Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda; Reds 13, Cubs 10

One thing I’ve always appreciated about this site is the intelligent discussion we get in the comments.  Readers also tend to have long memories.  I was pleased to get a nice note from 44slug, who also commented about this team not being quite the team of destiny that we’d grown to appreciate over the past two seasons.    I’d like to think that 44 was referencing a recap I wrote a couple years back that mentioned my obsession with the FPS game, Destiny, but I don’t know that I should be quite that vain.  The comment has made me think quite a bit, however, about this team’s identity, which 120 games in is still undefined.  It certainly doesn’t have the feel of a team that is ready to make a long run toward another crown, but more like…ugh…2004, where the team suffered some big injuries and stuck around, only to sit out the playoffs after a disappointing end (that series against the Mets *still* pisses me off.

So we found our favorite team this afternoon, hanging on to a 1.5 game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers.  These are the games they’re *supposed* to win – against a team 20-games below .500 and playing out the string.  Our guy, Jon Lester, was on the mound, so you felt pretty good about picking up a half game on the idle Brewers.

Unfortunately, things fell apart in the second inning.  Apologies in advance, as I was teaching during the first six innings of today’s game.  I snuck an occasional peek at the Gameday feature on the At Bat app, gaping in horror as the inning unfolded.  Then with, at first, tempered optimism as the Cubs came back.  By the time I was able to turn the game on, Justin Grimm was coming in to start the 7th inning.

To the Action

Lester looked good in the first, needing only six pitches to retire the side.  In the Cubs’ half, only Kyle Schwarber was able to reach base, on the first of three hits on the day.  Kris Bryant lined out and Anthony Rizzo flew out to center to leave him stranded.

When you see that a team scores nine runs in an inning, your first thought is “must be blowing out at Wrigley today.”  And although it was, the Reds put together a big inning the old-fashioned way by stringing hits together.  It started with an Adam Duvall pop fly that dropped in front of Ben Zobrist in right field.  Eugenio Suarez followed with a ‘tweener pop fly that Javy Baez couldn’t quite reach.  Scooter Gennett grounded a single through the middle to knock in Duvall, and Phillip Ervin drove in Suarez with a broken bat single.  None of the balls were hit particularly hard, but the Reds led 2-0.  Two straight outs made it feel like Lester might get out of the inning, but a two-out walk loaded the bases for Jose Peraza who, of course, dumped a weak line-drive into center to score two more.  And it only got worse.  Joey Votto parked a 3-run homer into the left field bleachers to make it 7-0.  And then it got worse.  Kris Bryant  booted a ball hit by Duvall, which was immediately followed by a Suarez double.

And it only got worse.  At that point, Jon Lester left the game with what is being called “left lat tightness.”  Bringing in Mike Montgomery did not immediately end the threat, as he walked Gennett, then gave up a double to Ervin.  Kyle Schwarber had his second outfield assist in as many days, as he got the ball to relay man Baez, who threw home to finally end the inning.

Teams of destiny have games like this – in 1989, the eventual division champs played a great game against the Houston Astros, where the Cubs came back after trailing 9-0.  Dwight Smith was the hero, tying the game on a sacrifice fly, then knocking in the winning run.

And for a bit, it looked like the 2017 Cubs might come back and have that definitive win that they are so badly needing.

They started chipping away in the bottom of the second, on Ian Happ’s  16th home run on the season.  The fourth inning would see an outburst of power by the middle of the Cubs’ order.  Kris Bryant led off with a solo homer, and Anthony Rizzo followed with a double to left.  After a Zobrist line-out, Alex Avila hit his third homer as a Cub to bring the Cubs to within five runs.  It was the first of back-to-back-to-back home runs by the Cubs, as Ian Happ hit his second of the game, followed by Javier Baez’s 19th homer of the season.  Trailing 9-6, the Cubs had plenty of time and momentum on their side.

