Slow Burn -- Dodgers 2, Cubs 1

The Chicago Cubs unfortunately couldn't finish off the series versus the Los Angeles Dodgers, dropping the final game 2-1 on Thursday.

Jon Lester returned to the mound after his injured list stint and worked a quick 1-2-3 first inning. He struck out Enrique Hernández looking and induced flyouts from Justin Turner and David Freese.

Anthony Rizzo and Javier Báez were able to get singles off of Dodgers starter Ross Stripling, but they would be left stranded after Báez was caught stealing at second for the final out of the inning.

The Dodgers got on the board in the fifth inning after a leadoff triple from Alex Verdugo. Verdugo scored on a fielding error from Báez with Chris Taylor at bat, putting the Dodgers up 1-0.

Kyle Schwarber led off the bottom of the fifth with a double. Mark Zagunis pinch hit for Lester and struck out swinging, followed by a groundout from Ben Zobrist. Pedro Báez then came in to pitch in relief of Stripling and walked Kris Bryant, but Rizzo flew out to end the inning.

Brad Brach pitched for the Cubs in the sixth. Lester went five innings with four hits, one earned run, no walks, and five strikeouts. Brach faced Turner first, who grounded out to short. Max Muncy pinch hit for Freese and struck out. Cody Bellinger walked but would not come around to score, as the inning ended on a strikeout from AJ Pollock.

Caleb Ferguson replaced Báez for the Dodgers in the seventh inning and struck out Jason Heyward. Albert Almora Jr entered the game in Schwarber's spot and was hit by a pitch. David Bote then pinch hit for Brach and walked, but Zobrist grounded into a 4-3 double play to end the inning.

The eighth inning started with Randy Rosario on the mound, who walked Corey Seager on four pitches. Rosario was quickly pulled in favor of Brandon Kintzler, who faced Hernández. Hernández grounded out 4-3, but Daniel Descalso's tag on Seager at second was challenged by the Dodgers and the out was overturned. Turner was then hit by a pitch.

Kyle Ryan replaced Kintzler, still in the eighth, and a sac fly from Bellinger scored Seager, bringing the score to 2-0. Pollock struck out to end the inning.

With Joe Kelly pitching in the bottom of the eighth, Bryant and Rizzo had consecutive groundouts. Báez singled, followed by a strikeout from Descalso.

Kenley Jansen closed it out for the Dodgers in the ninth. He first faced Willson Contreras, who grounded out to short. Heyward followed with a flyout to left field. With one out remaining in the game, Almora Jr hit his first home run of the season to bring the Cubs within one. The game would end with a 2-1 win for the Dodgers after Bote struck out for the final out.

 

WPA CHART

Source: FanGraphs

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  • Arrgh.

  • Almora now has the same number of homers as a healthy Bryant...

  • In reply to ItFinallyHappened:

    I know everyone's on Bryant's case, but what about Zobrist?

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    I agree...Zobrist is showing no XB pop, but he's what, 37 years old? Bryant is 26.

  • In reply to ItFinallyHappened:

    Christian Yelich is everything kris Bryant was supposed to be , I’ve been saying Bryant is very overrated. He’s the perfect sabermetric darling who has the pretty stats but if you actually watch cub games he simply doesn’t impact the game on a daily basis like you would expect from a player with those nice individual stats. Paying bryant some insane long term 200+ mil contract would be a big mistake

  • Sometimes you just get beat. Tip your cap. Move on. That's what it felt like to me. Don't get me started on Meatloaf.

    But my heart is heavy for another reason. I've tried to hold back, but this hurts. I feel like I'm losing a friend. This might not be the right time, but tell me when is that?

    I've been here a long time. Many of you have been here longer than I. We've all shared in the victories and wallowed in the losses. We've seen many readers come and go, for better or for worse. And of course the loss of our leader.

    The constant that has kept me, like you, coming back to Cubs Den has been this sense of community. We can weed out the noise, and appreciate the grounded reason. TC157 has always, to me, been that grounded reason. He knows life, and baseball.

    Another reason we all love this place is the spirited, yet respectful, debate. Unlike other sites, we go deep, and often make our points in more than the twitter-limit screen-grabs. That leads me to my next point...

