Winning is Fum--Cubs 7 Padres 4

Early on it felt like it was going to be a low stress afternoon heading into the break. The greatest leadoff hitter of all time after working a deep count rolled a groundball against the shift for a single. Kris Bryant drew a 10 pitch walk to give the Cubs an early scoring chance. After Jason Heyward's flyout, Javier Báez hit a ball back up the middle to drive in Anthony Rizzo. Addison Russell hit a groundball back up the middle to score Bryant. Báez's aggressive base running drew a throw to third that wasn't in time which allowed Russell to move into second. That loomed large with Ben Zobrist grounding out to drive in Báez. The young Padre lefty Eric Lauer struck out Willson Contreras to prevent any further damage.

Jon Lester was very good early on. Lester pitched around walks in the first two frames, and the Padres only managed one extra base hit. That was a fourth inning solo shot from Christian Villanueva, who had quite the series against his former organization. It didn't seem terribly important at the time because the Cubs chased Lauer from the game after just 2 innings.

The second inning was the real estate inning in that it was all about location, location, location. Lauer hit David Bote with a pitch to start the inning, but he was erased on Jon Lester's sacrifice bunt attempt turning into a fielder's choice. Rizzo dumped a ball into shallow left field for his second hit that gave the Cubs a pair in scoring position. Lauer struck out Bryant swinging, but a Jason Heyward slow roller leaked into the outfield grass to extend the Cubs lead to 5-0.

Matt Strahm took over in the third inning for the Padres. He pitched three innings. The first and third innings the only base runner allowed was a Willson Contreras hit by pitch. In the fourth inning, however, he was victimized by a leadoff walk to Bote. After Lester popped up his bunt attempt, Bote attempted to steal second when Austin Hedges throw ended up in the outfield. Bote scampered to third and scored on a Rizzo sacrifice fly.

The game entered in the sixth inning with the Cubs still well ahead 6-1. Adam Climber was the next Padres hurler on the mound, and the bottom of the order continued to do damage. Contreras singled and Bote doubled to give the Cubs a pair in scoring position with no outs. Lester hit a weak grounder to third which failed to drive in a run with the drawn in infield. Rizzo was intentionally walked and Bryant drove in a run the hard way by getting drilled by the righty sidewinder. Climber struck out Heyward and Báez swinging to leave the bases loaded.

Lester had been cruising heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. His pitch count was in the low 80s and it seemed like a quality start was assured. Lester struck out Hunter Renfroe, but loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk. Lester hit Freddy Galvis to drive in the second Padre run. That ended Lester's outing and hard throwing James Norwood took over. Norwood struggled with his command and walked in a run. He was down 3-1 to Manuel Margot, but managed to get a fly ball out to Ben Zobrist in left to end the threat. The Padres though had made it a game at this point with the score standing at 7-3.

The Padres bullpen kept the Cubs off the board the rest of the way to give their bats a chance for their own come from behind win in the series. It looked like it might happen as Pedro Strop took over in the seventh inning. Hunter Renfroe hit a long drive with one out to bring the Padres within three. Eric Hosmer followed up with a single just over a leaping Báez, but an inning ending twin killing marked the last time the Padres truly threatened to tie the game.

Justin Wilson and Brandon Morrow pitched the final two innings. Each allowed a single base runner, but the tying run never came to the plate since the end of the sixth inning. The Cubs head into the break with a solid 2.5 game lead but they are actually up 5 games in the loss column.

WPA CHART

Source: FanGraphs

Defense is Fun
The 2016 Cubs had a historically great defense. It was a key factor in the Cubs success that year, and this year's team statistical isn't going to match those heights. This group is more fun to watch though in my opinion. Báez showed off his tagging prowess in the second inning. Contreras fired a back pick throw to second base that ended that inning when the Padres threatened with two runners on. Prior to that Rizzo let a shallow pop up drop on the ground after Villanueva led off the inning with a single. Rizzo fired to first for the first out, but they were unable to turn a double play. Afterwards it seemed like everyone realized that the better play would have been to touch first and then try to get Villanueva, but that Rizzo routinely tries to make that play is something that is a characteristic of this team. The level of headiness on defense is just something I don't really recall even from the briefly good Cubs teams of the recent past.