In the fifth inning, the onslaught continued.  Kyle Schwarber led off with his 20th dinger on the year, and Kris Bryant was hit by a pitch.  Rizzo doubled him home, and eventually came around to score on Avila’s game-tying double.  The Cubs looked to be in the driver’s seat, as Mike Montgomery settled in in relief of Lester.  He held the Reds to two hits over his final four innings of work.

The weird series with home plate umpires continued, and was on display in Justin Grimm’s inning of work in the seventh.  He walked the leadoff batter with some questionable calls going against him.  Ervin continued his solid day with a homer to re-take the lead for the Reds, 11-9.  Everybody in the ballpark, including batter Stuart Turner, thought that Grimm had earned a strike out on a 2-2 count – everyone, that is, except for home plate umpire Chris Conroy.  Grimm eventually got the out and escaped further damage, but it was rough.

The Cubs managed to get within one with a sacrifice fly by Ian Happ in the bottom of the inning, but the bullpen coughed it up again.  Justin Wilson’s struggles continued, as he walked the first two batters on eight pitches.  He was replaced by Brian Duensing, who nearly escaped the inning, but Javier Baez was not able to work a miracle double play on Suarez line-drive up the middle.  He managed to snare it and backhand the ball to second for the force, but the turn and throw to first were too late to end the inning.  Hector Rondon gave up another run in the 9th to make the final score of 13-10.

What a freaking draining game (and series).

Three Stars of the Game

#3 - Ian Happ  had a nice game, and boy, did he need it.  After taking the league by storm, he’d hit a plateau, as pitchers adjusted to him.  Hope the two-dinger, 3-RBI game gets him back on track.

#2 - Speaking of guys who needed a big game, Kyle Schwarber has now climbed over the .204 mark with a 3-hit game.  And, as mentioned before, he had another outfield assist.

#1 - Phillip Ervin isn’t going to want to leave Chicago.  He got his first major league home run during the series, and ended it with a 3-hit, 4-RBI performance.

As always, the writing staff will keep everyone posted on the latest Lester news.  The Cubs will host the Blue Jays for a 3-game series starting tomorrow afternoon.


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  • Pathetic that the offense scores 10 and we lose. Just awful.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    There's a glaring omission here. An injured Lester gave up 9 runs in the 2nd inning and the Cubs somehow fought back and made this a game. It's not as if the Cubs scored down and then let it slip away.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    When was he injured? After the first run or 9th run?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Only he would know.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    sounded like nobody knew when he was hurt. I've seen/heard reports that lester got into it with pitching coach?????

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I haven't seen those. I can see there being a verbal confrontation, but I honestly don't know.

  • I do remember Destiny, but not giving up on this year. Anything can happen. Cubs have won a few games this year that feel like game seven, which is to say ' we cannot lose this game' and we didn't lose them. Today was not one of them. We are in first so I'm hopeful.

  • I got nothing but love for this team. They way they fought back was beautiful. Down nine zip.

  • Justin Wilson has a 6.75 ERA with 9 hits and 7 walks in 5 1/3 innings and an atrocious 3.187 WHIP since he was acquired. Either he forgot how to pitch on the plane from Detroit or he likes throwing batting practice which is exactly what he's been doing. The guy has faced 33 batters and 17 of them have reached base either by hit or walk. Pathetic.

  • When you try to mount a great comeback the key is keeping the other team at bay while you chip away which happened until Montgomery left the game. The bullpen threw this one away, just as they threw away the comeback against Arizona 2 weeks ago. Interesting that those 2 series followed the same pattern. Cubs win big in the first followed by a night where they can't buy a hit and the last game saw them get down big early only to come back and tie or take the lead and then the bullpen melted.

  • The manager's uncanny ability to know when to pull the starting pitcher the key to the game again.

  • In reply to granvil:

    That may be a little bit of a low blow. Lester had a six-pitch, 1-2-3 1st inning, and then must have been pitching through some pain to allow all the runs in the second. Lester basically called the trainer out and removed himself from the game.

