impressive catch sliding towards the wall in foul right field. Carl Edwards Jr. also got a pretty double play from the Cubs middle infield duo of Baez and Russell. It is perhaps a small silver lining given the play overall, but it is there.

Random Reference
The Cubs stubbed their toe again in falling below .500 once again. Here is to hoping John Lackey can say now for real tomorrow.

Three Stars of Game
Third Star-Felipe Rivero (1.2 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K)
Rivero's strike out of Jon Jay was a key point in the game preventing another late inning collapse for the Pirates

Second Star-Gregory Polanco (2-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI)
Polanco had gone weeks since his last extra base hit. He nearly had two home runs in his first two at bats. He had to settle for a double high off the 21 foot wall in right in his second at bat. As it was Polanco had his fifth to get the Pirates on the board.

First Star-Ivan Nova (7 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 6 K)
Nova worked quickly and efficiently most of the night. The Cubs got two home runs off the Pirates most consistent starter, and that was it. Nova made a key pitch to end the seventh inning with a lead. That was an important strike out given the Pirates bullpen woes.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

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  • Arrieta says that his finger is fine, & that excessive sweating was reason for his loss of command in the 5th. He stated that rosin & dirt did not help keep his grip from slipping. This sounds like BS to me bc Lester sweats more than any human I've seen, but I don't think he's encountered this problem. I initially thought that his thumb might have reopened after he hit his HR. I would bet that he makes a DL trip once Hendricks returns

  • The Cubs are a tough team to watch and it’s tough because we are less than a year removed from when everything went right. There are so many things that seemingly short circuit any chance they have to secure momentum during a game or from game to game. I think anybody would argue that with this talent, they can't be a 33-34 team, but they are. We keep waiting for them to snap out of this haze but it seems that for every step they take forward, they take a step back and it's a variety of reasons why. Mike brought up the sequencing point and it comes on both the offensive and defensive side. There were some great plays made by the Cubs tonight but there were also a few they didn't make. This year, the mistakes that they make have bitten them and that seems to be consistent. Arrieta fails to field a comebacker and when he later served up a bomb in the inning, it was a 2 run shot instead of a solo shot. In the 5th, a shot down the line goes off of Bryant's glove for a double. The next batter tries to bunt but the runner advances anyway because of a wild pitch. Then with 1 out and a man on 3rd, the infield plays in and the hitter gets a hit in a place where it would have gone to Baez had he been playing normal depth. These might not seem like much but when the same sequencing bug goes against your offense from time to time combined with the team's terrible average with RISP a could be 3-2 win becomes a 4-3 loss. There have been far too many games this year that have followed this pattern and for an inconsistent team, this isn’t something that you want to be consistent in doing.

  • The lineup no matter how it's configured is not producing consistently. It's not the lack of a consistent leadoff hitter that is the problem. It's the lack of production after that spot that kills this team. Bryant has 15 homers and just 28 RBI, yet the spot he hits in the order normally has the highest AVE, SLG and OPS and 2nd highest OBP for the team. In contrast, Heyward has 6 HR and 29 RBI and he has taken most of his at bats hitting 6th. The 4th spot in the order has been abysmal - worst in average, 8th in OBP, 7th in SLG and OPS. Because it's been so bad, it hasn't offered any protection to the 3rd spot which is 5th in AVE, 4th in SLG. The 4 and 5 spots on this team have been the worst in OBP, SLG and OPS not counting the 8th spot where the pitchers usually bat. The hitters that are usually in those spots - Zobrist 4th and Russell 5th and both so far have had rather disappointing seasons. One thing that Maddon hasn't done yet this season is hit Schwarber 4th or 5th. This might be the next solution here. Unfortunately, if that doesn't work, the way this roster is constructed, there isn't an internal solution to this problem other than guys figuring out their problems and honestly, that sucks as a plan.

  • I keep waiting for the Cubs to go on a tear. When you have a night like Friday, when they turn it around in the ninth, I think there it is, that's this team, they're going to get going. Then there's a game like this where maybe it's not a total letdown, but it's missing the magic.

    I think this team is still missing it's identity, it's magic. This is still an incredibly talented team. I cannot believe they were playing *that* high above their norm last season. If this team plays even slightly more consistently, they easily win the division. The Brewers, while not bad, aren't great, are barely even good. Cards, Reds and Pirates are not good and I don't feel they have the talent to rise to the top.

    My biggest concern going into this season was starting pitching, and that remains my biggest concern today. If they get that figured out and get heathy (in time), Cubs will still run away with this division.

    There won't be any sitting back and enjoying the ride like last season, but I still believe there is magic on this team. The time to be cute and experimental is over. Put your best 9 guys in every dah and let them loose.

  • In reply to Mom2futurecubs:

    I agree with what you are saying but what 8 is the best line up???

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    That's the million dollar question right? Right now, I'd go Rizzo, Schwarber, Bryant, Heyward, Zo/Baez (2nd platoon), Catcher, Russell, Almora/Jay (center platoon), pitcher. There's not a great leadoff hitter on the team, so I'd go Rizzo until that runs out, then Almora/Jay.

  • In reply to Mom2futurecubs:

    I don't see the starting pitching to magically getting back to where they were last year

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Not a chance. Hendricks had a career season and was going to regress, but I think when healthy, he'll still be very good. Lester was, and still is, excellent and very reliable. Lackey seems to have lost it, he'll likely have a good game here and there, but I don't trust him. Arrieta's problems have been well documented. I'm not sure who the fifth starter really is. My opinion: they need to acquire at least a number 3 starter to be competitive through the rest of the season. If they have the resources without completely selling the farm, a 3+ and a 4/5.

  • I fully expect this Cubs team to remain a .500 team until the trade deadline. I just don't see how they can collectively turn it around before the trade deadline. They have too many glaring weaknesses, but luckily I think Theo makes a trade for a SP and another couple smaller options. I believe the Cubs can't turn this thing around until they make some solid additions.

  • I'm wondering why Almora pinch hit for Montero when Contreras was going to replace Montero defensively? Almora put some good contact on his pitch, it just went straight to the defender; but why not have Contreras bat in that situation? Let alone why not have him start the game in the first place? It goes back to a consistent theme this year of a player (Contreras in this instance) playing a great game, and then sitting out the next game; it's kinda hard for the players to develop any continuity. By trying to mix in 12 - 13 position players, instead of playing favorites; no one is really able to establish a rythom.......

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    Last night Smoltz had a chart that showed since 2015 the pitchers who through the most pitches 3 of the 5 were Cubs. Are we then surprised that they haven't pitched as well. 2 of them were Lackey and Lester (Hendricks was the other).
    I can't explain the hitting and defense though. We know that Rizzo is a better hitter, Zo is better and even though Schwarber has a relatively SSS he doesn't seem to be a .167 hitter.
    I thought that the defense would be pretty much as good--better in CF and with Javy playing more better at 2nd. Maybe it's just not paying 100% attention, but I've seen bobbles or trying to 1 hand it or rushing the throw, etc.
    Maybe it's chemistry, missing Dexter and Rossy. I don't know but they have about 90 games to figure it out. There is too much talent to be like this all season.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I believe it was Arrieta not Hendricks that was the other one. But, i agree with Your comment.

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