Today the Cubs and Braves got to make up the weather-postponed game of April 15, which means wearing the Jackie Robinson 42s, and also makes for an odd home-and-home setup. After today's game, the teams will head to Atlanta for the next three days.
I've got 8 days left before summer vacation starts, and this one started before the job allows me to turn on the game. From now until the end of the school year, I'm going to do a "highlights and low-lights" type of recap. I would just feel disingenuous in trying to report on stuff I didn't get to watch live. Hope you all understand that.
Neither Julio Teheran nor José Quintana set the world on fire today, but Teheran at least put his team in position to win. Quintana struggled with command, walking three, and only throwing 57 strikes among 99 pitches. When he was getting the ball near the plate, he was hit, and hit hard. He gave up three home runs, including a lead-off home run to Ozzie Albies. Those 99 pitches were not enough to get Quintana through the fifth inning, when he not only gave up a three-run homer to José Bautista, but also could not retire Teheran to end the inning. After allowing another hit to Albies, Quintana was done for the day. His ERA now sits at 5.23 on the season.
Particularly infuriating was the fact that backup catcher Tyler Flowers - he of the .518 OPS entering the game - dominated Quintana. Possibly there was some advantage to having been teammates on the south side, but the Cubs could not get him out today. He hit a two-run homer off Quintana in the third inning to give the Braves their second lead, and ended up 2-for-2 on the day with three walks. The two RBIs doubled his season total to four. You can't let that guy be the one to beat you.
The bullpen has been one of the Cubs real strengths this year, and they had to be again, in order to keep the game within reach. Steve Cishek, whose arm may fall off by season's end, had to come in to wrap up the fifth inning. Brian Duensing walked the bases loaded in his inning, but escaped unharmed. Pedro Strop is good, by the way. He allowed ZERO runs for the 16th time in his last 17 outings, going 1-2-3 in the seventh. Good Justin Wilson pitched a scoreless eighth, allowing a walk. I don't typically like to make excuses for poor play based on umpires, but it looked as though Wilson was squeezed on the low part of the zone. That is to say, Wilson wasn't his wild self. Justin Hancock pitched a scoreless ninth, thanks in part to a caught stealing attempt by Charlie Culberson. There was a short scare, as it looked like Javier Báez may have been spiked on the play. However, he was able to stay in and make the final play of the inning.
Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun
The Cubs did actually have the lead in this game early on. Albert Almora Jr. got the Cubs on the board with a two-run shot in the bottom of the second inning. Teheran hung a breaking ball in the middle of the zone, and Albert made him pay with a shot to the left field bleachers. After Quintana gave up the lead in the top of the third inning, Kris Bryant grabbed it right back. Bryant jumped all over a 78mph offering and delivered it to the bleachers to give the Cubs a temporary 4-3 lead. It was short-lived, but hey, it's better to hit two-run dingers than solo shots, right? And early in this one, it looked like there might be more to come.
The Phantom Rally
You knew that it was coming at some point. The Cubs really struggled to string together hits throughout the game, and seemingly grounded out to Albies at second base about 17 times on the day. When they weren't doing that, it was Javy getting robbed on diving stops by whichever random third baseman was in as a defensive replacement for Joey Bats. The Cubs finally put together an attempted rally in the bottom of the 9th.
After Javy's ground out, Victor Caratini singled up the middle. He took second on a passed ball, though Kyle Schwarber walked in the at bat anyway to put runners at first and second. Almora collected his third hit of the game on a broken bat line drive to left field. Caratini wasn't able to score because he had to make sure the tweener line drive wasn't caught, and also because he runs like Victor Caratini. David Bote was given the opportunity to become the latest Cub cult hero, but eventually struck out. Ian Happ was brought in to pinch hit for Tommy La Stella with lefty A.J. Minter on the mound. After starting out 0-2, Minter came too far inside, and hit Happ to bring in a run, and put Kris Bryant at the plate to be the hero.
But of course, the deck was stacked against him. I mean, not really. Minter is nothing special, and Bryant is BAE. I mean, WGN sabotaged him by flashing his stats. Of course, they showed a .472 batting average and OPS of 1.500+ against lefties, so you knew his fate was sealed. Bryant flew out to left field to end the game.
The two teams will fly to Atlanta tonight to play a three-game series. It goes without saying that the Cubs need to get more from their starting pitching. That looks like a dubious task tomorrow, as Yu Darvish will be on the mound. I don't want to disparage the righty, but he's clearly struggled to start his Cubs career (0-3, 6.00 ERA), and he'll be coming off the DL after a bad bout of the flu. He'll face Mike Foltynotgonnaworkhereanymore, whose numbers look alright, though he struggles to pitch into the sixth inning on the regular.
Here's hoping the Cubs realize that they don't have to do the whole "win five-lose five" thing all season.
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