    I am much more concerned about Lester's lat than this loss. Lat strains have a way of lingerring. Hopefully Jon did the right thing and caught it in time. We cannot lose Lester and hope for the best.

    I was just talking to a friend, and he said Lester must have come out because his pride was hurt for allowing all those runs. We've all seen the player make an errror and then limp around like they are hurt as an excuse. I don't think Jon is wired that way and I hope the medicals due out tomorrow have us all happy.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I loved pulling Monty. Great move. Then to put Grimm in next was genius. On to the blue jays.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I didn't watch the game, just caught bits and pieces on the radio. I was listening when Lester called the trainer out and admitted he couldn't go. That's all I was responding to, the fact that it wasn't Joe pulling a starter too early.

    I have had issues with Maddon's management of the pitching staff in-game, and believe it may be one of his weaker points as an overall manager. I wasn't listening when he pulled Monty. But the second-guessing in hindsight, without credit given when things work, gets old. We can all watch a replay of a game and do a better job of managing it when we know the outcome.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Not second guessing. On a day where it is horrible to pitch Monty had the game in check. He was rolling at that point you go with hot hand. I believe a guy shutting the door is more valuable then a lastella pinch hit. Second guessing is putting Grimm in. That could have worked but let's be real. Just wasn't good moves.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Montgomery had thrown 61 pitches, he could've at least seen a couple more batters; plus, he doubled in his last at bat!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I know, I know. I just get too emotionally involved. I have been watching Cub Managers since I was 10 years old in 1955. The current one is the only one to manage us to a World Series victory.

    Having said that - I stand by my post. The current Cubs manager does not know when to pull a struggling pitcher. (no stats were harmed or looked at in the formation of this opinion.)

  • In reply to granvil:

    That's cool, granvil. All of us fans with decades under our belts have had our share of doubt and disappointment. We are traversing this territory with (snow) angels still dancing in our heads from 2016, and this season ain't 2016.

    Maddon isn't the best manager of a pen, but he also knows things we don't. Who is dinged or under the weather. There is that infamous piece of paper in his back pocket prepared by the "geeks", and some times he may be just flat too cute and over-manage things.

    You are entitled to your opinion, and I'm entitled to mine. I appreciate that you admit to your frustration. I do too, as any passionate fan is want to at times. But I do get tired of the constant bashing by fans without 1/1000th the baseball knowledge of Maddon questioning his moves after the fact and after the results are known. We have a right to bitch, and I do, but I would also like to acknowledge the respect for his achievements.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    See games 6 and 7 of WS in Cleveland. Why Joe why?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Winning the World Series doesn't mean you can be critical of the manager. He makes questionable moves with the bullpen, starters and lineup. You can question many game day moves.

  • I don't understand how wilson went from being one of the better al relievers to awful overnight.He was acquired to be a strength and has been an liability it's mind boggling.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Mind boggling, isn't it?

  • fb_avatar

    If Justin Grimm is the best the cubs have to call up from AAA then this team is in big big trouble. The cubs are already showing that they're not going to take advantage of this week park of the schedule. St.Louis Cardinals=2017 NL central champs. Epstein destroyed the cubs future by making all these stupid trades for mediocre pitchers.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Grimm has had major league success in the past so hard to discount having him up. Best option at AAA is Dillon Maples, but he isn't on the 40 man roster, so we'd have to lose someone through waivers to bring him up.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Listen to Nancy Reagen sir........."Just Say No"!

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Tommy Birch‏Verified account @TommyBirch 1m1 minute ago
    The #Cubs are expected to bring up Rob Zastryzny from Triple-A Iowa today.