Bote McBoteface
David Bote was called up today to take the place of Albert Almora Jr. on the family medical emergency list. It is likely (even though I have no information one way or the other on it) that Almora will be back when the break is over. That likely means that Bote will be back to Iowa despite impressing once again. Bote reached base twice and scored once, his base running leading directly to that run. He also made a couple of nice plays, but a late diving stab on a ball ticketed for the left field corner stands out. Bote is going to be 2016 Tommy La Stella where he is going to be bounced back and forth despite clearly belonging at this level. Just like Tommy La Stella in 2016 though, I think he makes the postseason roster when Maddon won't need the security blanket of a 13 man bullpen.

Random Reference
It feels like it has been a while since the Cubs went into the break on a high note. The Cubs were scuffling last year at the break and famously the worst stretch of the 103 win team in 2016 occured right here. The team has played exceptionally well after the break every year under Maddon's tenure, but it is amazing how much better it feels to not be thinking about how much this team needs the break right now.

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  • Off topic but more good news nico hoerner 2-4 with a 2B, HR, BB it's early but nice to see him start off his Cubs career red hot I think he's one of the better shots that we have of developing another impact type prospect

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    McCloud & company really seems to be able to consistently spot positional talent. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Hoerner Replace Russell when he hits free agency. The Cubs can’t pay Báez, Bryant, Rizzo, Schwarber, Contreras, Hendricks, etc when they are coming off their rookie deals without having to offset some of that money by developing some homegrown replacements. If I had to let anyone walk, it would be Schwarber then Russell because we they could be potentially be replaced cheap internally.

  • In reply to mcoley32:

    Evidently the Ricketts have some money stashed away under a mattress. I'm sure the "Core" players will be paid. Contreras, Hendricks, Almora Jr, Russell, may test the Free Agent waters or be included in a trade. They must have money because they're still one of the teams interested in Bryce Harper. Now if we can find some team to take on Heywards salary. White Sox? LoL

  • In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    Before this season, I would have echoed your sentiment. After the progress Heyward has made this season, I would rather keep him than shell out a boatload of money for Harper.

  • In reply to SymposiumX13:

    I am with you all around. Turn the money around and sign Bryant to a matching contract. Now about Dabs Captain Obvious headline. Of course Dabs, winning is always fun, it is the reason why the game is played unless you are into sidebets as once were the focus of many a Cubs fan and followers. Interest in the side bets is important when the club is not a winner...(err, the St Louis Cardinals who are worst defensive Cardinals team since 1958, there is going to be much bitterness running through Cardinal nation for awhile).

    Again Cubs are 38-23 (.623 winning %) since losing back to back walk off games to the aforementioned St. Louis Cardinals when the Cards were in 1st place and sporting a surprising 20-12 , since then the game has not been fun for the proud dirty birds with a 28-34 record. (.452 winning %), so of course the acid tongue, intrigue laden manager of a 6 1/2 season .555 winning %. But looking back the Cards only won the NL pennant in 2013 and going 21-22 in 4 playoffs, the last being in 2015 when they lost to the Cubs 1-4.

    And this segues me to the sense of urgency there is for the Cubs to put themselves in the dominate position to get into the World Series this year.

  • I remember when I was on board with pairing Báez and Schwarber in a trade proposal for Sonny Gray. Holy hell was I wrong! More on Báez than Schwarbs, I could give up a good hitting LF for young controlled SP. Báez is starting to reach his ceiling and I have to say I wasn’t sure he would ever do it. He really is one of the best all around players I’ve seen in a Cubs uniform. I’m 38 years old btw.

  • At least the Cubs don't have a guy named Milton Bradley on their team at the trade deadline. I sure wish we still had Eloy and Gleybar still in the minors. The suspension of de la Cruz will set him back developmentally, as well as his paycheck.

  • Bruce Levine reported cubs interested in Zach Britton and Brad hand. The cubs definitely need another lefty out the pen, preferably a more dominant one. Don’t see how they can get hand , Britton is possible

  • In reply to bolla:

    Very interested in both hopefully the price will be reasonable the padres have long been stingy when it comes to dealing Hand.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    As they should be. He's on a ridiculously cheap contract and they have very little incentive to trade him. They look to start contending again in about 2020 when he'll have two years left including the option. If they're going to move him they want to be blown away. The Cubs are out of the blowing away business for now.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Agreed TC I was surprised Hand agreed to that contract extension I think he could've maybe gotten a bit more but that deal is huge for the padres. It pretty much allows them to only deal him if they're blown away. Britton or one of the O's relievers maybe better options

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    This year Britton has pitched 14.2 innings and allowed 11 hits, 13 SO but walked 9. That's almost Chatwood like. His last 7 games are better, in 7 innings he's walked 3 and only allowed 3 hits with a WHIP of .86 That's much better so maybe he was just getting the rust off but I would be wary and not give up too much to get him.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    He’s also a rental unless they could some how extend him. I’d prefer Hand depending on the cost. He’s controlled through 20/21 (team option).

