After a euphoric extra inning victory on Monday night, the Cubs bats disappeared on Tuesday. Mike Montgomery took the mound today to continue prove that he belongs in the starting rotation regardless as to when the rehabbing Yu Darvish returns. He faced Jhoulys Chacín, who was about the only person Milwaukee signed to address their lack of starting pitching while stockpiling outfielders in the off-season. To this point, he's been a nice sign for them. Today was a mostly good news/bad news type of day, and not a lot happened, so let's recap it that way.
Montgomery has been very good filling in as a spot starter with Darvish on the DL. He was good again today, making really just one mistake on a pitch to Lorenzo Cain in the third inning. He got the ball up a little bit higher than he'd like on the middle-third of the plate, and Cain hit a line drive homer to left for the game's only run. What was particularly good to see from Montgomery today was (again) controlling the strike zone, walking only one through his six innings of work. He also stranded runners at third base in both the first and second innings. I'm not sure that he does anything impressively - he's not a dominating fireballer, or got nasty movement on pitches. He's just solid, and is able to keep the ball on the ground. With this Cubs defense, that's a very good thing. Of his 18 outs, eight were on the ground. In Montgomery's last four starts, he's allowed just three earned runs in 23 2/3 innings. Give him credit for putting his effort where his mouth is. He wanted a chance to start, and he's done well in that role when given the chance in 2018.
Justin Wilson has very quietly had a very impressive stretch. Today he allowed two runners to reach base, but where we saw him fall apart with a runner on last year, he's not letting it get to him, and putting the opposition away. He started the seventh out by allowing a single and a walk, then got a strike out and inning ending double play. His ERA is down to 2.20 on the season, and the K rate has been very good at 12.6/9 innings pitched.
We got some good, old-fashioned weird baseball in the eighth inning. With Eric Thames pinch hitting with nobody out and one on, Brian Duensing was brought in to pitch, and Steve Cishek took over in left. After Duensing struck out Thames and his stupid facial hair, they flip-flopped so that Cishek could retire Lorenzo Cain in an excruciatingly long at bat. After the entire team exchanged gloves just for the hell of it, Duensing came back in to retire Christian Yelich on a fly ball to left field. No worries, Willson Contreras had been brought in to play in favor of Cishek, and the inning was over.
Every Cub in the starting lineup today struck out at least once, and the team racked up 13 total punch outs for the game. Five of those Ks came against the combination of Josh Hader and Corey Knebel in the last two innings. The offense did tally five more hits than it did in last night's performance, but never really threatened to score in this one, going just 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. The first chance came in the second inning when Javier Báez doubled with two outs. Chris Gimenez walked before the pitcher Montgomery worked a full count - where he eventually struck out looking on a borderline call.
The Cubs again got two on with two outs in the fourth inning, but the inning ended when Gimenez flew out. In the fifth, it looked as though Chacín may be tiring as he walked Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyworth with one out. However, he rebounded to strike out Tommy La Stella and get Anthony Rizzo to ground out to first base. The Cubs wouldn't really threaten after that, and left nine on base for the game.
Frustration over the past two days of lackluster offense came through in the eighth inning when Anthony Rizzo believed he'd worked a base on balls against Heder. The pitch was borderline - it's one you groan about if it's called a ball against your pitcher. The drama was perhaps exacerbated by the fact that the catcher, Erik Kratz, moved his glove to frame the pitch, perhaps making it look to Rizzo as though the ball was initially out of the zone. I'd have to imagine that's the route Rizzo took in his argument, because it wouldn't have been unreasonable for umpire Jim Reynolds to toss him from the game for arguing the strike call.
Kris Bryant got the day off, and it's probably a good thing to have a couple of days to rest between games. KB hasn't homered since May 14, meaning it will be over one month between dingers (the Cubs have an off day tomorrow). Most of the other numbers still look pretty good, but it would be nice to get him right. We've all been maddened by the inconsistency in the Cubs offense. We know that overall the numbers look good, but when the hot streaks aren't synced up, it looks pretty rough.
The Cubs have an off day tomorrow, then go to St. Louis for a weekend series against the Cardinals. It will be a battle of heavyweights as Jon Lester takes the bump against Michael Wacha. First pitch on Friday night will be at 7:15.
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