  • fb_avatar

    I think we saw the trade for Wilson and Avila as being primarily for Wilson but as it turns out Avila has been the more valuable piece. Is Wilson trying to hard? Idk, but it's not working. He throws hard but can't find the strike zone and we all know that walks hurt. It's not just Wilson though--how many did the Cubs pitchers walk in the last 3 innings? I know at least 6! That simply can't happen. Bring Maples and/or Pierce Johnson up and let's see what they can do.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I know many fans are excited about Maples, and for good reason, but I may have to rain on the parade. The Cubs development plan for arms doesn't like to do a huge jump in workload in a year. I think we will get a look at Dylan in September, but I don't see him pitching much more. His innings are up, and I think management will be cautious with his usage. Sorry to be Debbie Downer.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Another downer this group has not developed 1 quality arm.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I've been saying the same thing for a while now.

    It is really a weak spot (developing great arms from the draft thru the minor league system) that this organization has had for the last few years.

    It will be our achilles heal going forward if we don't start to get lucky and see some real arms develop in the minor leagues.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Hendricks developed under this "group". He was not a highly touted prospect. And that Arrieta fella turned out alright after having no discernible development in Baltimore. I'd suggest those two are "quality", though I suppose it's debatable since there's only one Cy Young win and a measly 3rd place between them.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    Hendricks, Arrieta, Edwards.
    Cease traded for Quintana, who is arguably a top 10 SP in baseball. The Cubs already won 1 World Series, and they have 5 or 6 guys in the minors who could feasibly develop into top-of-rotation pitchers by the time the current core hits FA.

    The whole, "this FO has not developed stud arms and it's a problem," argument is a bit early, I think. They've been here 5 years and they've developed a couple stud arms, and a TON of successful bats. Most rebuilds either don't work at all, or take much longer than 4 or 5 years.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I think posters are talking about players drafted and developed

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Sure but Edwards and Hendricks were A ball players when the Cubs acquired them.
    And the Cubs do have at least 5 guys who could be very good SP.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Those are all guys we acquired from OUTSIDE the organization.

    I don't count them as "developed" INSIDE our system from draft day until they hit the majors.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    I don't consider Kyle and Carl developed by this group. They have remained who they are from the rangers to the cubs. I am talking about pitchers we have drafted and developed to the big leagues. Maybe the next 2 years we will see that?

  • Is there more going on with Addi then we know about??? I curious if his "foot injury " is a cover up for a investigation or legal troubles?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    LMAO! Seriously.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Seriously. I don't LMAO at people with personal struggles.

    Russell is dealing with a lingering foot injury, and he is dealing with some self-inflicted personal issues. I think "cover-up" is a little harsh, but it is no secret the Cubs organization is doing everything they can to help him through these trying times, and that is a huge credit to the Cubs. We should all just hope for a solid return to baseball for Mr. Russell. Baseball players are not robots. They have flaws just as we do. Again, I believe he has one of the best support systems available, and that is great for him and us.

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    What are you saying? You sound like you have 100% proof that Russell is in rehab? You are way off base here. You are making things up here. You have no clue what he is dealing with! WOW!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I wasn't using cover up to be harsh. I was wondering if there is something else going on that we don't know about. If it is something else then that issue is bigger then playing the game of baseball.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Nothing else besides his injury is keeping him from playing

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    This is reckless. All of your "reporting" on Russell's personal problems have been reckless. What Russell is going through is between him, his wife, and the team. Stop this personal crusade to raise light on his personal life.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    Seems kinda harsh. Bad day, today?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Do you know how much trouble the Cubs would be in for having a player fake an injury to cover up an investigation? Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    Never said Addi was faking an injury. I am sure his foot hurts but was wondering if there is more to the story. You know how ridiculous it sounds for a writer(you) to misquote or put words into someones mouth?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    You put foot injury in quotes. Which is a clear indication that you are suggesting that's not the reason he's out. Jared's response was fair, and now you're lashing out like a child. Chill man.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    Stubbs....We don't get along so I don't get why you keep stirring the pot with me. I didn't call anyone names. I admit I was sarcastic in my reply but I didn't call names like you did. I Put foot in quotes because that is the injury he has. You can't guess the tone of my question. If you are not sure then ask or say nothing. I was being serious about Addi situation and several people answered it honestly and I thanked them.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Is "acting like a child" calling someone a name? I thought I was describing your actions, not your name.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    Don't believe it said acting like a child. Anyways move on to blue jays series.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    And I've personally seen Russell in the clubhouse and going to work on recovering before games. I tried speaking to him once, and he was on his way to the gym. He's working hard on returning; he's not hiding out somewhere to deal with off-the-field issues.