    TC and I have interacted over a hundred times, but I can't recall a prolonged debate. We see baseball in such similar fashions that we don't disagree. Great minds and all. :)

    Finally, I think I'm good. Baseball and music is intertwined like nothing else in American history. From Joltin' Joe to Mrs. Robinson, Katey Casey to the Boys of Summer, no other sport captures Americana and our musical culture like baseball. Name me a song about Barry Sanders' juke move, or Mike Tyson's right uppercut. I've met my match with TC, and maybe Copinblue. I bow my head and tip my cap.

    I just want to say thanks, TC. It's been a pleasure. I mentioned we never really debated because we see things so similarly, and I think the time we most interacted was when John passed. That tells me all I need to know about your character.

    I'm not writing you off, dammit. I look forward to your steady reason for many more victories. But I understand that fight you are facing.

    It is strange to shed tears because of a friend you've never met. Stay strong, my friend.

    Thank you, TC.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I second these thoughts and my prayers are with you even though I have never met you. Stay strong and hurry back.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Well put.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Thank you for that BP. I also miss copinblue. I hope everything is alright with him too.

  • I think that we sadly have reached the point where David Bote has earned the spot of “regular” third baseman and Kris Bryant must now earn a part time position as an outfielder.
    I don’t know if the shoulder problems have depleted his power or the beaning has killed his confidence or the pitchers and analytics folks have concluded how to defeat his upper cut swing, but Bryant is no longer the Bryant of 2 or 3 years ago. If you compare his swing with Baez or Rizzo or even Bote you can see how weak and ineffective it is. And his fielding is now less reliable than Bote’s.

    I think we can see now why the Cubs signed Bote for 5 years. He is KB,s cheap replacement, at least for now.

  • In reply to Swarf:

    I appreciate your frustration. But, I’ll wait for KB.

  • In reply to Swarf:

    Really? After roughly 3 weeks of baseball? KB's OPS is sitting at .729. Not good, and nowhere close to his usual performance. And maybe you can make a case that pitchers have found that they can throw heat inside around his hands or higher. But that's a small window and I believe he'll adjust to that eventually.

    But you realize that Rizzo's OPS was around .500 after the first 4 weeks last year. I'm glad you aren't managing the Cubs because you probably would have benched him in favor of Caratini. And so far this year, guys by the name of Joey Votto, Manny Machado, Matt Carpenter, Justin Turner, to name a few, are struggling just as much or even worse. Should they all be replaced as starters, too?

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Unfortunately KB hasn’t done much for a year. It’s not a one month issue it’s gone on for 5/6 months. If he was hurt last year ( I don’t doubt that he was hurt) but he should have either stayed out last yr or gotten better over the winter or in spring training. None of that happened. His power has gone almost the way of the extinct hitter he has become. Hopefully he can fix it but he caused the shoulder issue last yr by a head first slide after he hurt his wrist in 2017 with another headfirst slide after which he said he would stop sliding head first.

  • I agree with you but I also think, with the proper guidance, KB will be back. Don't write him off yet.

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    I think Bote is a better 3rd baseman than KB. I'd rather have KB in LF defensively and it's a toss-up now offensively between him and Schwarbs.
    KB, Albert and JHey are the best defensive outfield we have, but that's only 1/3 of our offensive powers out there. 2 of 3 is acceptable, not 1 of 3.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I'm not sure you can call Bote better at 3b than Bryant. I think it is pretty close between the two of them. If Bryant is most comfortable playing 3b I would leave him there.

  • Not that it made an apparent difference in the result, but how does Baez get a single off the wall in right center? Too much showboating and not enough hustle?

  • In reply to stix:

    I watched the replay. He wasn’t showboating. He didn’t get a great jump out of the box, but the ball was hit so hard and it came right to Bellinger, who has a great arm, it would have been stupid to try for 2nd when we were down 2. It was just smart base running

  • In reply to stix:

    Yeah like Cubpack said, the ball was hit really hard. Had it had just a little more lift, it would've been a home run. I remember seeing The Hawk do the same thing in the 80's with the Cubs, he hit a line drive so hard off the wall that he only got a single out of it. I don't think either ball ever got more than about 20 feet off the ground... A rocket!

  • In reply to stix:

    I wonder if Javy was being extra cautious after having been thrown out trying to steal 2B in the first ...