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Idk, I would hate to give up what it would take to trade for Hand. The Cubs already have a deep pen and the starting pitching is coming around, especially the top three. Kicking their tires and standing pat might be a good option for another title.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed. They really have to inquire (kick the tires) but have no obligation to overpay.

  • Was there an issue with Bryant getting hit with the bases loaded? The SD radio crew certainly thought there was....something about him leaning into the pitch, then hamming it up in the 1st base side like he was hurt? I don't know what their problem was...

  • In reply to Pappy:

    That’s crazy. The pitch was way inside. He was hit on the side of his leg where there’s no meat... just below the knee. No way he’s leaning into that one.

  • In reply to Pappy:

    That's exactly why I paid a little extra for the premium MLB TV subscription. I like listening to the "homers" for my team, not the other team. The Brewer TV crew is particularly brutal, but there are others.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Agree Cliff. I live in Wisconsin, so I am stuck listening to the Brewer crew whenever they play the Cubs (or whenever else I decide to watch them). They are beyond brutal.

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    In reply to Pappy:

    MAYBE you could argue he didn't try to get out of the way but he did not move so, by definition he didn't lean into the pitch.

  • Off topic but as a guy that gets frustrated often with Maddon's in game managing, I want to credit him because I think that this Mike Matheny situation and how he contrasts with Joe Maddon is a perfect example of why Maddon is as highly regarded as he is especially regarding clubhouse culture. You see the contrast in approach with Matheny who was quoted saying baseball isn't supposed to be fun this is work versus Maddon's looser approach. You also see how close Maddon was with Fowler and I think Fowlers bad relationship with Matheny was pretty much Dex's way of indicating that Matheny's uptight culture just doesn't resonate with the modern player the way Maddon's loose and fun culture does. In addition, it's been noted that Fowler isn't happy with the way Matheny somewhat gave up on him during his struggles instead of finding the necessary AB's for him to turn things around he can't get going if he isn't playing. That also contrasts with Joe Maddon's no player left behind approach he's going to entrust his guys through thick and thin and I think the way he handled Ian Happ for example was brilliant. Happ was really in the midst of what appeared to be a sophomore slump early on in the season and while many in the media were calling for him to be sent down, Maddon stuck his neck out for him and showed faith in him when many were giving up on him. And while Happ hasn't been getting as many ABs as our other OFs Joe has still found ways to create ABs for him and to Happ's credit he managed to turn things around at the big league level and I give Maddon credit for how he handled this situation. Regardless of what you think about Maddon, he does have a special ability to create a strong culture and he creates an environment that appeals to the modern day player and puts them in good positions to succeed

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    In reply to kkhiavi:

    If you ask Maddon he will tell you he is far from a master of in-game decisions. I remember a story about him and it had him saying (paraphrased), "I became a better manager when I realized my job was to manage PEOPLE" (emphasis added). If you are a truly genius manager you can maybe do a better job than anyone else at making pitching changes, calling a hit-and-run or steal at exactly the right moment, etc. For the rest of humanity you will be far better off simply managing people and let the chips fall where they may as far as "X's and O's." The Cubs came in with their eyes wide open about Maddon's in game decision making process. This isn't a new development, nor is it a surprise to them or, really, anyone.

    I also recall an article when Heyward signed where someone asked him why he took less money from the Cubs than was offered elsewhere. He said something to the effect that he was sitting in the Cardinals dugout and it looked like the Cubs were having a lot more fun. Even when they lost Game 1 of the series (so it wasn't just the joy/looseness of victory). That is antithetical to Mike Matheny. I don't know that he has trouble "resonating to the modern player." But there are some players, like Dexter, who do not do well in that environment. But some players will excel in a more "business-like" atmosphere. Not all players will have the same problems Dexter had. His whole situation was really unfortunate. Dexter belongs in a place that fits his personality and the Cardinals deserve a player that fits their culture.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Well said. Joe is not perfect but if you consider everything about being a manager, Joe is one of the best. Every time I read Theo's comments about Joe, Theo is very happy with his performance. For the fans that continually whine about Joe's in game moves, they are just going to have to deal with it.

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