    And, for what it's worth, I hurt my foot in March 2016, and it took a couple of months for it to feel normal again, and that was just for me to go through day-to-day life, not play baseball.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    Thanks. I was truly wanting to know if something else was up. It has just been quiet and then the other day they added that there isn't a timetable for his return.

  • Adam Warren, Justin Wilson. Some guys don't thrive here. It's hard to understand.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    Jake Arrieta. Dexter Fowler. Mark Bellhorn. It is hard to understand.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Arrieta - better approach from pitching coach. Fowler - they played him deeper and the defensive numbers improved. How a pitcher turns completely ineffective is harder to understand.

  • I have to give props to mlb and their players they stay out of the political arena. Because i am so sick of the nfl & nba always giving me politics. If i want that i will seek it out.

    Sorry NBA & NFL you have lost another life long fan. Oh well my wife will be happier. Less sports on the tv.

    Sorry for the rant but enough.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Thank you for that rant. I did not watch one snap or free throw last year, and won't be watching this one. I don't even need espn now. Players can take a knee on someone else's dime.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    How about you leaving politics off this site too?

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Agree, the NFL and NBA are jpolitical forums, we do baseball here. SORRY!

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Agree. That was an important pillar of what John valued about the comments section of this site. Let's all be sure to respect that.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    Pretty hard to avoid totally as sports and political intertwine occasionally.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    I was talking about the sport i love. I dont talk politics on this sight or anywhere else. I was stating that mlb should continue to keep politics out of their sport. The other major sports organizations havent figured that out yet.

    I have nothing else to say about it.

  • I love our coaching staff, but the 2nd inning handling of Lester was baffling. 40 plus pitches and a less than normal velocity and no one went to say "how are you feeling?" We may well not see him for a while.

  • Check out this hefty lefty's 2nd half numbers:

    29 games, 83 PA
    .277/.381/.578 with 7 HR
    .402 wOBA, 147 wRC+
    12.4% BB, 38.1% K

    Hopefully the Ks come down, but otherwise... wow. Great hitter in the middle of a lineup.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    And some super utility IF now manning SS who causes a lot of angst to some is sitting at:

    .300/.340/.620 with a wOBA of .385 and a wRC+ of 137 in the 2nd half.

    Not too bad.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Both are up to basically league average wRC+ (99 for Schwarber, 98 for Baez). Baez is 108 for the last 90 games now.

  • so any news on lester/bosio confrontation??

  • OK, watching on gamecast at work again. What happened on the play where Almora singled. Did they throw behind him then Javy took off for home or what?

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Yes Almora got caught trying to advance as the throw got cut off, and then was in a run down trying to allow Javy to score.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Thanks, I am getting pretty darn good at reading Gamecast Plays language. Does that mean I am bilingual?

  • Please, please don't compare this team to the 2004 Cubs! I still like these guys. By the end of 2004, I was fed up with that team. Constantly whining--whining about the umpires, whining about the broadcasters. For the first time in my life, I really didn't care if that team made the playoffs or not. The players had gotten so annoying, it felt like they didn't deserve it. The current team is nothing like that. This team just looks like last year's run took such a toll on them that they can't compete at the same level.

  • In reply to nccubfan:

    I should have said, "for the *only* time in my life"

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