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    It wasn't caution. Had he tried for 2 he woulda been out by 10 steps. The ball took about 4 seconds to hit the wall and caromed off it right to Bellinger.

  • I got one more thing to say before I call it a night. If we were asked to list our better hitters in order where would most of us put Zobrist, KB, Rizzo, Schwarber and Almora? Every other position player on the Cubs team is showing better results than these 5 players and yet look where we are in the standings. What I am getting at is instead of nit-picking each individual player, we should be looking forward to what it will be like when these players start to perform like they are capable of performing. Relax everyone and enjoy.

  • I didn't watch today's game, I listened. It sounded to me like Javy made a few outs, an error, and was thrown out trying to steal. No matter what people say, it doesn't sound to me that he has perfected the game of baseball. He still has a ways to go.

    #SlowYourRoll

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I was home sick so got to watch the game lying on the couch. It's funny, because there's a couple things I've wanted to say lately about Javy and giving him more praise. First off, his defense, I feel like ever since Russell got suspended that Javy just really was allowed to be comfortable playing shortstop with no pressure. He makes so many great plays, but he always had a problem with trying to rush some plays that he then would make the mistake instead of just letting the play be easy. The error he made today was the kind we haven't seen in a long time out of him. He cheated to see where the runner on 3rd was at (if he was gonna try to score) and that's why he mishandled the ball. The bummer of it was Javy was in perfect position, and the ball was hit hard enough that the runner on 3rd wasn't going to score. So that's the run Lester gave up...

    I like Javy's game playing ability, but I'm not too sure about his talents in stealing bases. I wish he hadn't tried it there. Runners on the corners, with 2 outs, and Daniel Descalso at bat, who's done a good job in the clutch this year. I woulda let him try to make contact, after all, the team has been very good lately with 2 out rallies. Javy even did the swim move, but was still tagged out. I think he should start using a little more discretion in stealing bases. Last year he was great at it in the first half, but the 2nd half you could tell he lost a step, when he was caught stealing in 6 of his last 8 attempts of the season. I don't doubt he'll adjust and pick and choose his spots better in the future.

    Javy looked great in all but one at bat today. His AB in the 6th against Baez was just ugly. He got away from himself and trying to hit those fastballs up in his eyes. Then ate it on the breaking ball right down the middle that actually was the one he probably should've hit but instead it was strike 3. But man, Javy scolded the ball off the wall in RF that was no more than a single because he just hit the ball that hard on a rope. Had it just got a little more air underneath it, it could've been a HR.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I wasn't around a TV, so I only heard. Thanks, Cubber. That sounds like an honest assessment.

    Good grief, the Russell angles are about to get deafening. I shudder...

    I'm admittedly biased, or Baezed, but I'm sure everyone could guess where I stand. I'll hold my tongue and let this play out.

    I expected more of a storm when Javy was thrown out trying to steal second. I was honestly thinking as it happened that he should try. First and third, no score. I haven't looked up the numbers, but how often is he unsuccessful? I can't remember the last time he lost any baserunning battle. And make no mistake, that's what it is to him: an individual battle to be won or lost. He (almost) always wins. He's El Mago. I can live with the occasional reminder of mere mortality. Some of my earlier comments were sarcastic.

    He's getting that other gear that I've been warning the doubters about, Cubber. He's staying back that extra tick, driving the fastball the other way. That allows to not swing wildly in front of the off-speed stuff. He can take that heater over the right field wall, and the softer stuff out to Waveland.

    Everything you critique is correct. And that gets me excited, because as much as I respect your insight, I respect Javy even more. He's to the point in his development where he is fine-tuning. Everything that we can see is wrong is merely room for improvement. And he is on it

    I pity the fool...

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Javy was half of a tic off yesterday. It happens to the best of them. Sometimes athletes, so gifted, need to reign themselves in on occasion. The Cubs ask so much in all phases of the game from Baez and he tries to deliver.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Javy was 21/30 last year in base stealing. Just not quite the elite stolen base threat. Especially consider he needed the swim move to earn the safe call probably about a half dozen times. That's part of why I was very pissy and critical of him in the 2nd half last year. I kept saying it; he's giving away outs on the base paths and in the batter's box. This year, I think he's matured alot more in accepting more of the team approach. I'm not gonna get mad at any player for making a single stupid play, but when it happens over and over, I will start to voice my. So while I didn't like him getting caught stealing yesterday, I can accept it. But if he does it too many times... Just like last season. He was totally thinking about the 30/30 thing (stolen bases/HR), but he was getting caught and tried and tried again just to get to 20 stolen bases. I know I posted about it, and can't remember specifically, but I remember him ending rally's trying to steal in games we just barely lost. But don't take that as me not wanting to see him put pressure on defenses while running the bases, even though I've seen him screw that up a couple times. I just don't think he's an elite base stealer. I'd be happy with him picking and choosing, and timing up certain pitchers better to know that he can take advantage of slow times to the plate and steal about 20 bases a year.

    "He's getting that other gear that I've been warning the doubters about, Cubber. He's staying back that extra tick, driving the fastball the other way. That allows to not swing wildly in front of the off-speed stuff. He can take that heater over the right field wall, and the softer stuff out to Waveland."

    This is exactly what I've been preaching about the entire time with him last year, and why I'd be so upset to see him flail at alot of unhittable shit. He has the ability like no other to be an elite hitter in today's game. Just seeing him take more steps to being that player this year with his approach, I'm starting to believe he can be just as good a hitter as Mike Trout is!!!!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Somebody needs to pity the fool who just replied to BP and might have used a bad word and gotten flagged; waiting for an administrator to approve. If they want to censor my bad word, feel free...

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Oh and I wanted to address the Russell thing... Ha!

    If the higher powers in our front office all agree he's done the work outside of baseball and as well as on the field in Iowa to earn a spot on the 25-man roster, I'm all for it. From the little I've read, it sure sounds to me like he will likely be optioned to AAA and given more time to work on getting up to the speed of the game at both middle infield positions. At this point, Javy is the QB, he is our starting SS, no doubt about that! Russell will improve our defense at 2B. I really hope he can be threat he was in 2016. And at some point, if he plays well enough to merit a decent return in a trade, I'm all for that. But if he earns the players respect and friendship, then I'm all for him sticking around, if his offense reaches a new level of success.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I just mentioned this topic in a comment on Sean's new Diamondbacks Series Preview. If the brass will allow me (not a knock on them, mind you, but my admission of unreliability) I can put together my take on how this situation should play out in a feature article.. Spoiler Alert: This decision should be about 95% Javy's.

  • A couple side notes:

    As Wrigley0952 pointed out earlier, this is the anniversary of Rick Monday's finest defensive play:

    https://youtu.be/t0j1CpbC1t4

    And, well...

    Raise a shot of Scotch and toast Mr. John Arguello's 50th birthday.

    Happy birthday, John! Thank you for your passion and sharing. Because of you, I am a much better baseball fan. I appreciate that more than you will ever know.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Happy Birthday John,... I'll have to hoist a scotch for your memory over the weekend. Miss you dude.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Sweet. I got a shout out from BarleyPop. Thanks man. You're one of my favorite posters. Love your baseball insight combined with music lyrics. I completely forgot about John's birthday. Thank you John for starting this site. I miss your latenite reads and you in general. John was, and still is, an exceptional person in my book.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Yeah, a shout out with a wrong username. Sorry about that!

    And thanks.

  • Baez is #2 in mlb in defensive runs saved at ss this season(actually tied for 1st but fangraphs has him #2) uzr is #11 in mlb at ss.

    Russell should get his timing/rhythm in iowa for a few weeks and platoon/late game defensive replacement 2b when he's ready to return to the cubs.a middle infield with russell and baez is still better than not having both, just reverse the positions baez is playing way too good offensively & defensively to disrupt right now. Russells arm is better served at 2b anyway

  • In reply to bolla:

    I don't see Russell in Iowa for a few weeks. I expect him back up next Friday.

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    In reply to bolla:

    He also has a much stronger arm than Russell. That's one of my biggest arguments. Russell's arm is more suited for 2b.

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    In reply to bolla:

    Nevermind. I didn't finish reading your post. Spot on about the arm. Completely agree

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    In reply to bolla:

    Also, Baez is probably the most feared player in MLB when he puts a ball in play or on the base paths. He literally mindfvcks the opponent.

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    Nice read on Javy. Hopefully the link works

    https://t.co/38vFOyUSpG

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    The link works. Just have to copy and paste

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